Regression to the Mean: Looking Back at Submissions in MMA

Hazelett01_mediumBack in March, I counterpointed a Josh Gross article about a trend of diminishing submission rates in the UFC.  While performing some ego fulfilling self-Google searches, I stumbled on the article and figured it was a good time to see what's transpired over the past three months.

We concluded that the submission rate in the UFC rests somewhere between 25% and 27%.  Gross made his point based on the outcomes of UFC cards over a period of a couple months, but even the most mathematically dunce of people should recognize there are serious sample size flaws with that view.  So, we looked at the year prior (March '08 - March '09) and found that the submission rate came out to 23.1% over 204 fights.  Adding a mere five submissions over that sample brought the overall percentage to 25.5%.

So, how have things played out since?  Well, if we look back at the past year, the submission rate is 26.2% over 214 fights.  If we look at March '08 - June '09, the rate drops drops slightly to 25.6% over 258 fights.  And just for kicks, since March, nine of thirty-four fights have ended in submission for a rate of 26.5%.

I hate to say, "I told you so," but...wait, I love saying it.  I told you so.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see a future period where the submission rate hits 35% over a few cards upon which I'll have to roll in and mow down the notion that BJJ is taking over the world (again).

Everything regresses back to the mean.  Unless significant changes are made to the Unifed Rules of MMA, the submission rate will hover around that 25-26% mark.  Random fluctuations make life interesting, but we can't speculate on some overall trend on the backs of 30-40 fights.  So, relax.  Grappling ain't going nowhere.

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