BJJ black belt physician reviews and analyzes all choke submissions in UFC history

Author Erik Magraken is a British Columbia litigation lawyer, combat sports law consultant, combat sports law blogger, and deeply, deeply appreciated UGer.

Dr. Samuel Stellpflug, physician and BJJ blackbelt who has authored numerous peer-reviewed articles addressing strangles in combative sports, has just published his latest paper in which he reviews all submission finishes via strangulation in UFC history. In the paper, titled Analysis of the fight-ending chokes in the history of the UFC mixed martial arts promotion, Dr. Stellpflug analyzes every strangulation bout ending sequence since the promotion launched in 1993.

The data revealed there have been 903 bouts that ended via strangulation. Of these the vast majority ended due to tap out though 11% of these ended in unconsciousness. (You can find Dr. Stellpflug’s previous article here analyzing the length of time the techniques average to loss of consciousness)

The rear-naked choke, comprising 49.12% of all strangulation finishes, is far and away the leading strangle submission responsible for almost as many finishes as all other choke-holds combined. Coming next was the Guillotine choke responsible for 13.72% of all strangle finishes followed by the Arm-in Guillotine responsible for 9.73%. Rounding out the top choke submissions by percentage were the Triangle leading to 8.83% of all strangle finishes and the Arm Triangle with a percentage of 8.19%. These five strangles are responsible for nearly 90% of all choke finishes in the promotion’s history. The remaining 10% of fight-ending chokes are comprised of 14 different techniques non responsible for even 3% of all choke out finishes.

If nothing else this data reveals that the RNC is by far the most high percentage strangulation technique in mixed martial arts and a mere 5 techniques make up the lion’s share of successful strangulation finishes.

The full abstract reads as follows:

Objective: Knowledge of sportive chokes is vital to the practice of Sports Medicine when providing care at mixed martial arts and submission grappling events. This is a descriptive analysis of fight-ending chokes to help provide data on the topic not previously presented.

Methods: An analysis was done on every fight-ending choke in the history of the UFC™ mixed martial arts promotion. Investigators focused on the frequency of chokes, types of chokes, handedness of the chokes, and whether chokes resulted in loss of consciousness. This analysis was done using existing fight outcome reports and video analysis of every choke that ended a fight in UFC™ history.

Results: During the study period there were 904 such chokes, comprising 15.5% of fight outcomes and 76.2% of grappling submissions. The makeup of right (50.1%) and left (49.9%) handedness of the chokes has been essentially identical (χ2 [1] = 0.0011, p = .947, phi = .00). Most of the fight-ending chokes culminated in voluntary submission, however 11% resulted in loss of consciousness. The rear naked choke (RNC) was significantly more frequent than other chokes, comprising 49.1% of the total choke finishes; 19 other choke types accounted for the remaining 50.9%.

Conclusion: Fight-ending chokes have been common in MMA. Many types of chokes have successfully ended UFC™ fights, with the RNC accounting for almost half of fight-ending chokes. Loss of consciousness occurred in 11% of fight-ending chokes. Right and left handed chokes were utilized equally.

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