Submitting Bigger Opponents in BJJ

Guest Article by BJJ Black Belt Dan Faggella

It’s safe to say that submitting a larger opponent is not the easiest task in the world. With the attribute of strength probably not being on your side in this situation, you have to rely on other things. There is definitely a certain philosophy when it comes to submitting giants.

The overall and very broad philosophy is this: Play to your strengths, prey on their weaknesses, and use a lot of you against the little parts of them. Sounds simple, but there’s a bit more to it. In order to play to your strengths, you have to figure out what your specific strengths are against that specific opponent. For example, as mentioned earlier, you probably are not going to be able to rely on strength to get your submission. You’re going to want to use speed, mobility, and initiative instead.

Whether it’s how fast you can slap the submission on, or how fast you can get on the opponent’s back, or how fast you can drop back for the leg lock, you must do everything faster than your opponent if he is stronger than you, and you must do it with initiative.

Another strength that you will have to tap into is obviously your technique. Like they always say, technique will always beat strength. That is, if your technique is sound. Learning what submissions work for you well against larger opponents is huge, and we will dive deeper into that subject as we progress in this chapter. Once you have figured that out, you must integrate those submissions into your training as much as possible.

Drilling your giant killer submissions is absolutely essential to being able to hit them in a match or a real time scenario. If during your regular class training time, you go over techniques that your instructor teaches, but do not find time to drill certain techniques that directly relate to beating larger opponents, then it is absolutely essential that you find time to drill those additional techniques.

Whether it be five extra minutes after class, or an extra hour of drilling with one of your training partners, any amount is better than none. Also, you must find the positions where you are more likely to hit these submissions on the bigger guys. For example, it could prove to be very difficult to attain a submission on a larger opponent from the top half guard position. There are a lot of factors that come into play in this position.

Yes, you are on top which means you do have gravity on your side, and yes, you do have the ability to drive pressure into your opponent from the top position, but remember, the opponent still might be able to use strength to escape whatever submission you throw at him from there. For example, you could be going for an arm lock of some sort, maybe a kimura or a straight arm lock. Although you are using a two on one grip to control your opponent’s arm, who’s to say that their one arm isn’t stronger than your two from that position, even with leverage in play.

The same thing goes for side control. Even though side control is one of the most dominant positions and opens up a world of submissions for you, who is to say that those submissions will work the same against a much larger opponent, due to the strength factor.

A better position to attack with a submission against a bigger guy would be the back mount. For one, all four of your limbs are able to attack, and all four of your opponent’s limbs are facing away from you, giving you a much greater advantage for hitting a successful submission. As far as side control goes, your opponent is much more likely to be able to throw you off of them if they are larger and stronger. Letting your opponent turn into you and letting them think that they are in the process of escaping can allow you to use your speed and mobility to quickly spin behind them, exposing their back and opening the world of submissions for you.

Mobility is key, guys! I cannot stress this enough, and with submissions, this comes into play big time. Avoiding positions where you have less mobility is key as well. Instead of getting bench pressed from side control, try working from the knee-on-belly position so you can potentially spin to the back or capture an arm for the armbar.

Holding a bigger and stronger opponent down will be difficult, but being mobile and having the ability to transition quickly when they try to use their strength against you will help you avoid tough situations and will put you in advantageous spots.


Even the mount position can be a tricky one to hit a successful submission from. Though it’s clearly a superior position and you do have gravity on your side, you still have the possibility of being thrown off the top by a larger opponent, just like from the top half guard or side control.

Generally, the best positions to go for submissions on larger opponents are the back mount, and any leg lock orientation as well. Being able to get to these positions faster than your opponent is a large factor in getting the submission. Another huge factor in getting the tap on a larger opponent is the concept of initial snugness. This is a sometimes overlooked concept in the realm of getting the submission, but it is very essential if you are looking to tap bigger guys.

For example, let’s say you throw on a straight ankle lock on a much larger opponent. Even though you threw it on your opponent’s foot fairly quickly and got a semi decent grip and snugness on the ankle, they still are able to kick through it and avoid tapping out. Now let’s say for example again, that you throw on the same exact straight ankle lock, this time with very good initial snugness on the ankle, leaving no space for your larger opponent to turn his knee up or kick his foot through. The chances of you getting the tap in the second scenario are far greater than you getting the tap in the first scenario, based solely on the concept of initial snugness.

This initial snugness is developed through consistent and conscious drilling of these submissions. If you do have certain submissions that you are drilling, it’s important to make sure that with each rep, you are getting perfect initial snugness every time. This will ensure that each time you go for a submission, the likelihood of you finishing it is much higher.

Dan Faggella is a No Gi Pan Am Champion, BJJ Black Belt, and #1 Jiu Jitsu Best-Selling Author. Check out his full “Giant Killer” BJJ Course Online Here.

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6 years ago

Great article Dan. Keeping a much bigger / stronger opponent down is not easy. I don’t even go to mount I prefer to stay in half guard or side control and work my submissions from there.