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Sub-Only vs Points by the Numbers

Sub-Only vs Points by the Numbers

Gordon Ryan Instructional

Submission only or points system, which is the best platform to drive the sporting aspect of Brazilian jiu jitsu forward? The question seems to generate more heated debates on internet forums than any other topic, maybe on par with the gi vs no-gi battle (we will address that one later).

As a fan of jiu jitsu first and foremost, I’ve always been confused by the idolization so many have for either facet of this sport. In my head, there is no reason why the two cannot co-exist without blindly disregarding one another. Both seem to have valid pros and cons from an entertainment aspect, and self defence standpoint (that old chestnut).

As a spectacle, submissions are the most fun thing to watch in a match, that goal to which every competitor should thrive for. On the other hand take points out of the equation and the matches become less of a “fight” and more of a game, where the seasoned veteran may accept to have his guard passed instead of fighting against the scoreboard and expose himself to openings (classic example being Rafa Mendes vs Cobrinha at the 2012 Pan Ams, and classic example of the oposite in Andre Galvao vs Ryron Gracie at Metamoris I).

But simplistic reasoning aside, let’s take a look at what the data tells us. First we assessed the different types of competitions available in the jiu jitsu stratosphere. BJJ is wide and varied sport, with many variants in rules, time-limits, submission types, and even athlete admission. The later being a particularly defining subject, as there are big differences between picking athletes to compete in a certain set of rules while using one’s match-making skills to have the best group possible, and having all types of athletes of all levels and styles in an open style format.

With this in mind we divided the subject in two types. The two types being: Invitational Style Tournament and Superfight Events.


We gathered the tournament matches of the past 3 years from EBI* (no gi sub-only), Copa Podio (gi with points), Desafio UK (gi with points) ADCC (no gi with points).


A landslide win for the Eddie Bravo Invitational format, a sub-only tournament that encourages athletes to look for the submission by adding prize money to each finish achieved within the stipulated time limits leading up to the final.

*overtime wins are not regarded as submissions for this exercise.


Another interesting aspect of the submission game and how it relates to self defence, is to understand how many submissions occurred from an established position of dominance (mount/back), against a neutral or defensive position. According to the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s stats, the closest thing our culture has to a real life altercation, the UFC’s most common submissions are: RNC (32%), Guillotine (18%) and armbar (16%) – source:


Although all point orientated matches seem favour a positional submission style, there is also a close relationship in the no-gi approach. The heel hook is the weapon of choice in no-gi orientated matches, an abysmal difference when comparing to the MMA game where heel hooks are 2% of the overall submissions. In this aspect, the gi added to a point system where the battle for optimal positioning prevails seems to merge well with a “realistic” form of combat.


We utilized the results of all superfight matches from Metamoris (gi-nogi sub-only), Polaris (gi-nogi sub-only), Copa Podio (gi with points).


Using the same method as before, we analysed which submissions were being used by grapplers in this platform:

MM: 4 armbars (26%), 3 guillotines (20%) – PL: 3 inverted heel hook (30%), 3 triangles, 1 of those being inverted triangle (30%) – CP: 2 cross choke f/ mount (33%), 2 choke from back (33%).

There does not seem to be a lot of coherence between MM and PL, though both use a mix of gi and nogi superfights module, this may be the key factor. We will address this soon.


Because the open tournament format does not have a big submission-only representative in the sport’s mainstream, we cannot compare the two. We will however compare the Open type event in our gi vs no-gi segment.

Photo credit to Hywel Teague of Flo Grappling & BJJ Hacks.

Gordon Ryan Instructional

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