MMA Ground Fighting Techniques: BJJ vs. Submission Wrestling

MMA Ground Fighting Techniques: BJJ vs. Submission Wrestling

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on MMA ground fighting techniques, where we compare Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Submission Wrestling. As mixed martial arts (MMA) grows in popularity, understanding the nuances of different grappling styles becomes crucial for fighters and enthusiasts alike. In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between BJJ and Submission Wrestling, highlighting their key principles, techniques, and their respective advantages in the MMA arena. Whether you are a beginner looking to grasp the basics or a seasoned fighter aiming to enhance your ground game repertoire, this guide will provide valuable insights into the world of BJJ and Submission Wrestling.

What is BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on ground fighting and grappling techniques. It emphasizes the use of leverage and technique, allowing smaller individuals to overcome larger opponents. BJJ originated from the Japanese martial art of Judo and was further developed in Brazil by the Gracie family.

History of BJJ

BJJ traces its roots back to the early 20th century when Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judoka, traveled to Brazil and taught his techniques to Carlos Gracie. Carlos passed on this knowledge to his brothers, including Helio Gracie, who refined the techniques to suit their smaller statures.

The Gracie family became known for their success in challenge matches and street fights, showcasing the effectiveness of BJJ techniques. Eventually, they established the first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brazil, laying the foundation for the art to spread worldwide.

Key principles of BJJ

BJJ is based on several key principles that set it apart from other martial arts. These principles include:

  1. Leverage: BJJ focuses on using leverage to control and submit opponents. By utilizing proper technique and positioning, a practitioner can effectively neutralize an opponent’s strength advantage.

  2. Timing and patience: BJJ teaches practitioners to be patient and wait for the right moment to execute techniques. Timing is crucial to capitalize on openings and transitions during ground fighting.

  3. Position before submission: BJJ emphasizes the importance of achieving dominant positions before attempting submissions. By establishing control over an opponent, a practitioner can set up submissions with higher success rates.

  4. Escapes and defense: BJJ places significant emphasis on defensive techniques and escapes. Practitioners learn how to defend against various attacks and how to escape from disadvantageous positions.

Common BJJ techniques

BJJ offers a wide range of techniques that focus on joint locks, chokes, and positional control. Some of the most common techniques include:

  1. Guard techniques: BJJ practitioners often utilize different types of guards, such as closed guard, open guard, or butterfly guard, to control an opponent and set up submissions.

  2. Mount and back control: These positions involve securing advantageous control over an opponent by either mounting them or taking their back. From these positions, a practitioner can apply various submissions or strikes.

  3. Sweeps and reversals: BJJ emphasizes the ability to sweep or reverse an opponent from the bottom position, transitioning from a defensive to an offensive position.

  4. Joint locks and chokes: BJJ practitioners learn a wide array of joint locks, such as armlocks and leg locks, as well as various chokes, including rear-naked chokes and triangle chokes.

By mastering these techniques, BJJ practitioners gain a comprehensive skill set for ground fighting, making it a highly effective martial art for self-defense and competitive grappling.

What is Submission Wrestling?

Submission wrestling is a combat sport that focuses on ground fighting techniques and submission holds. It is often considered a hybrid martial art that combines elements of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and other grappling styles. In submission wrestling, the primary objective is to force an opponent into submission through joint locks or chokes, rather than relying on strikes or punches.

Origins of Submission Wrestling

Submission wrestling can trace its roots back to ancient martial arts practices, but it gained prominence in modern times through the influence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The Gracie family, known for their exceptional BJJ skills, popularized submission wrestling in the early 20th century through their success in mixed martial arts competitions, such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Key differences from BJJ

While submission wrestling shares similarities with BJJ, there are certain key differences that set it apart as a distinct discipline. One notable difference is the emphasis on takedowns and controlling the opponent on the ground. Submission wrestling incorporates techniques from various grappling arts, including wrestling and judo, to achieve dominant positions and secure submissions.

Another difference lies in the rule set. Submission wrestling often allows a wider range of techniques and holds than traditional BJJ competitions. It permits the use of leg locks, neck cranks, and other joint manipulation techniques that may be restricted in BJJ tournaments. This broader range of techniques adds a dynamic element to submission wrestling and requires practitioners to be well-rounded in their skill set.

Effective techniques in Submission Wrestling

In submission wrestling, mastering certain techniques is crucial for success in the sport. Some of the most effective techniques include:

  1. Double Leg Takedown: This takedown involves shooting for both legs of the opponent and driving them to the ground. It is a powerful technique to bring the fight to the ground where submission wrestling excels.

  2. Guard Passes: Breaking through an opponent’s guard is essential to gain dominant positions. Submission wrestling emphasizes effective guard passing techniques, such as the knee slice pass, leg drag, or bullfighter pass.

  3. Escapes and Reversals: Submission wrestling places great importance on the ability to escape from disadvantageous positions and reverse the momentum of a fight. Techniques like bridging, shrimping, and hip escapes are vital for regaining control and turning the tables on an opponent.

  4. Submissions: Of course, submissions are at the heart of submission wrestling. Practitioners must become proficient in executing various submission holds, including arm locks, leg locks, chokes, and wrist locks. Learning how to set up submissions from different positions is crucial for achieving success in competition.

By honing these techniques and understanding the unique aspects of submission wrestling, practitioners can excel in this exciting and challenging combat sport.

Comparing BJJ and Submission Wrestling

Grappling styles and rule sets

When comparing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Submission Wrestling, it is important to understand the differences in their grappling styles and rule sets.

BJJ is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on ground fighting and submission techniques. It emphasizes leverage and technique to overcome larger and stronger opponents. BJJ practitioners aim to control their opponents through various positions and apply joint locks or chokes to force them to submit.

On the other hand, Submission Wrestling, also known as No-Gi grappling, is a style that focuses on the same ground fighting techniques but without the traditional uniform (gi) worn in BJJ. This style often incorporates elements from various grappling arts, such as BJJ, Catch Wrestling, and Judo, to create a versatile and dynamic approach to ground fighting.

The rule sets for BJJ and Submission Wrestling can also differ. BJJ competitions often involve points awarded for achieving dominant positions, submission attempts, and successful submissions. In contrast, Submission Wrestling competitions typically focus more on achieving submissions and do not award points for positional dominance. These rule differences can influence the strategies and approaches used in each style.

Strategies and approaches

Both BJJ and Submission Wrestling require a deep understanding of ground fighting techniques, but they can have different strategies and approaches due to their rule sets and training methods.

In BJJ, practitioners often spend a significant amount of time training in the gi, which provides grips and handles that can be used to control opponents. This can lead to a more technical and methodical approach to ground fighting. BJJ practitioners may focus on setting up and executing intricate submission holds, utilizing sweeps and reversals, or seeking advantageous positions to score points.

On the other hand, Submission Wrestling places a greater emphasis on speed, athleticism, and adaptability. Without the gi, practitioners must rely more on body positioning, strength, and dynamic movements to control and submit opponents. Submission Wrestling techniques often involve explosive takedowns, transitions between positions, and quick submissions.

Advantages and disadvantages

Both BJJ and Submission Wrestling have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to MMA ground fighting.

BJJ’s emphasis on technique, leverage, and patience can provide a solid foundation for MMA fighters. Its focus on positional dominance and submission holds can be effective in neutralizing opponents and forcing them to submit. BJJ practitioners often excel in controlling fights on the ground and seeking opportunities to finish their opponents.

On the other hand, Submission Wrestling’s dynamic and fast-paced approach can be advantageous in MMA. The focus on explosive movements and quick submissions can catch opponents off guard. Submission Wrestling techniques can also be effective in transitioning between positions and creating scrambles, allowing fighters to maintain an advantageous position or secure a submission.

However, BJJ’s reliance on the gi can be seen as a disadvantage in MMA, where opponents do not wear uniforms. Without the gi, some grips and techniques may be more challenging to execute. Additionally, the technical and methodical nature of BJJ may require more time and patience to master compared to the more instinctive and athletic approach of Submission Wrestling.

In conclusion, while both BJJ and Submission Wrestling offer valuable ground fighting techniques for MMA, they differ in their grappling styles, rule sets, strategies, and advantages. Understanding these differences can help fighters choose the style that best suits their abilities and goals in MMA ground fighting.

Training and Skill Development

Training methods for BJJ

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that focuses on ground fighting techniques and submissions. To become proficient in BJJ, practitioners must undergo specific training methods that enhance their skills and abilities. Here are some effective training methods for BJJ:

  1. Live Rolling: Live rolling is a fundamental training method in BJJ, where practitioners engage in simulated fights against resisting opponents. This training allows practitioners to apply techniques in a realistic manner and develop their timing, reflexes, and decision-making abilities.

  2. Drilling Techniques: BJJ practitioners spend a significant amount of time drilling specific techniques. This involves repetitive practice of fundamental movements, transitions, and submissions. By drilling techniques, practitioners develop muscle memory, improve their precision, and gain a deeper understanding of the mechanics behind each move.

  3. Sparring with Varying Skill Levels: Training with partners of different skill levels is essential in BJJ. Experienced practitioners can challenge and push beginners to improve, while beginners can learn from more advanced partners. This variety in training partners helps practitioners adapt their techniques to different opponents and develop a well-rounded skill set.

  4. Competitive Training: Competing in BJJ tournaments is an excellent way to test skills and gain valuable experience. Regularly participating in competitions helps practitioners develop mental toughness, enhance their strategy, and identify areas for improvement. Competition training can be intense but is highly effective in accelerating skill development.

Training methods for Submission Wrestling

Submission wrestling, also known as No-Gi grappling or submission grappling, focuses on ground fighting techniques without the use of the traditional martial arts uniform (Gi). The training methods for submission wrestling are similar to those in BJJ but with some variations. Here are some effective training methods for submission wrestling:

  1. Live Rolling and Sparring: Similar to BJJ, live rolling and sparring play a crucial role in submission wrestling training. Practitioners engage in dynamic, fast-paced matches where they aim to secure submissions or dominant positions. This training method helps develop agility, speed, and adaptability in a no-gi environment.

  2. Grip Fighting: As there is no Gi to grip in submission wrestling, practitioners focus more on grip fighting techniques that involve controlling and breaking the opponent’s grips. Training includes drills that improve hand strength, grip endurance, and the ability to manipulate an opponent’s limbs without relying on clothing grips.

  3. Transitional Movements: Submission wrestling places a strong emphasis on fluid transitions between positions and submissions. Training methods involve drilling transitional movements such as chaining submissions together and seamlessly transitioning from one dominant position to another. Practitioners work on maintaining control and capitalizing on opportunities for submissions.

  4. Specific Training Situations: Submission wrestling training often includes specific scenarios or situations, such as starting from specific positions (e.g., side control, guard, or back control) or defending against specific submissions. These focused training sessions allow practitioners to refine their techniques in specific contexts and improve their problem-solving skills.

Cross-training and hybrid approaches

Many practitioners recognize the benefits of cross-training in both BJJ and submission wrestling to develop a well-rounded skill set. Cross-training allows practitioners to explore different techniques, adapt to various rule sets, and gain a broader perspective on ground fighting. Some hybrid approaches that combine elements from both BJJ and submission wrestling include:

  1. Submission Grappling with the Gi: Some practitioners incorporate elements of Gi-based BJJ into their submission wrestling training. This approach helps develop a stronger focus on technical precision, grip fighting, and utilizing the Gi for control and submissions.

  2. No-Gi Techniques in BJJ: BJJ practitioners often incorporate no-gi techniques into their training to enhance their adaptability and prepare for scenarios where they may not have access to the Gi. This allows practitioners to refine their movement and submissions without relying on clothing grips.

  3. Cross-training with other martial arts: Some practitioners supplement their BJJ or submission wrestling training by cross-training in complementary martial arts such as wrestling, judo, or Sambo. This cross-training helps practitioners broaden their skill set, improve takedowns, and learn effective strategies from different disciplines.

By utilizing these cross-training and hybrid approaches, practitioners can enhance their ground fighting skills, adapt to various rule sets, and become more well-rounded martial artists.

Application in MMA

MMA fighters who utilize BJJ

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has proven to be a highly effective ground fighting technique in mixed martial arts (MMA). Many top-level MMA fighters have successfully utilized BJJ to gain an advantage over their opponents. These fighters have mastered the art of ground control, submissions, and transitions, allowing them to dominate their opponents on the mat.

One of the most renowned MMA fighters who extensively use BJJ is Demian Maia. Known for his exceptional grappling skills, Maia has submitted numerous opponents in the UFC with his slick BJJ techniques. His ability to seamlessly transition from one submission attempt to another has earned him the reputation of being one of the best ground fighters in MMA.

Another prominent BJJ practitioner in MMA is Fabricio Werdum. Werdum, a former UFC heavyweight champion, has showcased his BJJ expertise in various fights. He has successfully utilized his ground game to submit opponents like Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez, solidifying his status as a force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division.

MMA fighters who utilize Submission Wrestling

Submission wrestling, also known as catch wrestling or no-gi grappling, is another ground fighting technique commonly employed in MMA. While BJJ focuses on utilizing the gi (a traditional uniform), submission wrestling emphasizes grappling without the gi, making it more applicable to MMA scenarios.

One notable MMA fighter who extensively uses submission wrestling is Josh Barnett. Known for his catch wrestling background, Barnett has showcased his skills by submitting opponents with various techniques, such as the arm triangle and the kimura. His ability to control opponents on the ground and secure submissions has made him a formidable force in the heavyweight division.

Another fighter who effectively incorporates submission wrestling into his game is Khabib Nurmagomedov. Although primarily known for his dominant wrestling, Nurmagomedov seamlessly transitions into submission wrestling when the opportunity arises. His ground and pound combined with submission attempts have led him to victory against numerous opponents, highlighting the effectiveness of submission wrestling in MMA.

Effectiveness in different MMA scenarios

Both BJJ and submission wrestling have proven to be highly effective in different MMA scenarios. In the context of ground fighting, these techniques provide fighters with the ability to control and neutralize opponents, as well as secure submissions for a quick victory.

In situations where a fighter finds themselves on their back, BJJ techniques offer a range of sweeps and submissions that can potentially turn the tide of the fight. The ability to effectively attack from the bottom position is crucial for fighters who utilize BJJ.

On the other hand, submission wrestling techniques are particularly effective when a fighter is in top position or during transitions. The emphasis on controlling and manipulating the opponent’s body allows submission wrestlers to maintain dominant positions and execute submissions with precision.

In conclusion, both BJJ and submission wrestling have proven their effectiveness in MMA. The ability to seamlessly transition between different ground fighting techniques provides fighters with a well-rounded skill set to dominate their opponents on the mat. Whether it is through the application of BJJ or submission wrestling, these techniques have become essential tools for MMA fighters aiming to excel in ground fighting scenarios.


In conclusion, both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Submission Wrestling are highly effective martial arts disciplines when it comes to ground fighting techniques in MMA. While they have their own unique approaches and strategies, they both provide fighters with a range of techniques and skills that can be utilized to gain a competitive edge in the octagon.

BJJ, with its emphasis on submissions and positional control, allows fighters to use leverage and technique to overcome opponents who may have superior strength or size. By focusing on joint locks and chokes, BJJ practitioners can force their opponents to tap out or render them unconscious, ending the fight in their favor. The use of guard positions and sweeps also enables BJJ fighters to neutralize their opponents’ attacks and create opportunities for submission holds.

On the other hand, Submission Wrestling, also known as Catch Wrestling, emphasizes a more aggressive and versatile approach to ground fighting. With a focus on both submissions and pinning techniques, Submission Wrestling practitioners aim to dominate their opponents through a combination of brute strength and technical skill. This style allows for a wider range of attacks, including leg locks and neck cranks, which can catch opponents off guard and quickly end the fight.

Ultimately, the choice between BJJ and Submission Wrestling comes down to individual preference and fighting style. Some fighters may find themselves more comfortable with the technical finesse of BJJ, while others may prefer the aggressive and explosive nature of Submission Wrestling. Regardless of which style is chosen, both disciplines offer valuable techniques and strategies that can greatly enhance a fighter’s ground game in MMA.

In conclusion, whether it’s BJJ or Submission Wrestling, the importance of mastering ground fighting techniques cannot be overstated in the world of MMA. As fighters continue to evolve and adapt their skills, the integration of both these disciplines into their training can provide them with a well-rounded arsenal of techniques to outmaneuver and defeat their opponents on the ground.

In conclusion, MMA ground fighting incorporates a variety of techniques, with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Submission Wrestling being two prominent disciplines. BJJ focuses on submission holds and positional control, utilizing leverage and technique to overcome strength. On the other hand, Submission Wrestling emphasizes a more aggressive approach, combining elements from various martial arts to achieve dominance on the ground. While both styles have their unique strengths and strategies, the choice between BJJ and Submission Wrestling ultimately depends on the individual’s preferences, goals, and skillset. Whether one prefers the finesse of BJJ or the aggressive nature of Submission Wrestling, both disciplines offer invaluable ground fighting techniques for success in the world of MMA.