Ah, the elbow. The infamous elbow that cuts and lacerates skins that also packs a punch. The elbow is a very "give and take" technique, which means you must give up positioning and distance to attack. The extended arm is the maximum range of your punches but to throw an elbow you must cut that range in half.
Throwing out a single elbow strike can be disastrous if you don't cover the distance properly. This is exactly what happened to Aoki against Alvarez.
If you look carefully, Aoki stepped right into range without even starting his combo with a jab to measure distance. You have to get your opponent to retaliate by covering up to land a successful elbow. The way Aoki staggered his stance into Alvarez's range was just asking to be countered.
Here, Jones shows us the perfect setup for the elbow. The Jab - Elbow combo is a very useful setup as the jab covers distance and safe range for the small opening the elbow can sneak into. Notice how Jones throws a jab, then Rashad paws with his lead hand expecting a straight right. Rashad expected a 1-2 with the jab but being the unorthodox fighter Jones is, he follows up with a lead elbow which buckles Rashad. As the combo finishes, Jones is no where near Rashad to prevent getting hit by a counter.
Throughout their fight, Jones played with Evans by changing between the jabs and elbows. In the GIF below, notice how Rashad is so timid and slow to choose how to defend, not knowing what strikes might be coming his way. This is a great way to fool and trick your adversary as they will keep playing the guessing game while you tag them. Later in the fight, Jones became so confident in his elbow he began to throw the single elbow strike, which can be risky in some situations.
Notice how Rashad keeps pawing recklessly not knowing which angle and strike Jones will throw. He is pawing with his rear hand because of the elbows and jabs. But this time Jones ended his combo with a straight right which caught Evans unguarded because he expected the lead elbow.
The elbow of the night came from playing the hand/wrist game. Jones reached out his extended arms in front of Rashad to force him to check his arms or else Jones would be in Rashad's range, which is dangerous because of Jones' clinch wrestling/judo pedigree.
One scenario that the elbow works almost flawlessly is as a counter. If the opponent is charging in, the distance is not an important factor to cover because they are coming to you. Here is a great counter elbow from Silva as Sonnen charged in.
Watch how Sonnen expects a jab and paws with his rear hand. Silva being the skilled tactician, switches to an downward elbow that pasts Sonnen's defenses. Another great example to watch is Weidman's elbow against Munoz in their recent bout.
1.) In this picture, it clearly seems Anderson is committed to the jab, and that's what Sonnen believes as well.
2.) Silva realizes Sonnen completely extends his arms which exposes his unguarded head, and responds with a beautifully placed elbow.
Thanks to Fedorable for the gif of Munoz/Weidman!
In the gif below, Weidman performed a perfect counter elbow as Munoz rushed in. Munoz started to feel desperate after getting outwrestled and outgrappled for the opening round. He rushed in and ate an elbow right on his forehead.
As Munoz rushed in with a lunging right hook, Weidman chose a faster technique which landed first clipping Munoz. Oh my jesus Rosenthal, how many shots was that? About 6 or 7 of those shots were completely unnecessary.
It seems this post is entirely dedicated to Jones, but the fact is that he knows how to place and time is elbows is flawless. Another type of elbow that is great for an MMA fighter to add to his arsenal is the spinning elbow off the cage. Jon Jones caught Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson with this same technique.
Here is Jones executing the spinning elbow. There are 2 main factors to lock onto here. The leg positioning and wrist control. Jones captures Shogun's left wrist and right foreman to prevent Shogun from underhooking which would stop the rotation. As he captures his wrists and pins him against the cage, this allows him to execute the spin. Jones normally fights from orthodox against other orthodox fighters but watch how he steps in front with his right leg. With his right leg in front, this allows him to windup and throw a powerful left spinning elbow. To execute the move with the right elbow, one must step in front with the left leg to generate power and vice versa. Jones also throws in a nice jab to keep Shogun against the cage.
You can see here Jones does the same thing against Rampage Jackson. He captures his wrists and forearms and throws the spinning elbow. Notice how this time Jones steps in front with his left leg because he intends on throwing the spinning right elbow.
One of my favorite aspects about the elbow strike is the amount of damage you can give off from such a short distance. Even in the clinch, spamming elbows is a good idea as the first 2 may rock your opponent and you'll be given a golden opportunity to finish the fight. One moment I can recall to is when Alessio Sakara caught Patrick Cote with those beautifully placed elbows as it staggered him.
Here, Jordan Mein continuously throws the elbow in short range. This is where the elbow is the most dangerous. If he chose to throw punches, he would of have had to step back further away and throw either hooks or straights. But because of the short distance the elbow has to travel, you get a greater output and cutting damage.
Another moment I can recall to about the "Elbow till hes dead" technique is when Nick Denis literally killed this kid with elbows. Whats even more devastating is he has the Muay Thai Plum but switches to a single collar and forces his head towards the elbow as he slams the elbows into the side of his opponent's head.
The first 2 elbows buckles and rocks his opponent which leaves him open for more elbows to the dome. He was out before he even hit the canvas. Rosenthal watches in awe as the beautiful technique unfolds in front of his eyes!
Another great elbow from the clinch range is when Nate Marquardt murdered Tyron Woodley in front of his mom. (Just a joke calm down) From this distance, an elbow would be much more powerful asset than a punch as it also adds the cutting factor. The elbows rocked Tyron allowing Nate to finish with those short punches..
Elbows from the ground is also slowly making its way into fighter's arsenal. From watching the dismantlement of Antonio Silva from Cain Velasquez's vicious elbows to the breaking of Vera's orbital bone, elbows strikes on the ground is a serious threat. It gives 2 big roles as it cuts skins because of the hard bony surface and gives devastating damage because of the precision of all the power into a small area of the elbow. In the GIF below, Jones completely breaks Vera's orbital bone.
If you look closely, Jones almost puts a cutting motion into his elbow to maybe cut Vera to put some psychological effect on him.
As the sport of MMA evolves and grows each day, so will the techniques in it. Watch out for more and more fighters to add elbows standing and on the ground as it's a very underused technique. It should almost be a go-to move on the ground as it will cut and do damage.
Thanks for reading guys, and post any suggestions in the comments for what I should make my next fanpost about!
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