Are elbow strikes prohibited in MMA?

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MMA is an extreme kind of combat sport. It includes more than half a dozen of classical martial arts and thus it is called Mixed Martial Arts. In the early days of MMA when it was introduced people weren’t that sure which strikes were dangerous and which were not. The concerned authorities have little knowledge to figure out a fighting guideline for their safety. Today we shall discuss what sort of elbow strikes are prohibited in MMA

Elbowing Illegal in MMA

In 1985 as a realistic and effective system of combat derived from shoot wrestling, MMA was founded by Satoru Sayama in Japan. But for most fans in America, MMA as we know started on November 12, 1993 in Denver, Colorado, which was the night of UFC 1. 

However, the point is that in Pride FC, the biggest Japanese MMA promotion company has prohibited elbow strikes to the head since its inception. The Pride FC now doesn’t exist though. The authority who created Pride Rules must have thought that the strikes using elbows would be too brutal and dangerous. Although elbow strikes were illegal, things such as kicking, kneeing and stomping the head of a downed opponent were completely legal at that time. This was highly self-contradictory in terms of brutality. Because how come an already downed fighter could be kicked or attacked in any other forms when elbowing was illegal. 

But nowadays, kicking, kneeing, stomping the head of a downed opponent are completely prohibited in the UFC. The fighter who violates these rules are subject to well deserved punishment awarded by the competent referee who officiates the match. So, no MMA fighters in the UFC are seen doing those prohibited things, including elbowing his downed opponent. 

However, many in the MMA community disagree with the illegality of elbowing. MMA fighters are not allowed to strike their opponent from a twelve o’clock position to a six o’clock position with their elbow. It is enforceable by Unified Rules of MMA. But they can use their elbows for other purposes, especially stand-up fighting.

Elbowing Allowed on Condition

Strikes by hand and elbows to the head are considered legal as long as the use of a linear “straight up straight down” elbow strike is executed. To make the use of the elbow, fighters are required to manoeuvre the attack. Experts maintain that any variation of this straight up and down linear makes the elbow- strike legal. Because changing 12-6 elbow position reduces the impact of elbowing which results in bearable pain. In variation,the point of the elbow cannot create the force as lethal that could have created if it was used as a 12-6 straight clock strike. 

Furthermore, an MMA fighter cannot use either of their elbows to strike their opponent in their spine, groyne or the back of their head or neck. Except those parts of the body he can apply his elbow force. He can also strike a downed opponent to the front of the head with an elbow, avoiding the 12-6 strike that makes the sharp point of the elbow, causing real damage.

MMA Martial Art Uses Elbow

Muay Thai is one of the MMA martial arts that uses the elbow strike. It  is a trademark in Muay Thai and is often used in MMA. The knife-like bone can cause significant damage and open huge cuts without much force and effort. The elbow strike is predominantly a close-range weapon mostly used in the stand-up clinch position individually in Muay Thai and integratedly in MMA.


The use of elbow strikes in MMA competition is restricted. The definition of 12-6 clock is “striking downwards using the point of the elbow”. Such bans have been justified for medical and safety reasons, due to the possibility of serious injuries to opponents, especially the downed opponents  that could hardly resist the elbow-pointed lethal attack.

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