15 Best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Fighters in the UFC (MMA)


15 Best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Fighters in the UFC (MMA)

Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) was the martial art that set the foundations of modern-day MMA. The UFC was born when Royce Gracie decided to show the world that by using the right jiu-jitsu techniques, a smaller fighter can beat the bigger one. Today, all MMA fighters inside the UFC know BJJ, but, there are levels to it. In this article, we will take a look at who the best BJJ practitioners in the UFC are.

Best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the UFC:

  • Royce Gracie
  • Demian Maia
  • Ronaldo Souza
  • Tony Ferguson
  • Nate Diaz
  • Anderson Silva
  • Mackenzie Dern
  • Charles Oliviera
  • Brian Ortega
  • Fabricio Werdum
  • Nick Diaz
  • BJ Penn
  • Ryan Hall
  • Gunnar Nelson
  • Kron Gracie

We have to mention that the given list is not ranked. We took many factors into consideration, like their UFC and MMA resume, their jiu-jitsu resume, number of wins by submission, percentage of successful submissions, etc. So, let’s take a closer look at fighters who made it to the list.

Also, we made lists similar to this for every martial art. Take a look at best Muay Thai fighters in the UFC and MMA, best boxers in the UFC and MMA, best wrestlers in the UFC, and best kickboxers in the UFC history.

Best BJJ Fighters in the UFC and MMA (Both Today and in the History):

Royce Gracie

Divison: fought in the UFC when there were no weight classes

MMA record: 15-2 (3 draws)

We have to start our list with the man who is responsible for today’s global popularity of the UFC and MMA, Royce Gracie. He is a member of the famous Gracie family, and the student of the Hélio Gracie, the father of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Royce competed at the first UFC evens, where he wanted to show that the smaller fighter with good jiu-jitsu skills can handle the bigger fighter.

Royce won three of the first four UFC Championship Tournaments. In the process, he amassed a score of 11 wins and 0 losses. An absolutely astonishing fact is that he finished all of his 11 fights with a submission. From armbars to triangle chokes, to rear-naked chokes; not a single fighter has seen something like that before, and they were no match for Gracie’s BJJ skills.

Gracie popularized Brazilian jiu-jitsu and revolutionized mixed martial arts with his results contributing to the movement towards grappling and ground fighting in the sport we know today. If there was not for him, today, we might still the vast majority of fights being stand up.

Royce Gracie also holds the record for the longest UFC fight in the history. At the UFC 5, Royce fough with Ken Shamrock for 36 minutes. There were no judges back then, so the fight to go to the decision was not an option. After 36 minutes, the fight was stopped, and declared a draw.

Demian Maia

Divison: UFC Welterweight, formerly UFC Middleweight

MMA record: 28-10

Demian Maia is one of the best grapplers that have ever stepped foot inside the Octagon. This Brazilian MMA fighter and jiu-jitsu specialist is a 4th-degree black belt in BJJ. In his extraordinary career, he fought for the UFC belt twice (losing both times, against Anderson Silva and Tyron Woodley).

Maia’s fighting style is built around the usage of single and double leg takedowns as well as trips to push the fight to the ground. There he will look for a submission opening. He prefers to look for the back position and secure a choke submission. 13 of his 14 submissions come from choking his opponents. A true master of the art. From his 28 wins, 14 are submissions.

Ronaldo Souza

Division: UFC Middleweight, UFC Light Heavyweight

MMA record: 26-8 (1 NC)

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is a Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter and 4th-degree black belt jiu-jitsu specialist. As a UFC fighter, he holds victories over three former UFC champions; Robbie Lawler, Chris Weidman, and Vitor Belfort.

Of Souza’s 26 career wins, 14 comes from submission, which is impressive. He has submission wins using chokes, armbars, and kimuras.

While he was competing at BJJ tournaments, Jacare has won 8 gold medals in the Jiu-Jitsu World Championships. Today, he is one of the most dangerous grapplers and submission artists inside the UFC Middleweight and Light Heavyweight divisions.

Tony Ferguson

Divison: UFC Lightweight, formerly UFC Welterweight

MMA record: 25-3

Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson is probably the craziest and most insane fighter that has ever been in the UFC. He is known for his unorthodox training routines, doing weight-cuts even though he hasn’t a fight going on, and etc.

Today, Tony is one of the most talked-about fighters in the UFC because of his highly anticipated fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov. Five times over the course of 5 years, these two were set to fight, but every single time, the fight was canceled. We are waiting for a sixth try, which is the most highly anticipated fight in the history of the UFC.

Tony Ferguson is a black belt in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu under Eddie Bravo. The tutelage of the school is to adapt BJJ to the MMA needs. That kind of training makes Tony incredibly dangerous for his opponents. He is an unbelievably unorthodox fighter that has a chance to submit his opponents from absolutely everywhere. Standing, on his back, on his opponents back, Tony can submit his opponent.

“El Cucuy” won his Interim UFC Lightweight belt against Kevin Lee with a triangle choke from his back. Tony holds the record for the longest winning streak the UFC Lightweight history with 12 consecutive wins. He hasn’t lost a fight in more than 8 years. Ferguson also holds the record for most (3) D’Arce choke finishes in UFC history. He might be the best D’Arche submission practitioner that has ever competed in the MMA.

Nate Diaz

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Divison: UFC Lightweight, UFC Welterweight

MMA record: 20-12

Nate Diaz is an American MMA fighter and 2nd degree black belt in BJJ under Cesar Gracie. He got inside the BJJ and MMA because of his older brother Nick Diaz. The two currently run a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school in California, called Nick Diaz Academy.

Out of his 20 career wins, 11 comes from submissions. Through his UFC career, Nate earned all sorts of bonuses. He got fight of the night award 8 times and submission of the night award 5 times. Diaz also holds the record (actually tied with Jim Miller) for most submission wins in the UFC Lightweight division history (7). He is also tied with Joe Lauzon second for most post-fight bonus awards in UFC history (15).

When it comes to the ground game, Diaz is just an octopussy that can submit you from anywhere. His submission against Conor McGregor in 2016 is on the biggest upsets in UFC history. The two, had their rematch 5 months later, which McGregor won via decision. Now, we are excepting a trilogy fight, which will be on the biggest fights in the history of the UFC.

Anderson Silva

Divison: UFC Middleweight, UFC Light Heavyweight

MMA record: 34-10 (1 NC)

Anderson “The Spider” Silva in his prime is one the best fighter in the history of MMA. He is a former UFC Middleweight champion and holds the record for the longest title reign in the UFC history with 2,457 days as the champion. His champion era began in 2006 and lasted all the way to 2013. In that span of time, he defended the title for the second best ever number of 10 times and won 16 times in the process.

Silva is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt specialist under Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira. Although he’s primarily a stand-up fighter, and arguably on the best MMA strikers of all time, we just have to include him on this list. His ground game is usually underrated. In his incredible career, he has submitted some of the best grapplers in his era; including Olympic wrestler Dan Henderson, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt Travis Lutter, and Olympic alternate Chael Sonnen.

To perceive Silva’s greatness inside the Octagon, just take a look at all the records he has. Second most title defenses in UFC history (Middleweight, 10 times); longest title reign in UFC history (2457 days); longest win streak in UFC history (16); most finishes in UFC Middleweight division history (11); most finishes in UFC title fights (9); most knockdowns in UFC history (18); most knockdowns in UFC title fights (10); most knockouts in UFC title fights (7). Anderson Silva truly is one of the all time greats.

Mackenzie Dern

Division: UFC Strawweight

MMA record: 7-1

Mackenzie Dern is one of the most decorated female Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners of all time. She’s currently competing in the UFC Strawweight division. Dern started her jiu-jitsu journey at the age of 3 and has a black belt in BJJ under Wellington Dias who is a direct apprentice of the Gracie family.

During her BJJ career, Mackenzie amassed a record of 76-25 (1 draw). She is on the most decorated women BJJ fighters of all time. Dern is a former world No. 1 ranked International BJJ Federation competitor. She is also an ADCC and no gi BJJ (black belt) World Champion. During her extraordinary BJJ career, Mackenzie won 22 gold, 4 silver, and 5 bronze medal at various BJJ World Championship.

In 2016, she started her MMA career. She won all of her first 5 fights (3 of them by submission), which secured her the invite from the UFC. Dern soon began showing her BJJ arsenal inside the UFC where she submitted Amanda Cooper with a rear-naked choke in her second UFC fight. She is an up and coming fighter ready to show her Jiu-Jitsu skills at the highest level. Even though she is new to the MMA, she is already one of the best female BJJ practitioners inside the UFC.

Charles Oliviera

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Division: UFC Lightweight, formerly UFC Featherweight

MMA record: 29-8 (1 NC)

Charles “Do Bronx” Oliviera is arguably the best submission artist inside the UFC right now. Brazilian MMA fighters is a 3rd degree black belt BJJ master. When he steps inside the Octagon, there is a huge chance that it will finish with a submission by Oliviera. Out of his 29 career wins, 19 have come from a submission, which is something we can rarely see.

When it comes to Oliviera’s jiu-jitsu greatness and why is he considered one of the best submission artists there is in the UFC, we have to list his record. Oliviera holds the record for most submission wins in UFC history (14) and is tied with Donald Cerrone for most finishes in UFC history (16). He has the highest finishes-per-win percentage in the UFC history (93.75%). Oliviera also has the most Performance of the Night awards in UFC history (10) and second most Post Fight bonuses in UFC history (16).

To even better represent how good Charles Oliviera is at BJJ, we have to give you the statistic that he makes a submission attempt every 5,36 minutes, meaning, he makes an attempt almost once per round, which is unbelievably high number.

Charles has submitted his opponents with rear-naked chokes, inverted triangle armbar, anaconda chokes, kneebar, reverse calf slicer, triangle choke, guillotine chokes. No other fighter in UFC history has a diversity of different submissions like Oliviera has. Take a look at some of them:

Brian Ortega

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Division: UFC Featherweight

MMA record: 14-1 (1 NC)

Brian “T-City” Ortega is one the newest BJJ virtuosos added to the UFC roster. Brian started his Jiu-Jitsu journey at the age of 13 at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy under Rorion Gracie, and his sons Ryron, Rener, and Ralek Gracie. Today, Ortega is a legit BJJ black belt.

Brian Ortega is a choke specialist. Be it a triangle choke, rear-naked choke, or guillotine, he can do it all. Soon after he enter the UFC, he got some serious attention. Out of his first 6 UFC wins, Brian finished all of them. Three times by submitting them, and three times by KOing them. Ortega is also the first man to ever finish former UFC Lightweight champion inside the Octagon.

By finishing 6 opponents in a row, including UFC Featherweight legends Renato Moicano, Cub Swanson, and Frankie Edgar, Ortega soon got a title shot. On UFC 231, Ortega challenged then featherweight king Max Holloway for a belt. After 4 rounds, and an absolute war, Brian fell short. But, as he is an up and coming fighter, there is no doubt that Ortega will soon challenge for title again, and in the process submit a lot of his opponents.

Fabricio Werdum

Division: UFC Heavyweight

MMA record: 23-8 (1 draw)

Fabricio Werdum is a Brazilian mixed martial artist and former UFC Heavyweight champion. He is one of the most decorated heavyweight BJJ fighters in the history of MMA. Werdum is a 4-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, a two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Heavyweight Champion, and a European jiu-jitsu champion. He is a 2nd degree BJJ black belt under Octavio Couto.

At the start of his career, while being a BJJ purple belt, Werdum was training white and blue belts, but in the process, won the BJJ World Championship, and soon became a black belt. His extraordinary Jiu-Jitsu background translated well into MMA. Werdum was the first man to stop great Fedor Emelianenko in over 10 years. He submitted him with a triangle armbar. Werdum’s submission over Fedor was proclaimed as the Submission of the Year (2010).

Out of his 23 MMA career wins, 11 are by submission. That is something we rarely see inside the heavyweight division.

Nick Diaz

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Division: UFC Welterweight, Strikeforce Welterweight

MMA record: 26-9 (2 NC)

Nick Diaz is a 3rd degree jiu-jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie whom he has been training with since he was a teenager. He is accomplished in both gi and no-gi jiu-jitsu. Some of the major titles he has won are the US Purple Belt Open in 2004 and a Pan-American Brown Belt Medium Weight Division title in 2005.

Diaz is well known for having a modified BJJ style that suits his MMA career very well. Diaz lists his kimura as his favorite submission.

Nick is an older brother of UFC superstar Nate Diaz. The two, being a BJJ master themself, now run a BJJ academy called “Nick Diaz Academy” where they pass their jiu-jitsu knowledge to younger students.

Just as his younger brother Nate, Nick is such a great submission artist because of the unpredictability of his back. He can submit his opponent at any time. Over his long career, Nick has submitted most of his opponents using kimuras and armbars. In his UFC days, he challenged the best including the former champions BJ Penn, GSP, and Anderson Silva.

BJ Penn

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Division: UFC Lightweight, UFC Welterweight

MMA record: 16-14-2

BJ Penn is a UFC Hall of Famer and former UFC Lightweight and Welterweight champion. He is one of the highest ranked BJJ practitioners inside the MMA, being a 5th degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Before Penn, started with MMA, he also won the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in 2000.

BJ is one of the best grapplers in UFC history. In his long UFC career, he was champion of both the UFC Lightweight and Welterweight divisions. He defended UFC Lightweight belt three times. BJ Penn’s career had a lot of ups and downs which we can best see when we take a look at his record.

Penn was the second multi-divisional champion in UFC history. He also holds all sorts of submission rewards, but recently he holds one infamous record. As we mentioned, BJ’s career has a downward trend. He lost his last 7 UFC fights, which set the record for the highest consecutive losses in UFC history.

Ryan Hall

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Division: UFC Featherweight, UFC Lightweight

MMA record: 9-1

Ryan “The Wizard” Hall is one of the newest additions to black belt BJJ masters to the UFC. He is known for a number of competitive Jiu-Jitsu achievements, ranging from Mundial and ADCC victories to dozens of Grapplers Quest championships.

In 2018, he pulled a vicious heel hook against BJ Penn, earning him Submission of the Year (2018) award. In the recent 2020 interview, Ryan stated he can’t’ find an opponent inside the UFC, because everyone on the roster is scared of him, and the danger of submission he possesses.

Gunnar Nelson

Division: UFC Welterweight

MMA record: 17-5 (1 draw)

Gunnar “Gunni” Nelson is the long time training partner of Conor McGregor and 2nd degree jiu-jitsu black belt specialist. Gunnar is known as one of the best submission artists inside the UFC right now. Out of his 17 career wins, 12 of them are by submission.

Nelson holds (actually tied with Chris Lytle) the record for most submission wins in UFC Welterweight division history (6). Out of his 8 UFC wins, 7 of them are by submission, which is a pretty impressive stat. Gunnar submitted his opponents using a variety of chokes including guillotine, rear-naked choke, and neck crank.

Kron Gracie

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Divison: UFC Featherweight

MMA record: 5-1

Kron “The Ice Cream” Gracie is the newest addition of the Gracie family to the UFC roster. Being a Gracie, he started doing BJJ at an early age, and at the age of just 19, received his black belt.

Kron’s entry into the Octagon was highly anticipated as he came in the UFC with 4 wins, and all of them by submission. In his UFC debut, he delivered. Kron submitted Alex Caceres earning him Performance of the Night bonus.

But, in his next fight against the UFC Featherweight veteran Cub Swanson, Kron fell short. His stand up game has to improve to challenge the best guys in the UFC. If he manages to di it, there is absolutely no doubt that we will see a lot of new submission by a Gracie family member soon.

Conclusion

We came to the end of our list. We presented the best BJJ practitioners in the UFC today and some of the notable figures that have made a huge impact on the history of jiu-jitsu in the sport of MMA. For the end, take a look at the compilation of the 10 rarest submissions ever done inside the Octagon:

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