First, to the right we have former WEC featherweight champ Urijah Faber attempting a spinning back elbow against current champ Mike Brown. Bad idea.
Its debatable whether or not Faber was already going going gone from a punch only seconds before and may not have been in full command of his faculties when he went for this ill-fated technique.
There's no debate about what happened once he fired this elbow. KTFO'd. The spinning back elbow is a straight up Muay Thai technique. Brown's perfectly timed counter right hook is classic boxing.
MuayThai-Fighting.com has this to say about the spinning back elbow:
The spinning elbow technique is quite different from other elbow technique. As you have to turn the body around to generate the elbow strike. To do the spinning elbow, we generally use the rear elbow to attack and make sure that you will always look at you opponent while turning the body around and making the elbow strike.
Spinning Elbow is considered to be a deadly trick in Muay Thai Boxing. It could knock down the opponent with so sudden a force and venom. It could easily draw blood from the opponent, it has not been recorded in the history of Thai boxing when Spinning Elbow was invented but one could say with certainty that is a result of continuous evolution. Man has learned to imitate various movements of animals to use in self-defence.
To use Spinning Elbow, Muay Thai boxers should sway your body slightly sideway. If you do not twist your body, you could not swing Spinning Elbow smoothly against the target. Any awkward movement could be exploited by the opponent who could launch an all powerful punch to the body or prompt your action with other weapons.
Considering that Urijah has hired Master Thong, the man who trained Muay Thai legend and K-1 champ Buakaw Por Pramuk to work full-time at his Ultimate Fitness gym I'd wager that Faber actually trained that move many times just picked a bad time to roll it out.
We'll talk spinning back fists in the full entry.
About the name of this feature: I chose Judo Chop because it’s an utter misnomer that is sometimes used by poorly informed MMA commentators during fights. It’s also from the Austin Powers movie. I chose it because it reflects my own lack of expertise and what this column is, my stumbling along in the dark trying to get a handle on the technical aspects of the fights. The techniques featured here will sometimes involve judo but not always. Sorry if that's confusing.
Guy Mezger, in the Complete Idiot's Guide to Kickboxing has this to say about the spinning backfist:
If this one lands, only one word can describe the aftermath -- splat! The spinning back fist is, by far, the most powerful and coolest punch to land -- and its a kickboxing creation. Your size doesn’t matter. If you land it, you’re guaranteed a knockout. Here is a word of caution, though: Use this punch only when you know for sure you’ll land it. If not, you’re left off balance, and you’ve just given your opponent the edge.
Now obviously Guy hadn't seen Osterneck lose to Jake Rosholt at WEC 36 when he wrote that but it sure is apt. The real bummer from Osterneck's perspective is that he was really beating the bejesus out of Rosholt on the feet prior to the fateful spinning backfist attempt.
Osterneck's mistake is even considering using that move against a dangerous wrestler like Rosholt. As soon as Nissen breaks eye-contact to start the spin, Jake is driving for the takedown.
Why do fighters go for the spinning back-fist? Because when it works it works. Just ask Shonie Carter.
After being mercilessly dominated by Matt Serra's jiu jitsu attack for almost three full rounds at UFC 31, Shonie busted out this left high kick/right spinning backfist combination and won the fight with less than ten seconds to go. The key to the technique working is the high kick, not only does Shonie's momentum from the kick seamlessly flow into the backfist, but it also sets up Serra perfectly. He's busy trying to move in and capitalize on the missed kick with a left hook and never sees it coming.
Shonie's a bit of a forgotten pioneer of traditional martial arts (TMA) in MMA. He started out with a wrestling background but added judo and kickboxing to his paintbox shortly before entering MMA in 1997. Shonie wasn't just the first guy I saw successfully apply a spinning backfist in MMA, he also was one of the first fighters I ever saw use flashy judo-based throws and karate kicks in real competition.
Marks Training has some good insight on the spinning backfist and its pros and cons:
Spinning techniques, including spinning back kick, side kick, back roundhouse kick, back fist and many more are powerful. No doubt about that. Because you add a spin to the technique you create extra torque and momentum which leads to extra power, so if the technique lands flush on the intended target, it will hurt. When watching MMA sensation Cung Le perform a spinning kick he usually knocks his opponent backwards many feet, so it must deliver some force. Plus through countless training of spinning techniques you will develop awareness, concentration and your peripheral vision. Awareness and concentration will be trained through the actual spin. With techniques such as hook punches and front kicks, because you are looking at your target without spinning round, sometimes it is easy to lose concentration when performing the techniques, but when you do spin, you have to keep an image of where you opponent is, or where he is moving to, in order to hit him/her. Also, as you have spun around sometimes you don’t have the ability or time to look at your opponent square on, but may be able to see him/her out the corner of your eye so you do develop your peripheral vision this way.
How about some disadvantages then. Well, they are slower techniques than without the spin. The spin will take up a bit of time and before you have spun completely around, an accomplished striker may already have anticipated the technique and moved away. Also it is easy to lose control with a spinning technique if you don’t hit, so if your opponent has moved away and you lose control, it could be easy for him/her to counter you which could prove painful. Then there is the long theory of never taking your eyes off your opponent. Well with spinning techniques you do, only for a split second, but again your opponent could counter your technique because of that split second.
Spinning techniques are like any other. They must be UNDERSTOOD. By this I’m not saying practise them until your blue in the face, but understand that they can be used when the time is appropriate, so do practise them along with other techniques using them wisely, and also understood that they can be used against you, so keep your guard up just in case.
There's a fun thread on the underground with lots of spinning backfist gifs to look at. As always, I'm strictly an armchair martial artist so speak up if I messed something up.