Electronic Art’s UFC series has had an interesting trajectory compared to its much larger Madden and FIFA series. Rather than being annualized, the UFC games are spread apart much further. And it’s arguable that the UFC games are much more “video gamey,” in that playing them feels closer to an actual fighting game than the more simulation style of other EA Sports games. That’s great and all, but UFC games have to include the bane of sports gaming’s existence: submissions.

How Submissions Work in UFC 4

Much like the equally cursed WWE 2K series, UFC has gone through several iterations of adapting MMA-style grappling into something that remotely makes sense in a video game. We hold nothing against the developers working on this; it’s truly a mountain to climb. UFC 4, which is powered by EA Sports Real Play Motion technology (a physics collaboration shared between teams), has introduced a new system far different from UFC 3’s. Let’s take it on, step by step.

There’s a tough balance to land between making submission systems fun to play, digestible, and not too over or under-powered. Otherwise you run the risk of utterly destroying competitive play, or simply seeing the player base not bother. In UFC 4, EA’s team struggled a bit, but used beta testing to get enough feedback to course correct. The new system may look similar to WWE 2K fans, as there’s an element of colored bars playing cat and mouse. But it’s much more of a careful precision game than a chase.

Related: EA Access and Origin Access Are Now EA Play

To initiate a submission you’ll usually use the back triggers on your platform of choice, but you can get there through other means such as takedowns. Flying submissions are also a technique, but that’s beyond the scope of this guide a bit. For now we’ll focus on the basic joint submission, which is where you’ll generally start out (especially while you’re learning). At this point things will depend heavily on your control style, as EA’s team implemented a grappling shortcut feature for less skilled players. If you have that enabled, you can just point your stick at the move you want and be fine. If you’re using the more open styles (required in online) you’ll be moving both sticks around to get to the transition you want.

Once you’ve locked in a hold, here’s where the fun stuff starts. Regardless of what side you’re on, you’ll see a ring, or part of a ring depending on the hold. The player on offense will see a red bar inside the ring, while the defender’s is blue. The goal is to overtake the blue bar with the red, or avoid that. As the attacker, you need to be as careful and precise as possible; over-correcting will cause your bar to shrink, hurting your chances of completing the submission. 

During the submission, either player will see button prompts within the ring. These are opportunities to strike, or defend. This is a speed and accuracy test, that will help either player gain the advantage. If the defender is able to outmaneuver the attacker, they can use a Submission Chain to transition to an offensive hold, or break the Submission with a powerful slam escape.

The most important factors you’ll need to pay attention to are the shoulder buttons or bumpers, combined with face buttons in order to try out different holds. You also want to make sure you aren’t burning your stamina too quickly, which you can mitigate by holding off a bit on the offense.

That’s it for the basics! You can also check out EA’s official website for UFC 4 for video demonstrations of the various types of submissions. But being armed with the basics is especially important, as you don’t want to let all the busy UI elements overwhelm you so much you start to fear grappling.

Are you playing UFC 4 as a submission specialist, or are you more on the striking side of things? Do you have a favorite sequence you think helps nail the win every time? Let us know what your fighting style is all about over at the Prima Games Facebook and Twitter channels!