When women ask me why I think Brazilian jiu jitsu is the best self-defense system for women, I explain that it was developed to allow a smaller, weaker person to defeat a bigger, stronger opponent using leverage, chokes, and joint locks. In fact, in a recent podcast with Citizen Radio, Rener Gracie explained that the Gracie family created the UFC to prove that their smallest fighter could defeat
When women ask me why I think Brazilian jiu jitsu is the best self-defense system for women, I explain that it was developed to allow a smaller, weaker person to defeat a bigger, stronger opponent using leverage, chokes, and joint locks. In fact, in a recent podcast with Citizen Radio, Rener Gracie explained that the Gracie family created the UFC to prove that their smallest fighter could defeat the biggest, baddest fighter from any other discipline. And when it comes to competition between female mixed martial artists who have trained multiple disciplines, other than decision victories, submissions come out on top as fight finishers. To prove my theory that BJJ is great for small fighters and particularly women, I’ve done a statistical analysis of all fights since the inception of the all-women’s MMA promotion Invicta Fighting Championship.
Another reason why I did this analysis is because I teach a women’s Brazilian jiu jitsu class at Titans Fitness Academy in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I wanted to prove to my students when they ask why we don’t focus on the flashy moves they’ve seen on YouTube, that the basic submissions are the ones most likely to win fights.
BJJ Scout, a talented BJJ game analyst who prefers to remain anonymous, echoes this sentiment in his article, Michelle Nicolini Guard Study Part 2: Shin/Spider Lever:
One small pet peeve I have is the obsession over new moves. I’m not big into the philosophy that the key to BJJ success is surprising someone with a killer move or bamboozling them with a vast array of sweeps/locks/submissions. In my honest opinion, it’s probably better to look at the tactics employed by elite players and what is consistently working for them.
UFC fans know how Dana White feels about decision victories. Often these fights aren’t as exciting as fights that are finished. Not to mention, leaving the decision up to the judges who may not really understand MMA has led to a lot of controversy and disappointment. Once I compiled all of the Invicta fight data into a spreadsheet for analysis, I saw that of the 76 fights to date, 31 of them, or 40.8%, have gone the distance, resulting in a decision victory for one fighter. Even worse than a decision gone wrong is a draw, which was the case in Leslie Smith versus Kaitlin Young. Both fighters gave it their all both on their feet and on the ground, and the match has been called the female version of UFC’s Forrest Griffin versus Stephan Bonnar.
Since Invicta’s inception, only two fights, or 2.6% of match ups, have ended in a legitimate knockout (KO). Many women just don’t have the power or size to knock someone out, so KOs don’t happen often in women’s MMA fights, especially single punch knockouts. Veronica Rothenhausler is the exception. She caught Katalina Malungahu with a punch square on the jaw at 1:12 in the first round of their fight, making it the fastest knockout ever in the promotion. You can watch the fight here, but don’t blink when it gets to the 5:07 mark:
The second knockout in Invicta’s history came by way of a knee in their third show. Joanne Calderwood knocked out Ashley Cummins in the first round at 3:47 via a knee to the body:
The third and final knockout for Invicta came when Jessamyn Duke took an illegal knee from Miriam Nakamoto at 2:20 of the first round. There was some controversy after this fight because referee Big John McCarthy said Duke was already out from a previous knee and called it a win for Nakamoto. This decision was eventually overturned and deemed a no contest by the commission.
More often, striking related victories occur by technical knock out (TKO), when a fighter is no longer effectively protecting herself or trying to win the fight. Referees will step in and stop the fight before the fighter is beaten beyond recognition, although Jessica Penne versus Lisa Ward-Ellis was a bloody mess as you’ll see in the video below. Invicta FC has had seventeen TKO victories, accounting for 22.4% of their matches.
Aside from decisions, submission victories come out on top at 31.6%. 24 fights were won by tap-out and 50% of those were due to rear naked chokes. The rear naked choke accounted for 15.8% of all victories since the beginning of the women’s promotion, with the armbar coming in second with seven submissions.
The fastest submission due to rear naked choke was at Invicta 5, Alex Chambers versus Jodie Esquibel, at 1:35 of the first round:
The one that caused the most drama was Jessica Penne versus Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc when Penne shoved Rivera-Calanoc away from her after the tap:
And although there are a lot of talented ground fighters, the Invicta FC submission artist I most enjoy watching is Rose Namajunas. Instead of working from the ground, most of her submissions start on the feet. She climbed onto Emily Kagans back for the rear naked choke and landed a sick flying armbar on Kathina Catron.
To summarize, since the inception of the Invicta Fighting Championship, fights have resulted in the following victories:
So, the numbers show that when you plan your training, you should be sure to focus on the submission basics. I’m still learning tricks for the armbar and triangle five and a half years into my training. Once you have those down, you can think about becoming the next Jon Jones. Everyone is looking for the secret to being the next world champion and the most repeated one I’ve heard is to simply keep training.
1. BJJ Scout, https://web.archive.org/web/20131117101041/https://bjjscout.com/2013/11/06/michelle-nicolini-guard-study-part-2-shinspider-lever/, as accessed November 11, 2013.