Fight With Both People On The Ground

We analyzed 383 street fights to better understand the claim that most fights end up on the ground.

Specifically, we looked at:

What percent of street flights end up on the ground?

How do fights end up on the ground?


How good is BJJ for street fighting?

We uncovered some very interesting findings.

And now it’s time to share what we discovered.

What percent of street fights end up on the ground?

First let’s get on the same page. When talking about flights that end up on the ground this means:

A fight where one or both people end up on the ground so that grappling would be useful.

[It’s important to clarify this definition… otherwise you could count people who’ve been knocked out in a street fight that only involved punches]

Berimbolo in BJJ Street Fight

But it does include:

One person on the ground in a position where grappling could be used on their standing opponent

To analyse these fights we tried to avoid bias by simply using the term “street fights” or “street fighting” in YouTube. And let auto-play do its thing.

YouTube Fights Search Term Results

[This way we didn’t selectively choose videos like “BJJ street fights” or “street fight knockouts”]

Based on this definition, 69 percent of the street fights we analyzed finished without ending up on the ground.

That is:

31 percent of street fights end up on the ground in a way that grappling would be useful

What Percent Of Fights End Up On The Ground

And to be honest…

The real number is even less:

We still counted it when it was a group fight and just one of the fights ended up on the ground!

Group Fight With One Pair End Up On The Ground

Even in situations where people end up in a clinch-type situation, many flights still don’t go to the ground.

This is because either the fighters:

  • Are propped-up by walls, cars, furniture, or crowds
  • Struggle to keep their feet, or
  • They disengage to continue striking.

But wait:

90 Percent of All Fights End Up On The Ground - Myth

Isn’t the number that everyone quotes something more like that ‘90 percent of fights end up on the ground’?

This is an often-misquoted statistic from a review of LAPD use of force incidents where:

Nearly two thirds of the 1988 altercations (62%) ended with the officer and subject on the ground with the officer applying a joint lock and handcuffing the subject.

In other words:

If you’re trying to control someone so you can handcuff them, fights end up on the ground more often…

90 Percent of All Fights End Up On The Ground - Myth

…but unless that’s your goal, fights don’t go to the ground anywhere near as much.

So if we’re talking street fights…

How do fights end up on the ground?

Of the 119 fights that did end up on the ground it was quite easy to distinguish between:

  1. Falling to the ground, or
  2. A deliberate takedown

Here’s the breakdown of what we saw:

How Do Fights End Up On The Ground

Of all fights that end up on the ground: 59 percent were from from falling down and 41 percent were from deliberate takedowns

What’s really interesting?

96 percent of the time the takedown created a MAJOR advantage…

…and in a lot of cases the takedown itself was the fight finisher

[The rest mostly lead to strikes from top position]

How good is BJJ for street fighting?

I’m going to address this from 3 angles:

  1. Effectiveness
  2. Opportunity, and
  3. The multiple-attacker issue

1. BJJ is very effective when used in street fighting

When grappling was involved it nearly always won the fight…

…often without needing to cause damage

[Even when only basic skills were used]

In fact, I only came across 2 fights where BJJ may have been the wrong choice:

  1. A grappler receiving multiple strikes from an opponent in their Closed Guard
  2. Performing a takedown on a guy… only to find out their ground game was actually better!

Something to consider though:

Most people realised they were outclassed when they were on the receiving end of some grappling…

…while others wanted to get back up and go at it again!

2. The opportunity to use BJJ in a street fight: Position vs. Submission

People attempted submissions less often than you’d think:

The most common use of BJJ seemed to be all about achieving a dominant position and then striking.

The reality:

Most of the fights that involved grappling were over before there was an opportunity to finish a submission.

The order of usefulness of grappling in a street fight seems to be:

  1. A takedown itself ending the fight, then
  2. A takedown leading to a dominant position for strikes, then
  3. Using a submission

Another point of interest:

The usefulness of grappling in street fights seems to more closely resemble Judo than BJJ… takedowns being the big factor, then faster paced ground fighting

3. BJJ vs. multiple attackers: myth vs. reality

Of the 49 fights that were wilfully taken to the ground there was only 3 occasions where multiple attackers were an issue.

And this includes the fights that went to the ground in the middle of an all-in-brawl

[Everyone else seemed to be too worried about their own fights]

But you know what?

The multiple attacker thing was worse in the other 334 fights!

When striking was involved it appeared mates were MORE willing to jump in and lend a hand (or boot)

Based on this sample size:

You’re more likely to get kicked in the head or cop punches from multiple attackers if you are in a striking-only fight and get knocked down.

Summary: What we learned from watching nearly 400 random street fights to see how many end up on the ground

  1. Most fights start with someone who’s unprepared getting punched in the face… even though there‘s lots of indicators it’s about to happen
  2. The aggressor then gains the initiative with a flurry of punches… and often wins within seconds
  3. Most losses were a result of not having a basic boxing protective stance or guard… and getting hit in the face by an unskilled opponent

Boxing In Street Fight Protective Stance

  1. Less than 1/3 of fights end up on the ground in a way that grappling would be useful
  2. When used, takedowns were one of the most effective street fighting techniques because they either end the fight or put you in a dominant position
  3. Grappling styles like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are very effective in street fights… especially for gaining and maintaining a dominant position
  4. Multiple attackers are more likely to be an issue if you are in a striking-only fight and get knocked down

Conclusion: Is BJJ (or other ground fighting) good for self-defence?

Yes, as long as you don’t forget to train your takedowns. And, you have enough strike defense to protect against an initial barrage of punches.

[I wasn’t even 1/3 of the way through these videos and I was already Googling boxing clubs in my area!]

Your turn:

Comment below… what surprises you about the percent of fights that end up on the ground?