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Were J-Roc’s elbows legal?

Nothing gets UFC refs in a tiff more than fighters punching eachother in the back of the head (even when the receiving fighter is turtling and actively trying to angle his head to encourage such blows). But while refs will yell themselves hoarse repeating “Watch the back of the head”, it’s pretty rare that you hear them complain about illegal elbows, which seem a lot more dangerous than a glove to the back of the noggin.

Case in point, the Jared Rollins / Jon Koppenhaver fight had Jared throwing some of the nastiest elbows I’ve ever seen in my life. J-Roc was in guard position and basically went to town on Koppenhaver’s head, cutting him open badly. But were those elbows legal? Let’s see how Big John McCarthy defines illegal elbows before we continue:

“Everyone thinks downward point of elbow strikes are not allowed, so you cannot hit with the point of the elbow. That’s not true. That’s not what it was for. That’s not what it meant. A fighter can strike with any part of his arm in the Unified Rules. It doesn’t matter if it’s the point of the elbow. It’s one type of elbow is not allowed. That is your hand going up to twelve o’clock and bringing it down to six o’clock, in that type of position.”

Well, that certainly sounds like what Jared Rollins was doing to Jon Koppenhaver. And it also sounds like what Anderson Silva did to Travis Lutter at the end of their bout. Perhaps the defense is that they weren’t striking 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock but rather 12:30 to 5:30. I really don’t know. There’s also been speculation as well that 12 to 6 is static, as in you just can’t go up and down gravity-wise, but when you’re horizontal, everything is legal. Which seems kinda fishy, but hey … I’m not a big fan of rules anyways, so who really cares? I just think it’s something someone might want to clarify. Safety and all that, you know?

  • Shaun

    When I saw those elbows I was questioning why the Ref wasn’t saying anything. It’s hard to believe that these elbows are so sparingly used, as they seem very effective.

  • frickshun

    Their interpretation is ridiculous. You can generate practically the same amount of torque no matter what position you are in (if you can use your whole body to “wind up”). Fortunately for me, I like the blood so I guess it’s a good thing that the rule is insanely vague.

  • Dukes

    This is partly true. You cannot extend you arm upwards, lengthening the arm, and thrust down. You are must be bent at the elbow * and only rotating at the shoulder * for the blow to be legal.

    In other words, if you keep your arm bent at the elbow, you can strike with it because the downward force is significantly less than if you were “dropping the hammer”.

  • ilostmydog

    12 to 6 remains static regardless of where you are. To suggest that it changes based on your body position is retarded. The elbows were perfectly legal.

  • groda

    This has been discussed before.

    The rule is stupid, but it is not vague or inconsistently enforced. The problem is elbows coming straight down, if you’re throwing the elbows parallel to the ground you’re legal. It’s all about direction, and, yes, it makes no sense but this is how it has always been enforced. J-roc’s elbows were completely legal as all the precedents show.

    I don’t remember after which fight it came up, I think it was Lutter/Silva, but Big John has addressed this exact question on after the bell if memory serves.

  • Accomando

    Elbows mutilate people, its awesome.

  • Jonathan

    A video put out by the commission showing what is legal and what is not legal would put this matter to rest in a heartbeat. Even the UFC could do it.

  • Jersey Tomato

    I say ditch the elbows and give us knees to the head of a downed opponent. Elbows are really only good for cutting your opponent and rarely do they knock anyone out. (The only one I can think of is Anderson Silva knocking out Tony Fryckland — which I will admit is one of the coolest KO’s ever.)

    Knees, however, are an awesome tool in the ring and should be permitted. I know Ryan will agree because, if they were legal, Guida probably would have won that fight Saturday night. He had the Matador against the fence at one point and could have kneed him to submission but the ref jumped in and gave him the caution. I see knees on the ground as a gentler form of stomp which is something that made Pride unique in the world of MMA.


  • ajadoniz

    Linker, I think it only applies “gravity-wise”. It was so that when someone goes to shoot, you, as the defender, don’t downward elbow strike their spine.

  • Kris (

    I personally have no problems with the elbows he used. I think the ability to get your body behind elbows when you’re in mount is why those are disallowed but you can use them from the bottom.

  • Earhole

    Huh. From what I remember, Silva’s blows were called legal because he was striking across and not hitting the dome of Lutter’s skull. The angle was barely perceptible, but he was striking the periphery; essentially drawing a line from the temples all the way around the head. Like the back of the head, the top was off-limits. I had no idea there was anything in the rulebook about the direction of the blows. Interesting…

  • EdenMachine

    So what you guys are saying is that you can strike straight down to the top of the head (regardless of elbows or not)? I would have figured that was illegal. That could paralyze a person by crushing is spine straight down.

    All I know is that I’ve NEVER seen strikes like that before and if the UFC doesn’t rule that they were illegal then I bet my house they will be in every fight from here on out because they were devistating. I just don’t understand how, if they ARE legal, why no one has done it before. I mean – damn – they were hellaciously brutal and instantly cut War Machine (who is rookie of the year, IMO).

  • http://deleted sonzai

    Yes, it’s all about gravity. It must be 12-6 perpendicular to the floor. It’s so fighters don’t a) elbow to the back of the head/spine when stuffing a shot (or in north/south) and b) use gravity and their full body weight behind the elbow. I don’t see anything to be confused about. Loved J-Roc elbows.

  • jjdnb

    anderson was striking from the side, more of a 9 to 3 motion. They even commented on ot at the end of the fight.

  • MoreThanUFC

    My man ajadoniz is correct.

  • Ason

    All these months later the fightlinker
    still doesn’t get why Anderson Silva’s elbows were legal?

    Do they not teach geometry in Canada

    Concept of an arc still making its way up there?

  • Jersey Tomato

    If the UFC wants to forbid elbow strikes to the back of head or spine, then they should simply make that the rule. This 12- to-6 shit – or “gravity” rule as some has described – is too open to interpretation. On top of that, it has no basis in fact.

    The supposed “downward” direction of a blow has absolutely nothing to do with its force. Being an engineer, I can tell you that the effect of gravity in this situation is entirely negligible. Not even worth discussing. For all intent and purpose, an elbow strike delivered from straight down versus from the side or bottom is entirely the same. The hazard comes into play when one considers WHERE the strike is targeted. Therefore, if the UFC is concerned about fighter safety, elbow strikes to the back or top or the head should be illegal regardless of what direction they are delivered.

    What a cock-a-mamie rule!

  • http://deleted sonzai

    “The supposed “downward” direction of a blow has absolutely nothing to do with its force. Being an engineer, I can tell you that the effect of gravity in this situation is entirely negligible. Not even worth discussing. For all intent and purpose, an elbow strike delivered from straight down versus from the side or bottom is entirely the same. The hazard comes into play when one considers WHERE the strike is targeted.”

    I wonder if they tell you about weight in engineering school? As in bringing down 170+ pounds along with the elbow on the downward trajectory. I can’t see J-Roc (or Silva or any other fighter) really bringing an equal amount of force from his elbows. If you know some theoretical physics that can prove that those elbows are as dangerous as ones brought with the added force of a fighter’s body weight, please let us know.

  • groda

    Well it seems I may have been wrong, according to this thread on sherdog it is illegal to strike the top of the head!!

  • Da Twin

    Matt Serra demostrates in on the show (TUF6) and says its perfectly legal. i think its great for fighter that gets blaketed by fighters like Kos

  • Jersey Tomato

    No need to break out the physics book for this one. For simplicity sake, consider the force of an elbow strike to be the sum of the centrifugal force generated by the fighter rotating their shoulder plus the gravitation force generated as the elbow falls downward toward the earth (i.e., the mat). My argument is based upon the fact that the centrifugal force generated in an elbow strike is so many times greater than the gravitation force that the discussion of gravity becomes a mute topic. In other words, centrifugal force >> gravitation force. For all intent and purpose, the force in an elbow strike can be simply reduced to the centrifugal force only.

    What basis do I have for making that statement? We must bear in mind that the gravitational force is being applied over a very short distance (one to two feet at most), so there is little opportunity for it to come into play. Consider a baseball struck by a bat. What effect will gravity have on the flight of the ball during it FIRST FEW FEET of travel? Very little. Now consider the effect that the centrifugal force has on the flight of the ball during it first few feet of travel. Why, the centrifugal force has everything to do with its flight! That is the point I am trying to make. Gravitational impacts are essentially negligible over very short distances.

    I hope the above explanation makes some sense to you. My main point, however, is that the real danger in an elbow strike comes not from the plane in which it travels but from the body part to which it is directed. Elbow strikes to the top and/or back of the head are dangerous and should be illegal. Period. In my opinion, J-Roc’s elbow strikes were quite dangerous as many of them were connnect with the top of War Machine’s skull. It should make no difference whether an elbow strike comes from the top ( “12 TO 6″), bottom, side to side, or ANY COMBINATION THEREOF.

    On that point, you are free to disagree….

  • Mr.ThePlague

    Fightlinker is a fucking imbecile. Big John means up in the air and then down toward the ground, dumbass.