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Which Ruleset Has the Highest Submission Rate?

There seems to be a never-ending debate on which ruleset in professional grappling is the best. Obviously, that is a subjective question, the solution being a matter of opinion rather than a statement of fact (although we can factually state that it is most certainly NOT the IBJJF rules). So how do we not only find a justifiable answer to this question, but also come up with a valid argument in favor of a particular ruleset. Rather than argue which ruleset is the best, we decided to first define what “best” means to us, in a manner that is quantifiable. This was a simple exercise, we would pick the ruleset with the most submissions, because submissions are awesome and fun to watch.

After that, we needed to define our dataset. The professional grappling scene in its current form can trace it’s roots back to 2012 when Metamoris popped up (for reasons that I need not explain, the now defunct Metamoris was not included in this study). Since that point there have been several organizations that have formed who pay athletes to compete and stream their events to viewing audiences, AKA professional organizations. Of those, the most prominent are Polaris, Fight to Win, Kasai, EBI, and Quintet (Note: EBI only pays the tournament winner for opponents he/she has submitted in regulation), which we selected as the subject for this analysis. We decided to also include ADCC Worlds since that event is considered the most prestigious tournament in grappling, and it employs a very unique ruleset (NOTE: ADCC & Kasai only pay tournament winners & superfight participants).

So, our data population was as follows:

  • EBI 1 – 16 (combat jiu jitsu events were excluded)
  • Polaris 1-6 (Main Card)
  • Kasai 1-4 (Tournament Matches Only)
  • Fight to Win 1- 96 (Black Belt Main Events and Title fights ONLY)
  • ADCC 2015 & 2017
  • Quintet 1-3 + Fight Night (Superfights Excluded)

 OK so let’s talk about our rationale behind this. We excluded combat jiu jitsu from EBI because it isn’t pure grappling and the dataset is still pretty small. The undercard data for Polaris was excluded simply because results are not readily available online or on the event replays. Kasai superfights were excluded because the rulesets for those are inconsistent. We  only included Black Belt main events and title fights for F2W because there are THOUSANDS of matches and we only have so much time on our hands. For ADCC we picked up starting in 2015 because it falls within the timeframe during which we are examining the other organizations. For Quintet we excluded the superfights to be consistent with the rest of the population.

From there we researched the results of every match that fell within the dataset using a variety of sources (big shout-out to bjjheroes.com) to calculate the submission rate for each event and then the overall rate for the organization given the stipulations of the data population above.

Before we get into the results let’s examine the rulesets:

Quintet

  • Time: 8 Minute Rounds (4 minutes with 20+kg weight disparity)
  • Overtime: No Overtime
  • Format: Team survivor series. Teams of 5 faceoff in head to head matches. The combined weight of the team cannot exceed 430kg (948lbs) the day prior to the event. Competitors face off in 1 v 1 matches, the winner of the match stays on to fight a new opponent from the opposing team. If there is no winner, both contestants are eliminated. The team with the last man (men) standing advances to the next round.
  • Scoring: Submission Only
  • Penalties: Aggressive stalling warnings, intentionally forcing an opponent off the mat, intentionally escaping the mat to avoid a bad position, holding closed guard for more than 30 seconds. If one competitor is called for a warning the match restarts with the other competitor awarded top position. If both competitors are warned the match is restarted standing. 3 warnings results in a DQ.
  • Banned Techniques: heel hooks, slams, neck cranks, scissor take down, jumping guard.
  • Misc.: Mat area is 12 square meters

Kasai

  • Time: 6 Minutes
  • Overtime: No Overtime
  • Format: Round robin tournament. There is a total of 8 contestants, divided into two groups of 4. Everybody in each foursome competes against one another in the group stage. Competitors are awarded points based on the results of their matches. A submission win is worth 3 points, a points win is worth 2 points, a draw is worth 1 point, and a loss is worth 0 points. At the end of the group stage, the competitors with the highest scores in each group, face off in the final.
  • Scoring: Points system; 2 for TD or Sweep, 3 for guard pass, 4 for mount or back mount. Rather than advantages Kasai rules award a single point for a near takedown or submission.
  • Penalties: Penalties are given for inactivity. Competitors receive a warning before being docked a point.
  • Banned Techniques: None
  • Misc.:

Fight to Win

  • Time: 10 Minutes
  • Overtime: None
  • Format: Submission only Superfights. In the event there is no submission, the 3 referees will render their decision based on number of submission attempts, and aggression.
  • Scoring: None
  • Penalties: None
  • Banned Techniques*: Heel hooks banned in the Gi
  • Misc: F2W has their competitors grouped based on belt rank, even for No-Gi.

*Only blackbelt matches were observed

ADCC

  • Time: 10 Minutes (Qualifying Rounds). 20 Minutes (Finals Rounds)
  • Overtime: 5 Minutes (Qualifying Rounds). 10 Minutes (Finals Rounds) (max of 2 for both).
  • Format: Tournament format. The first half of regulation is submission only. Points scoring & penalties come into effect at the halfway point (note: penalties are enforced throughout the entire match in finals matches).
  • Scoring: Points System. 3 for guard pass; 2 for knee on belly; 2 for mount; 3 for back mount; 2 for TD ending in guard; 4 for TD that passes guard; 2 for a sweep ending in guard; 4 for sweep that passes guard.
  • Penalties: Pulling guard or going from standing to non-standing for 3 seconds, passivity. Competitors are given 1 warning prior to a passivity penalty being assessed.
  • Banned Techniques: None
  • Misc.:

Polaris

  • Time: 15 Minutes
  • Overtime: None
  • Format: Submission Only Superfights. If there is no submission within regulation; a judges decision is rendered.
  • Scoring: The 15-minute bout is divided into three 5 minute scoring periods (no break in the action), judges score each period based on specific criteria. The criteria are (in order of importance); effective attacks and aggression, escalation of positional control, effective counterattacks and dynamic escapes.
  • Penalties: Judges are instructed to look negatively upon the following and incorporate this into their decisions; stalling and passivity, poor sportsmanship and fouls.
  • Banned Techniques: Spine and neck cranks, and heel hooks are illegal in Gi bouts.
  • Misc.: Polaris 1-3 did not have decisions, matches with no submissions ended in a draw. The judges came into the fold during Polaris 4.

EBI

  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Overtime: If there is no submission by the end of regulation, the overtime period begins with a coin toss. The winner of the toss gets to choose whether to attack or defend. The attacker then has the choice between starting from his/her opponents back, or in the spiderweb position. It is the attackers job to secure a submission and it is the defenders job to escape. Once there is either a submission or an escape, the roles become reversed. If a competitor is submitted during the first half of overtime, then he/she must now submit his/her opponent to continue, and if a competitor escapes during the first half, the opponent must now also escape to continue. If at the end of 3 overtime periods, there is no submission winner, the match is decided by who has the quickest accumulated escape times.
  • Format: Single elimination tournament
  • Scoring: None
  • Penalties: None
  • Banned Techniques: None
  • Misc.:

Results

After comparing all of the results from the eligible matches, this is what we get.

By looking at this it is plain to see that EBI matches ended most frequently in submissions, and we can therefore declare with impunity that EBI rules are the best, right? I would not go that far without considering the level of talent at the EBI events AND the amount of talent disparity present in a tournament format vs a superfight format. EBI’s numbers are probably a little inflated due to the number of matches that have taken place between seasoned blackbelts and blue and purple belt competitors, vs an organization such as Kasai, who brings in top level talent for their round robin tournaments.

A couple of other observations we can make from the data:

  • Quintet has an impressive submission rate for such a new organization. You could make an argument for talent disparity here as well, but it’s possible they got a major boost from the epic 10th planet vs Polaris match at Quintet 3. I think the quintet format does a good job of inhibiting action and compelling contestants to hunt for submissions.
  • Rulesets which allow points scored the lowest on submission rates. This was not a surprise.
  • The difference between tournament formats and superfight formats is a small 3%
  • Matches between 8 and 10 minutes in length had the highest submission rates
  • Rulesets that follow regulation with an overtime period had a higher submission rate than those that ended in a decision or a draw (note: only submissions in regulation were counted)
  • EBI 1 had the highest submission rate of any single event with an incredible 97% (go back and watch)
  • Polaris: the switch from draws to decisions starting with Polaris 4 decreased the submission rate by 4%
  • Polaris 3 contained arguably the best match of this era in Tonon vs Palhares; the event had a submission rate of 0.

 

 

Tournaments vs Superfights: No clear winner

 

Submission Rate by Match Length:

Overtime vs No Overtime

 

 

So, in conclusion if you want to argue in favor of a particular ruleset because their matches end most frequently in submissions, then EBI is your champion. If you want to get in early on the rising star, then throw your support behind Quintet. Personally, I think each of these organizations brings something unique and interesting to the table and contribute to the sport in different, yet equally important ways. EBI led the charge after Metamoris folded and provided a stage for the next generation of stars. F2W brings a great party atmosphere to their events and provides a stage for both international competitors and local athletes, growing the sport on a grassroots level. Kasai and Polaris consistently deliver the best matchmaking and production quality in the sport. Quintet brought forth a quirky and exciting format, making grappling a team sport for the first time. And ADCC, the pinnacle of the sport, brings together the best in the world and puts them all out on the same mats, crowning the king every 2 years.

Let me know your thoughts!

 

Sources:

·        UFC.tv

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