Over 5,000 Fights and 25 years of fight data tracked and analysed!
Here at UFC Secrets we track all submission finishes in all UFC events from UFC 1 in way back in 1993 and all the way through to the latest event. That’s 25 years of data, 5,000 fights and over 1,000 submissions so that we can provide a definitive list of the most effective and best submissions in top level MMA competition.
If you’re serious about improving your MMA or Submission game then these stats will give you real insight into what actually works and what the trends are right now. You can find out which submissions are on the rise and which submissions are getting less effective throughout the evolution of Mixed Martial Arts.
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There are two core statistics that underpin everything we produce
- The total amount of times the submission has been used to finish a fight
- The fight finishing percentage for each submission
We take this data and break it down in a multitude of ways, with this data we can deliver some vary intriguing insight. For example:
- What is the overall finishing rate of the Rear Naked Choke?
- How many times has the D’Arce Choke been used to finish a fight?
- What are the rarest submissions in the UFC?
- How have the effectiveness of submissions changed throughout the years?
If you want to know the answer to these questions and many, many more then please read on and we’ll try and help you understand the facts and figures to improve your submission knowledge.
The Big Picture
Here are the core numbers for total submissions, the percentage of fights finished via submission and the ratio of fights that get finished via submission. As with all of the data on this page these stats are live and up to date with every UFC fight ever.
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How many submissions?
The simplest first graph we can look at to begin with is the total amount of submission achieved in UFC competition year on year. Here’s the data, the graphs are interactive so if you touch or click any data point they will give you the exact numbers
As expected as the UFC has gained in popularity and hosted far greater events so the number of submissions have also risen. This is most notable around 2005, the year Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar went to war for the first time. From this point forward the amount of UFC events increases rapidly in what could be known as the modern era of MMA 2005-onwards. If we overlay the total amount of fights we can see this rapid escalation in volume.
you can also see how this finally plateaus in 2014 as the UFC finds the MMA first saturation point when it hits 500+ fights a year and things start to settle down. In 2014 a record 99 submissions were achieved – this has not been beaten since.
How often does a fight get finished via submission?
- The introduction of the lighter weight classes
- The introduction of female fighters
- The greater number of ‘B’ level events
- The improved submission defence of fighters generally
- Better takedown defence leading to less ground action
What TYPE of submission has been most successful?
We split the submissions in the UFC into two core categories and then two sub categories as follows:
This allows you to get a high level overview of the placement of the attack and the next graph shows us how this breaks down:
So there is an overwhelming percentage of submissions that are finished on the neck and only a small percentage that attack the limbs. When you look at the breakdown on the limbs you can see that the attacks on the legs are only responsible for a tiny percentage of all the submission finishes in the UFC – currently less than 4%.
Next We’ll look at how this has changed over time, this graph shows us the percentage of submissions that can be attributed to the Neck/Limbs/Arms/Legs year on year.
Here the main lines represent the two core categories of Neck and Limb and the two minor lines represent the breakdown of the Limb category into Arms and Legs.
This shows us how where the attacks have been focused over time and we can see some interesting trends. Firstly we see that in the later 90s through to early 2000’s the predominant area of attacks were actually on the limbs but by the time we got to the modern era (2005 onwards) the neck became the clear leader and has increased its domination ever since. If we look at 2016 then we can see that the ratio of neck to limb reached 9:1.
Submissions by round
Next we look at how the volume of submissions changes round on round.
Obviously there are far fewer rounds 4/5 that have been competed as they are only for Championship fights and headliners, so there are naturally far less submissions in these rounds.
It’s interesting to see how this starts to look if we start to break this down to percentages. The question we’re answering here is ‘what are the chances of me being finished via submission in round X?’. So here we only calculate the submission numbers against the number of the specific rounds that were fought – for example, out of all of the times that round 4 was fought, what percentage of them ended with a submission?
What Submission is the best?
So what submission tops the list? Who’s number 1 in the submission world? For this we need to examine the individual submission breakdown, we need statistics on each individual submission so that we can see how they compare. So here it is, the definitive list of the best submissions in the UFC throughout 25 years of competition (anything with less than 3 total submission finishes is excluded for now).
As the data shows there is one clear winner – The Rear Naked Choke. This submission is so dominant that it accounts for 7.67% of every finish ever achieved in the UFC. That’s an incredible success rate, since 2005 it’s only been beaten once, that was in 2009 when it was narrowly beaten by the Guillotine Choke, every other year in the modern era the Rear Naked Choke has been king – and usually by a long way.
The second and third best submissions might be quite a way behind the Rear Naked Choke but they’re still highly successful and stand out from the crowd statistically. The Arm Bar is Guillotine Choke is 2nd and the Arm Bar is 3rd, both achieving a >3% finishing rate.
Let’s take a more visual look at how these submissions compare against one another. This pie chart shows how much each submission contributes to all the submissions ever achieved.
Once again it’s clear that the Rear Naked Choke is dominant, it’s responsible for more than a third of all submissions ever achieved in the UFC. Incredibly, the top 3 submissions account for around 70% of every submission. If you were going to prioritise any of your submission defences, these would be the ones to drill!
The Arm Triangle (Head & Arm Choke) and the Triangle Choke complete the top 5 submissions but they’re considerably behind the others. We’re often surprised by the rather low statistics that the Triangle Choke produces given that it’s always seen as such a prominent submission in both BJJ and MMA.
Regardless, once you get past the top 5 you realise just how few submissions can be contributed to all the other submissions. The top 5 contributes more than 80% and all the rest combined contribute less than 20%.
In this next visualisation we introduce an important graph that we’ll use frequently to get the clearest view on how each submission is trending and its comparative strength against all other submissions. This graph shows how the percentage of submission finishes for each submission has changed over the years – effectively it’s like the above pie chart as it breaks down the percentage that is attributed to each submission but this time we see how it changes over time.
It’s important to point out that the percentages shown represent the overall percentage that can be attributed to each submission to that point in time. In other words, if you’re looking at 2004 then you’ll see that the Arm Bar was leading the rankings with a percentage of 29.51%. This is not 29.51% for 2004, this is 29.51% for all submissions that were ever achieved in the UFC up until 2004, so it’s an accumulative percentage total rather than just an individual statistic for that year.
This gives us a great opportunity to see relatively stable trend lines for each submission and avoids much of the erratic results that you get in the individual years (especially the early ones).
The TOP 5
For clarity there is a clear top 5 when it comes to the best submissions ever in the UFC. They are as follows:
- Rear Naked Choke Statistics
- Guillotine Choke Statistics
- Triangle Choke Statistics
- Arm Bar Statistics
- Arm Triangle Choke Statistics
Now we’re going to focus in on those top 5, firstly we’re look at the top 5 look comparatively over the years in terms of fight finishing percentage. Here each year is individually calculated so you do get some erratic changes as the submissions have good years and bad years. This view doesn’t give you such a clear view on the trends but it does show you exactly how well each of the top 5 submissions performed specifically on any given year. The percentages here are calculated against all fights, so if submissions are falling in general then this is represented here.
Note: complex graphs can be hard to decipher but don’t forget they’re interactive so touch or click on a data point for clarity
There are a few interesting highlights here, you get to see again how the Rear Naked Choke became the dominant submission in the modern era. From 2005 the Rear Naked Choke has been the number one submission with the exception of 2009 when it was beaten by the Guillotine Choke. This had certainly not been the case in the years before this, the Arm Bar had really been the dominant force with 5 years where it blitzed the competition with a finishing percentage of >12%.
We’ll look again at the percentage change over time in the next graph but this time with just the top 5
This is where you can start to see some of the most significant visual patterns, the interplay between the top 3 is particularly interesting. The Rear Naked Choke and the Arm Bar are almost mirror images of each other. Prior to the start of the modern era the Arm Bar has a very dominant period where it goes on a 5 year streak where it is at the top of the pile from 2000 – 2005, conversely the Rear Naked Choke has a bit of a slump. From 2006 it’s all change, the Rear Naked Choke begins its dominance and the Arm Bar goes on a long slide from 1st to 3rd. While this is going on the Guillotine performs the most consistently of them all – it has a fairly consistent rate of around 13% until in 2009 it kicks up a gear and starts to consistently come in around 16-18%.
There’s one more interesting bit of visual data we can look at here, how the top 10 submissions accumulated their total finishes over time.
What we’re able to see here is that a line flattens out when a submission starts to loose momentum and steepens when it gains momentum. We can also see gaps opening or closing in comparison to one another and even occasions where one submission catches and overtakes another.
This is a very interesting view because we get to see trends in the submissions and also the change in volume of submissions that kicks in from 2005.
2005 is a very interesting year to look at, in 2005 the Guillotine has just 17 submission finishes and the Arm Bar has 38 (and at this point is the top submission). But from this point forward the Guillotine Choke accelerates dramatically and by 2014 it overtakes the Arm Bar for the first time as the Arm Bar drops to 3rd and the Guillotine Choke takes second spot.
The best of the rest
Once you get outside the top 5 there is then a secondary level of submission techniques that contribute just under 20% of the total submission count, these techniques are
If we take a look at this second tier of submissions once again with the percentage of fight finishes year by year – then we get the following
Note that the scale used is far smaller here than we use for the top 5 submissions.
When we get to this level the data becomes so statistically small that it produces very erratic data, this makes this view almost meaningless and it can be difficult to decipher any meaningful patterns in this view.
If we switch our view to the percentage of total accumulated submissions achieved over the years we get a much steadier and more readable graph.
A first interesting note here is how the only two leg submissions in the top 10 (The Knee Bar and The Heel Hook) have both dropped off quite considerably over time. At the turn of the century both of them had around 4.5% of the overall submission total but since then they have declined steadily and now sit at a little over 1%. This is an interesting contrast to the prolific use of leg submissions in NoGI grappling competitions like EBI. These submission only competition arenas are often seen as an incubation ground for the future of the submission game but as yet the leg submission attacks have not filtered through to top level MMA in any significant numbers.
The D’Arce Choke presents the opposite case, not seen in UFC competition until 2007 when at UFC 69 Georges St-Pierre shockingly got knocked out by Matt Serra and Kendall Grove hit the first D’Arce Choke on Alan Belcher. Since then the D’Arce Choke has been seen fairly regularly and has climbed its way up to a >2% contribution in just 10 years.
The Kimura is another submission like the Triangle Choke that is often thought of as a consistent and prolific finisher but in fact it has steadily declined since its peak in 2006.
For our final interesting trend we’re going to return to the accumulative total submission view but this time we’re going to remove the top 3 submissions and just plot submissions 4-10 in terms of rank.
Take a look at the trend on the Triangle Choke and the Kimura. Both of these submissions start to flatten out in the last few years and other submissions get to close the gap on them. Up until around 2011 the Kimura and the Arm Triangle are competing pretty much neck and neck, with the Kimura at 19 finishes and the Arm Triangle just one ahead at 20 in 2011. The Triangle Choke has double the volume of these two submissions at 38 total submissions. However, from this point onward the Arm Triangle continues to score wins and accelerate while the Triangle Choke and the Kimura under perform in recent years and consequently by 2017 the picture is quite different. By the end of 2017 there is a gap of just 5 total submissions between the Arm Triangle and the standard leg Triangle Choke, while the Kimura gets left behind with just 31 total submissions.
One final chart just for interest looks at the top 10 submissions and how they contribute to the total amount of submission victories in the UFC year by year. Here the individual submission statistics are stacked on top of each other so that you can visually see the total amount of submissions as well. Not hugely helpful for spotting trends but it does give some visual context to the volume that can be attributed to the various submissions.
Rare and Unique Submissions
There is a final tier that comprises of all the remaining submissions outside of the top 10 submissions and collectively they make up around 8% of all the submissions used in UFC competition. Within that tier there are submissions like the Neck Crank, The Von Flue Choke (Shoulder Choke) and the North South Choke to name just a few.
There are also a bunch of unique submissions recorded along the way that have only ever been seen once in UFC competition. There are in fact 17 submissions that have only ever been recorded once in UFC competition including Chan Sung Jung getting Eddie Bravo’s famous Twister on Leonard Garcia, Ben Saunders hitting the one and only Omoplata in 2014 and who can forget Mark Kerr’s infamous ‘Chin to eye’ submission of Dan Bobish at UFC 14 in 1997.
Most of them are too statistically insignificant to plot on the various data visualisations but it should be noted that the Neck Crank is starting to become significant in terms of overall numbers and it could easily displace the Knee Bar in the top 10 list within the next couple of years.