Is BJJ Effective In MMA?

You may have watched the early UFCs or heard about how effective BJJ in MMA is but after watching some recent UFCs you are wondering if BJJ is still effective in MMA? All will be revealed in the following article.

Is BJJ effective in MMA? Yes, BJJ is effective in MMA but its effectiveness has been greatly diminished over the years as MMA fighters have learned to counter BJJ techniques. The nature of BJJ is that it is much easier to defend against BJJ attacks than it is to execute them so MMA athletes with an intermediate knowledge of BJJ are able to shutdown world champion BJJ athletes’ attacks. Now only around 17% of MMA fights end in submission.

BJJ in MMA suffers from 3 major problems. BJJ for the most part takes place on the ground whereas MMA fights start standing. BJJ athletes need to find a way to take the fight to the ground. Here lies the first problem, BJJ athletes do not possess good takedowns especially compared to the many wrestlers they face in MMA. BJJ athletes aren’t able  to pull guard in MMA because the other fighter can simply not engage and the BJJ fighter will be forced to stand up. This is why you often see world champion BJJ fighters engaged in sloppy kickboxing matches because they have no way to take the fight to the ground and are therefore prohibited from using their BJJ techniques.

The second problem, is the nature of BJJ. The early effectiveness of BJJ in MMA relied on other athletes knowing little to nothing about ground fighting. It is very easy to armbar or triangle someone who doesn’t even know that technique is possible. As MMA athletes started understanding how BJJ works its effectiveness declined significantly.

You see this effect in your BJJ gym, a brand new white belt comes to training he doesn’t know anything about BJJ and you can submit him with everything you try. However after just a few weeks this new white belt becomes much harder to submit just based on the fact that they have a basic understanding of how submissions work and the correct bio mechanics they should be using such as posturing in closed guard. BJJ is like tic tac toe once you know the strategies you can shutdown someone who is a much higher level in BJJ than you.

The third problem with BJJ in MMA is the rules. In MMA you are able to strike your opponent. This may make it sound like it would be easier to submit someone if first you can punch them or elbow them in the face. However in a lot of situations BJJ fighters are on the bottom. It becomes much harder to sweep or submit your opponent when they raining down elbows on you. The famous saying is you punch a black belt he becomes a brown belt you punch him again he becomes a purple belt…..

The other problem with the rules in MMA is fighters wear shorts with no shirt. As the fight goes on both fighter become very sweaty and slippery. It is very hard to control a fighter in MMA on the ground using BJJ when you have nothing to grab onto and their is very little friction. BJJ athletes who are used to relying on the Gi struggle to adapt to MMA where positions like mount and side control are no longer stable.


BJJ and MMA are very different sports. BJJ is purely a grappling based sport where the goal is to control your opponent for which points are awarded or submit your opponent which results in an instant victory. MMA is a mixed fighting sport which combines grappling and striking, where the goal is to inflict damage on your opponent. MMA uses a 10 point must system like boxing based on damage inflicted and awards instant victories when knockouts and submissions occur.

Is BJJ Part Of MMA?

Yes, BJJ is part of  MMA as MMA is made up of all hand to hand martial arts. BJJ is not a necessary or mandated part of MMA but most fighters do utilise it in MMA as it is effective particularly if your opponent is not well versed in BJJ.

In the early days of MMA most fighters represented a particular style and wouldn’t incorporate other martial arts into their fighting style. You would have a boxer who would only punch or wrestler who would only shoot for takedowns. As MMA developed fighters became more well rounded and started training a variety of martial arts.

Nowadays MMA fighters train extensively in wrestling, kickboxing, boxing and BJJ as you need to be well rounded in case you come across a fighter who is better than you in a particular martial art. Modern MMA fighters still usually have one martial art they specialise in such as a wrestler who started wrestling as a kid through college and then started training in other martial arts in their teens or twenties.

Do You Need BJJ For MMA?

Yes, you need BJJ for MMA. You may not have to be a black belt or an expert in BJJ but to be successful in MMA you need to have a thorough understanding of BJJ. If you don’t you will be susceptible to being submitted as you will not see submissions coming and you will not be able to effectively counter them.

From an outsiders perspective it may seem like you don’t need BJJ for MMA as more and more UFC fights look like kickboxing matches or if the fight does go to the ground you have one guy just laying on top in half guard. However UFC fights look this way because usually both fighters are well versed in BJJ. If more UFC fighters weren’t well versed in BJJ you would see much more BJJ on display as high level BJJ fighters would be able to showcase their techniques much more frequently resulting in more submissions.

What BJJ Works In MMA?

The most effective BJJ strategies that work in MMA are a strong top game, high level ability to take the back, establish control from that position and finish from the back using a rear naked choke and the ability to sweep your opponent from the bottom using a single leg from the underhook position.

In MMA the fighter on top is being as perceived as winning the fight. It is also much easier to inflict damage when you are on top. This is why a successful BJJ strategy in MMA should be based on a strong top game.

An interesting dynamic we are seeing in MMA is fighters refusing to pass guard but instead staying in their opponents half guard. From half guard it is hard for their opponent to escape and allows them to strike effectively. BJJ fighters should practice pinning their opponents in half guard.

The highest finishing position in MMA is the back. From the back the fighter is safe from damage, can establish high amounts of control over his opponent and can work to finish the fight with a rear naked choke. A BJJ fighter should practice back takes, back control and finishing rear naked chokes.

In MMA you do not want to be pinned on the bottom. The most effective ways for BJJ fighters to get off the bottom is to come up into a single leg from an underhook. This is a highly effective BJJ strategy to sweep your opponent in MMA.

BJJ Vs Wrestling For MMA?

Wrestling is more effective than BJJ for MMA. Wrestling is better than BJJ for MMA because a wrestler can choose if he wants to engage a BJJ fighter in ground fighting either by defending or executing takedowns. Wrestling is better than BJJ for MMA because the strategy of taking down an opponent, pinning them and punching them while being on top is highly effective in MMA and difficult to counter.

The number 1 MMA fighter in the world currently is Khabib Nurmagomedov, a wrestler. He has fought many BJJ black belts who have been unable to mount any attack or defence against Khabib’s purely wrestling style. Khabib uses the perfect wrestling strategy where he will tenaciously chain together takedown attempt after takedown attempt until he gets his opponent to the mat.

Once on the ground Khabib will pin his opponent in half guard and rain down punches on his opponent. If his opponent does manage to stand back up, Khabib will simply repeat the process. This strategy utilises all of Khabib’s strengths, is easy to follow and places Khabib in very little danger as a fighter on the bottom in half guard is limited in what they can do offensively. The strategy also severely drains his opponents making it less likely as the fight goes on that they will be able to conjure up an attack that can turn the tides of the match.

What Is The Best Base For MMA?

Wrestling is the best base for MMA. Wrestling allows the fighter to dictate where the fight takes place. For example if the wrestler is dominating the fight in the stand up position they can keep the fight their by defending any takedowns. If the wrestler is at a disadvantaged in the stand up position they can attack with a takedown and take the fight to the ground. They then can keep the fight on the ground through using pins.

Wrestlers are suited to MMA because wrestling is an anaerobic intensive sport just like MMA. Wrestlers are known for having great condition which is a huge asset in MMA. No matter how good your skills are in MMA if you don’t have the physical condition to showcase those skills then they are meaningless. Many wrestlers have defeated more skilled opponents through outworking them and exhausting their opponents.

Wrestlers are also suited to MMA because they have experience weight cutting. Weight cutting is where athletes will dehydrate themselves often losing up to 20 pounds so they can compete in a weight class much lower than their natural weight. Following the weight in they replenish their fluids and on competition day compete at a much higher weight.

This increased weight is used to establish a strength advantage over their opponents. Weight cutting is a science which when done correctly can give an athlete a big advantage. If done incorrectly weight cutting can drain a fighter making them weak and ineffective. Wrestlers are well versed in weight cutting and know how to do it correctly.

Why Do Wrestlers Dominate MMA?

Wrestlers dominate MMA because wrestling is well suited to the rules of MMA where the fighter on top is perceived as winning and takedowns are scored favorably. Also in many countries there is no professional career path for high level wrestlers. This results in many high level wrestlers becoming professional MMA fighters. So you are seeing high level athletes in their prime competing in MMA which is not true for other martial arts which do have professional career paths for their athletes such as boxing.

The rules of MMA reward wrestling. A MMA fighter who takes down their opponent, pins them and throws punches while on top of their opponent will win the fight. This strategy utilises skills which wrestlers excel at (takedowns, pins). This strategy is also a safe strategy. Wrestlers know how to perform takedowns safely and know how to effectively pin their opponents. A pinned opponent is at a severe disadvantage and there fighting ability is majorly weakened.

Which Wrestling Style Is Best For MMA?

The best wrestling style for MMA is folkstyle wrestling. Folkstyle wrestling places emphasis on the two most effective takedowns in MMA (single leg and double leg) while also training athletes to hold their opponents down for as long as possible and to escape as quickly as possible. All of these skills are vital in MMA. These 3 skills can be used to form the basis for a highly effective strategy in MMA.

Freestyle wrestling is highly effective in MMA as it places great emphasis on single leg and double leg takedowns like folkstyle wrestling. However it is not as effective as folkstyle because it does not teach athletes to hold their opponents down or teach them how to escape from bottom. Freestyle wrestling does has groundwork but it is very short and the attacker will try to turn their opponent to their back while the defender will simply try to stall for a few seconds before the referee will stop the action and order both athletes to stand up. This lack of sufficient groundwork is why freestyle wrestling is not as effective as folkstyle in MMA.

Greco-Roman wrestling is effective in MMA but as the sport prohibits leg attacks, athletes are not as proficient in single and double leg attacks as folkstyle and freestyle wrestlers. Where Greco-Roman wrestling is most effective is in the clinch particularly when both athletes are pressed against the cage. Matt Lindland was a high level Greco-Roman wrestler who was able to use some sneaky takedowns from the clinch.

Greco-Roman wrestling has also been argued as being safer to use in MMA than folkstyle or freestyle as with upper body takedowns you don’t have to worry about being kneed in the face. However you can find videos of wrestlers knocking themselves out attempting Greco-Roman throws.

I hope after reading this article you have learned a little bit about the effectiveness of BJJ and wrestling in MMA and why BJJ’s effectiveness is on the decline and why wrestling is better suited to MMA.


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