Abstract Theoretical models of animal contests frequently generate predictions about how asymmetries (e.g. differences in size, residence status) between contestants affect fight duration. Linear regression and nonparametric correlation analyses are commonly used to test the fit of data to such models. We show how survival regression analysis (SRA) is a powerful technique for studying the effect of asymmetries on the duration of contests. SRA, which is under-utilized by students of animal behaviour, offers several advantages over more frequently used procedures. It provides unbiased parameter estimates even when including censored data (i.e. results of contests that have not ended at the time when observations are stopped). The analysis of hazard functions, which is a component of SRA, is an easy way to test for consistency with predictions of the sequential assessment game model. These and other advantages of SRA are illustrated by using SRA and more conventional methods to analyse the effect of asymmetries on contest duration for encounters between female Mediterranean tarantulas, Lycosa tarentula (L.). It is hoped that this example of the advantages of SRA will encourage more widespread use of this powerful technique.