Where Dedicated Wrestlers Become Champions


Wrestling vs. Jiu Jitsu: What wins?

That question is not an easy one to answer. For starters you need to first clarify, and then hold a lot of things equal. The wrestling vs. Jiu Jitsu battle will have to be between two competitors of equal skill level, weight, and age. Just finding two guys that meet those qualifications is hard enough, especially the skill levels of the competitors in wrestling vs. Jiu Jitsu. What decides how good someone is in a cross discipline comparison? Is an NCAA champion wrestler vs. a NAGA grappling champion fair? A Grapplers Quest champion? Any black belt?  NCAA champ vs. Abu Dhabi champ? (See Mark Kerr below for one example of this) An Olympic gold medalist vs. an Abu Dhabi champion? Who knows? I am in no position to decide that.

For the purpose of this debate, let’s assume we can find two competitors that make it a level playing field. It’s pretty obvious in a wrestling match, the wrestler will win. On the other side of the coin, it is not as obvious that a Jiu Jitsu expert will automatically beat a wrestler in a grappling contest. The reason being is the point system. Wrestlers dominate takedowns and takedowns score points in grappling contests. However some wrestlers in this wrestling vs. Jiu Jitsu hypothetical will undoubtedly get caught and tapped out.

The numbers are not as important as the fact that some wrestlers will beat a grappler in a grappling contest but almost no wrestler will lose to a grappler in a wrestling match. From this conclusion it would be easy to assume in the wrestling vs. Jiu Jitsu debate that wrestling wins. However that is not entirely true. Never in a “fight” will the only means of fighting be wrestling. So the wrestlers’ complete advantage in their realm is not that important.

Wrestling vs. Jiu Jitsu in a Cage

Inside of an Octagon with a pure wrestler vs. a pure Jiu Jitsu guy, it would probably come down to who is better with their standup game. The better wrestler will have the option of taking down his opponent. If it was me in there versus a better Jiu Jitsu practitioner, I would take him down and let him back up. Just so I could demonstrate to the judges that I can take him down. That would score points with the judges if it came down to a decision.

I am very biased in this regard but if I had to choose between wrestling vs. Jiu Jitsu or say being an Olympic or NCAA wrestling champion or an Abu Dhabi champion, I’d chose to be an Olympic or NCAA champion. For one, an NCAA champion wrestler has gone on to win an Abu Dhabi championship. Mark Kerr accomplished that feat in 2000.

In truth, inside of an Octagon a wrestler and a Jiu Jitsu expert are really on the same side. Wrestlers learn Jiu Jitsu extremely quickly as the MMA and wrestling post pointed out. Grapplers can pick up wrestling a lot easier than a striker as well. The question that should be asked is who is better off inside of a cage, a wrestler/grappler or a striker. That’s a post for another day.

In the battle of wrestling vs. Jiu Jitsu, I choose both.



  1. heykevinb heykevinb
    December 27, 2011    

    great post

    Funny, though…if you’re a wrestler more than likely you’ll side with wrestling as would brazilian JJ player.

    you mention, “Mark Kerr accomplished that feat in 2000″…funny you mentioned that…did you also notice how the rest of the wins were by submission style BJJ, wrestling/BJJ, etc?

    THEN you must notice how the wrestlers tito, kerr, etc won BY POINTS.

    i’m going with submission over wrestling. i don’t want to sit cock on the guy, i’m not a roman…i want to submit and quit.

  2. CompleteMMAPackage CompleteMMAPackage
    January 27, 2012    

    I have done pure freestyle wrestling at my first gym as part of MMA training, then adapted for MMA wrestling as it differs. My current gym I do pure BJJ, then BJJ for MMA, once again adapted.

    Pure BJJ will always win against pure wrestling if you use the same person same weight same everything. Reasons:

    1. Pure wrestling leaves lots and lots of openings for a BJJ practitioner, and i mean a moderatly good BJJ practitioner will pick these up, as I found. Wrestling is not submission orientated to they dont need to worry about heel hooks etc. and instead rely on pure power and strength to pin a person, whereas a lot of BJJ guys fight best off their back and will pull guard making the opponents wrestlin obsolete.

    2. When i made the transtion to BJJ, I found I knew only part of the game, as soon as I take the person down, from a wrestling perspective the games over, from the BJJ perspective its just started and infinite positions and submissions.

    3. Most people dont realise that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu incorporated wrestling in its early days, so techniques are cemented to deal with wrestlers, judoka, etc.

    4. As heyKevinb stipulated, BJJ practitioners completely dominate the open submission tournaments, there are so many wrestlers that go to compete aswell as sambo etc, pure grappling is completely, undeniably dominated by BJJ practitioners. A BJJ practitioner (GSP) is even considering trying for the olympic wrestling team. But then this individuality vs the arts.

    5. UFC was created for all these very arguements, what is the best martial art? What happened? World ranked competitors in the prime of their arts/sport all fell to BJJ (Royce who wasnt even the best BJJ practitioner). Prime case of pure “X” art vs pure “X” art. who wins?

    Undeniably pure arts BJJ will always beat greater than pure wrestling. BUT to be an effective fighter, a BJJ cannot ignore the wrestling aspects in MMA. TD and TDD are so important it must make up part of your game.

    • January 27, 2012    

      Thank you and heyKevinb for your responses. These are exactly the types of discussions I hoped would come from a topic such as this.

      Just one critique of your argument. BJJ guys dominate the open tournaments because those tournaments are BJJ tournaments. I’m particularly talking about Abu Dhabi.

      The point I was trying to make was that wrestlers can compete at a high level in those tournaments whereas a BJJ guy couldn’t really compete in say an NCAA wrestling tournament. I believe and the UFC confirms that wrestlers make the quickest and most effective transitions to MMA. That being said we have to look no further than Aldo vs. Mendes to see that it’s not about which person comes from the best background, but who can become a complete fighter incorporating all of the arts into one explosive package.

  3. Jerry Rdz Jerry Rdz
    March 27, 2012    

    Permalink knows what he’s talking about. I hae the body of a jiu-jitsu fighter but I’ve been training MMA/ Greco wrestling for the past year and I got submitted by a pure jiu-jitsu guy yesterday. Adaptation is the key.

    • May 13, 2016    

      There are some interesting cut-off dates on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. Thre;&#8217es some validity however I’ll take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as properly

  4. jibbs jibbs
    December 26, 2012    

    its not exactly fair to compare an ncaa championship to adcc. those same wrestlers arent winning gi jiu jitsu tournaments. thats pure jiu jitsu. straight wrestlers cant hang there at all. adcc is where it all comes together. no-gi jj and wrestling get the same opportunities there. adcc is not a jiu jitsu tournament. its a grappling tournament, and the majority of champions are jiu jitsu fighters. id say somewhere around 90 percent.

    • January 2, 2013    

      Good points. I wanted to start the conversation and I had to pick some where.

  5. kei kei
    February 12, 2013    

    Thanks for the post…it makes me think about one question: what strategy do you think a BJJ guy should have when facing a wrestler in a grappling match?
    As you said before, takedowns are the domain of wrestlers and it is hard to submit him as well. But given the fact that it is a grappling match, what could do the jiu jitsu fighter?
    I’ve seen a lot of matches where the bjj one keeps attacking during the whole fight while the wrestler annihilates all of the attacks with strong base and posture, reaching the point where in the end it seems like the wrestler don’t try to fight but instead just defend himself and his position. Although this is my personal feeling, I cannot denied that this “play” is still in the rule so I cannot blame the wrestler :)
    I just wonder what the bjj guy could do…

    Thank you very much

    • February 13, 2013    

      Hi Kei,
      Unfortunately you are asking the wrong person. I am that wrestler on top always looking for a takedown. You should ask a BJJ guy who has had success against wrestlers in the past. That BJJ champion would be in a much better position to tell you how to beat a good wrestler than I would be able to. Good luck in your search.

    • January 6, 2014    

      I’ve grappled with a lot of wrestlers. All other things being equal, they generally dominate the take down and top pressure game. They are fast, explosive and good at maintaining dominant positions and causing pain. I always go into a match with a wrestler thinking, “well, this is probably going to hurt.”

      My (limited) success against them has generally been to just be patient and work to their back. Wrestler’s typically don’t have good defenses to that position, and it ends up making for a quick end to a very tiring match. They also tend to attempt holds (like headlocks) that will get them into trouble against a jiu jitsu guy who knows what he is doing.

      Jiu jitsu guys generally don’t do well at wrestling because in going there they’ve just lost about half of the positions from which they are used to fighting, especially guard.

      I think wrestlers tend to do okay in jiu jitsu because they can still employ almost their complete skill set, and simply have to learn more.

      I do agree that, in MMA, it is hard to beat the combination of wrestling and kickboxing or muay thai plus some JJ basic subs.

  6. Billy T. Billy T.
    April 4, 2013    

    Hello everybody! I’ve been doing wrestling at my gym for about four years, and I’m also a Black Belt in BJJ. In my opinion there is really no Wrestling vs Jiu Jitsu. They both are two pieces of the same puzzle. When combine it becomes unstoppable.

    To answer Kei question a Jiu Jitsu guy that goes against a wrestler in a grappling match usually pulls “guard”. That will negate the advantage they have in the takedown department. Though if you pull guard you need to be good at sweeps or submission against a tough wrestler. From my experience and watching other BB. To help deal with a good wrestler. You need to be very good atleast at one of these. 1) Leg Locks 2) Guillotine 3) Kimuras

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  9. May 19, 2015    

    Do you guys know about the ancestor art of all grappling arts? No!! Then I tell you what’s try Indian wrestling its a freestyle type one..Indian wrestling contains all the ground game of bjj!! Only some people know that wrestling is not only about throwing and takedowns…its an complete art…study about it and find your answers!! In my opinion….wrestling rocks….
    Grrapling is in our jeans…make the best use of it.

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  12. Dave Dave
    May 2, 2017    

    All ground work should start with high school/collegiate style wrestling. I feel it is the best foundation to build a good submission game from bjj or judo. I went into Judo from an old high school wrestling background and immediately saw the benefit of my wrestling from 17 years prior. Wrestling takedowns are the easiest to learn and putting someone in a pin or just getting up after the takedown is much safer than pulling guard. Just my opinion. I have done and love all three systems.

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