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The origins of the ‘Downward Elbow Strike’ rule

We had a big discussion on what the fuck was up with ‘downward elbows’ a while back and came to the conclusion that it was a generally vague and stupid rule. But from whence did said rule come from? Well now we know:

Joe Rogan and Goldberg were discussing the fact a lot of people were wondering why downward elbows were ok to throw from the bottom, from the guard for example, but not from any of top positions. Rogan said that he spoke about this to “Big” John McCarthy, the UFC ref till he recently retired.

According to McCarthy when the state athletic commissions were reviewing various strikes during making of the rules for MMA, they, specifically banned them due to strong impressions from Karate and other Traditional Martial Arts (TMAs) “effectiveness” of downward elbows for brick and board breaking. Just like most of us, the state athletic commissions thought that if that’s what martial artists could do to a bunch of bricks, what kinds of terribly injuries could happen to a fighter getting with with one from the top.

Most of the Unified Rules came about from people watching hours upon hours of brutal no holds barred fights and rating attacks on a scale of “Tame” to “Brutal”. Headbutts, groin strikes, knees to the ground … all of these were culled from the repertoire after people saw them in action and went “Oooh … yeah, that’s a tad too much.”

So I find it simply awesome that the impetus for the downward elbow rule was based around those stupid board and brick breaking demonstrations by McDojo frauds. Of course, there’s always the possibility that there’s a generally unknown UFC or IVC floating around out there where some Kung Fu master used his thunderous downward elbow to crack his opponents in half like eggs over a frying pan.

  • Audacity

    The real reason: to keep The People’s Elbow out of MMA.

  • Lifer

    i support any rule that leaves gaping flesh wounds on jon koppenhaver’s head.

  • Tertio

    I didn’t like how Hughes gameplan relied solely on using downward elbow on GSP to try and open a cut.

  • Lifer

    yeah i was watching matt hughes trying to pull that shit. his heart wasn’t in it. you could tell that even he knew he was being incredibly lame.

  • Mobb Deep

    Didn’t Randy Couture almost lose an eye in the UFC from a downward elbow given by Ricco from the top position?

  • fightlinker

    Yeah, but it was already illegal then

  • Matt (tapout name shitstain)

    I thought they banned it from the crucifix gary goodridge put on that guy.

  • jeff aka whaledog

    From what I remember at being at the California Atheltic Commission meetings where they approved the rules that were the basis of the “unified rules,” the commission was going to ban all elbows and the MMA community got them to only ban downward elbow strikes as a compromise.

    I’m a little fuzzy on the details after all these years, but that’s what I remember.

  • márcio

    elbows are for pussies… bring back the stomps and the soccer kicks kicks to the head!

  • Xavier

    Apparently you don’t have a sub to UFC on Demand so you can watch the preliminaries. Rogan went off about that during one of the pre-lim fights of UFC 79, it was fucking hilarious. He was brutal on the mic on all of 79, from openly attacking fights as boring to his hilarious beat-down on Dean Lister’s standup and of course his attacks on the athletic commissions that you reference.

    Classic Rogan all throughout the event.

  • frickshun

    Am I the only guy that actually likes Rogan?

  • Mr.ThePlague

    In the special features of UFC 71, Big John answers Rampage’s questions about illegal strikes. The main one he covers is downward elbows. Now listen closely: It is illegal to bring your arm up perpendicular to the mat and bring your elbow down on your opponent, sandwiching him between the mat and your elbow. It is legal to do what J-Rock is doing in the picture above. Amirite?

  • jaydog

    Can anybody site a fight where illegal elbows were called by the ref? Maybe linking to a clip would be helpful. Plenty of elbows seem to happen from the guard, sammiching the guy’s head ‘tween elbow and matt.

  • Mr.ThePlague

    Sorry, I didn’t explain well. You can of course use glancing elbows when your opponent is on the mat you just can’t bring the point of your elbow straight down onto his head or body. You can use the point of your elbow standing as well, but I only know of one guy who pulled that off…

  • MMANinja

    fightlinker, thanks for the linkback.