Some things about Strikeforce will stay the same. Mauro Ranallo, Pat Miletich, Stephen Quadros and the gang will still call the fights. Scott Coker will still be cage side. Many of the world's best fighters will still be competing in that very cage. But there will be one significant difference: for the first time, elbow strikes to a downed opponent will be legal in Strikeforce.
The UFC spent a ton of time and money to legalize this sport across the country. The rules they envisioned included elbow strikes on the ground. Owner Lorenzo Fertitta made it clear on a media conference call today that Strikeforce, long opposed to allowing those techniques, will now be getting in line. "The one change we're going to make as promoter of the show is to use the unified rules that you see in the UFC...elbows on the ground will be allowed in Strikeforce," Fertitta said, a position that makes sense. He has a lot invested in these rules. Under his watch, Strikeforce will play the sport by the same rules everyone else does.
Many critics, like Fight Opinion's Zach Arnold, have been calling for the move for some time:
The Unified rules allow for elbow strikes on the ground and don’t allow for knee strikes to the head. There has been great debate about whether or not knee strikes to the head should be allowed in the States. What there hasn’t been a debate about is whether or not elbows on the ground should be allowed. They should and there’s almost universal agreement about it. In the case of Strikeforce, being different for the sake of being different doesn’t earn you any brownie points — it just earns you fights that go longer or go the distance.
MMA trainer Ron Dayley, owner of the SSF Submission Academy in Tennessee, explains that it may be difficult for a fighter at first to deal with the technique - primarily because it is so hard to train for:
We can train elbows, but they are hard to train full on. You’re trying to prepare a fighter the best that you can and at the same time not give him a crazy gash above his eye a month before his fight. It’s tough. Elbows are one of those things that you really only get useful experience with by fighting in the cage utilizing and defending them, it’s a cage experience thing that only time gives you.
While critics have complained about elbows serving the primary purpose of opening cuts, I think it's important that the sport be contested under the same rules across the country. It would be off-putting if certain conferences in college football didn't allow the forward pass, or if the ACC decided to outlaw the three point shot in their basketball games. The sport of MMA is all grown up - it's time to find a set of rules and enforce them, uniformly across promotional boundaries and state lines.