Techniques aimed at rendering an opponent unconscious due to restriction of blood flow to the brain, are commonly utilised in mixed martial arts (MMA) competition. These techniques are commonly described as “chokes”, but are more technically “strangulations”. A knowledge of these techniques is important for both athletes and coaches, as well as medical professionals working in the field. 

This study analysed strangulation techniques in UFC events between 1993 and 2020. In 5834 bouts there were 1186 grappling-related submissions, including 904 chokes/strangulations, comprising 15.5% of all fight outcomes. 

9% of these submissions resulted in a loss of consciousness, with the remainder of the bouts ending due to voluntary submission. 

There were an even number of right and left handed submissions.

The rear naked choke was the most commonly used technique, followed closely by the neck-only guillotine. These two techniques were far more common than the arm-in guillotine, the triangle and the arm triangle. 

  1. Stellpflug SJ, Menton WH, LeFevere RC. Analysis of the fight-ending chokes in the history of the Ultimate Fighting ChampionshipTM mixed martial arts promotion. Phys Sportsmed. 2020;

About the author

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert is a registered physiotherapist with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Latrobe university (Melbourne, Australia) and a master’s degree in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia).

A 3rd Dan black belt in Shinkyokushinkai Karate under the World Karate Organisation (WKO), Sam participated for over 20 years in full contact competition, winning multiple state and national titles, and culminating in a 4th place in the heavyweight division of the Shinkyokushinkai World Cup in 2009.

As the co-founder and clinical director of Club 360, the premier multi-disciplinary health and fitness center in Tokyo, Japan, Sam has combined his practical experience with an in-depth study of sports performance in relation to combat sports, and strives to help other combat athletes reach their full competitive potential, whilst at the same time decreasing injury risk and increasing competition and training potential.

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