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CagePotato Databomb #2: Breaking Down Submission Success Rates in UFC Fights

(Click chart for full-size version. And if you missed our first Databomb, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

There’s lots of talk about what submissions work better than others in MMA. But we should at least agree that all submissions are not created equal. Some are easier to attempt, and some are easier to finish. But which ones are which?

Examining both the attempt and success rates for each submission type in the UFC since 2007 reveals that some of the most common submissions attempted are actually the hardest to finish. Notably, guillotine chokes and shoulder locks (like kimuras) have very low success rates — 14% and 6%, respectively — despite being attempted fairly frequently. And really, who taps to ankle locks these days? No one still holding a UFC roster spot, that’s who. Meanwhile, no submission is nearly as successful as the rear-naked choke, which results in a tap (or nap) 41% of the time.

So the next time a UFC fighter goes for a guillotine or ankle lock, and the overeager fan at the bar thinks it’s all over — quick! — bet him the next round that there’s an escape…and cheers.

For more on the science and stats of MMA, follow @Fightnomics on Twitter or on Facebook. See more MMA analytical research at

Cagepotato Comments

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Sniffer-Piffits- November 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm
I would have a 100% success rate in tapping out Tate or Rousey via a viscous tongue punching of the fart box....
cman- November 1, 2012 at 2:26 am
Actually what's missing is set up. Rear naked generally set up with a defenseless beating from behind until will is broken and the bottom person is looking for a less damaged way out.
Ankle lock is a bottom desperation/scramble ploy more than anything.
And shoulder is improve position. Agreed.
No matter, everyone by the UFC now is BJJ trained and that's what is dragging fights out.
Ninjanate- October 31, 2012 at 8:37 pm
What is considered a submission attempt? I think a lot less than a quarter of arm-bar attempts are successful. And i think most ankle locks are last ditch attempts as someone escapes other leg-locks, and a lot of people don't train them
DickRhino- October 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm
In one way those stats are a bit misleading though, since you have to remember that not all holds are used exclusively for finishes; shoulder locks like kimuras and omoplatas, for example, are very commonly used to improve position and perform sweeps. So while that 6% finishing rate looks poor without context... In reality shoulder locks are extremely effective in other areas of grappling that aren't taken into consideration here.
KarmaAteMyCat- October 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm
For the record, the number of success stories written about Guillotines and Keylocks is due to the amount of wrestlers who come in and out of the sports spotlight. I mean seriously it's the first move they teach little kids in jujitsu in fact If I recall it's one of the only submissions young young kids are aloud to do in competition. Laws of Simplicity if it works then why complicate it.
Knacker- October 31, 2012 at 11:08 am
I love statistics and these are some grade A top notch stats
Well done CP you made my day
Kimbo Lesnar- October 31, 2012 at 8:59 am
You should have a Ronda Rousey Armbar sub-category. 100% chance of sexy submission!
RwilsonR- October 31, 2012 at 8:03 am
"And really, who taps to ankle locks these days?" - Whoever's fighting Paul Harris, that's who.
DiscoStu- October 31, 2012 at 10:10 am
Those are kneebars. There hasn't been an ankle lock or "Achilles lock" in the UFC since 2007.
Fried Taco- October 31, 2012 at 7:43 am
The problem is that the data can't take into account proper technique. Most submission attempts I see in MMA fights have terrible technique, thus are rarely finished. If done properly, the finish percentage will be much higher! In other words, if done right, no can escape!!!