Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu still effective in MMA?
It seems every year we get so called experts questioning the continuing effectiveness and validity of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) in modern MMA. So is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu still effective in MMA? The short answer is yes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is still effective in MMA.
First off let’s look at the statistics. Submissions in MMA have been remarkably consistent over the years in terms of both percentage and type of submissions. Every year in the UFC the percentage of submissions have hovered somewhere in the high teens to low thirties, with the rear naked choke and guillotine consistently making up the most amount of submissions year after year. So there has never been this great time period that some people “remember” in history where submissions dominated fight finishes. In fact, 2007 had one of best years for submissions percentage wise (31%) in UFC history. Furthermore, 2014 had the most total submissions in UFC history with 99 submissions or 19.6%. These years are well after the 90s which some people believe is the heyday of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submissions in MMA. Again, further still, there has not been a decline in submissions but a consistency in the amount and type of submissions.
Some would look at 30% and conclude that submissions happen rarely and that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submissions have never been very effective. However, if people didn’t learn BJJ the amount of submissions would be much higher. The very fact that one has to learn BJJ in order to defend against it speaks to its effectiveness. Since the vast majority of fighters learn it, some claim that submissions are a thing of the past because everyone knows how to counter it. Well everyone knows a double leg in wrestling and yet people still get taken down. Yet no one says “well everyone knows wrestling so wrestling and takedowns are going to be ineffective in the future” that would be ridiculous. Getting a submission just comes down to the fact of how good that athlete is at performing submissions
What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Now, we should become clear on what some people mean when they say Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. With the large number of rear naked chokes and guillotines it seems strange to me that so many people claim that BJJ is ineffective in MMA today. That is because a lot of commentators and journalists like to compartmentalize everything into nice fitting boxes; as if BJJ didn’t have takedowns or top control (Really? Just tell Jacaré Souza that he doesn’t have any takedown skills) and that BJJ does not have good overall ground work, control, and transitioning. Therefore, it seems to me when people say BJJ is no longer effective they really mean bottom transitioning and the guard. However, even here, these people are wrong.
The Guard and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Evolution
The guard is still effective in MMA, actually, even more so today. The guard sometimes has a bad reputation with MMA. This is due to the fact that for so many years most MMA fighters did not know how to use it. A lot of MMA fighters come from a wrestling background or even a striking background and they are traditionally bad off their backs and the guard is largely foreign to them. Furthermore, with the exception of a few, BJJ players were also bad with their guards. This was due to the fact that almost all of them came from a gi background with a little experience in no gi or with dealing with strikes. However, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is still evolving and will continue to evolve just like MMA. Today many BJJ players are doing no gi more and developing tactics to control opponents without the gi, and set up submissions without the gi, and to deal with strikes. The list of great recent submissions from the guard speaks to this improvement and evolution: Jim Miller’s armbar over Fabricio Camoes; Anthony Pettis’s armbar over Benson Henderson; and Michael McDonald’s triangle over Brad Pickett. Furthermore, the types of submissions have gotten better and more diverse, like: Nick Diaz’s gogoplata over Takanori Gomi; Liam McGeary’s inverted triangle over Kelly Anundson; Chan Sung Jung “The Korean Zombie” twister over Leonard Garcia; and Ben Saunders’ omoplata over Chris Heatherly (the first omoplata in UFC history). With the continued evolution of submissions and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu submissions will only get better.