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It’s time for Strikeforce to get rid of their ban on elbow strikes on the ground

By Zach Arnold | May 22, 2010

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Imagine watching top UFC fighters such as Kenny Florian and Jon “Bones” Jones not being able to use elbow strikes in their arsenal of tools that they bring into each exciting fight they are involved in. While Strikeforce doesn’t have Florian and Jones on their roster, they do have plenty of talented fighters like Gilbert Melendez and Matt Lindland. Both men are accomplished at what they do, but in a sense they are (almost literally) having one arm tied behind their back by Strikeforce’s rule that prohibits elbow strikes on the ground.

After last night’s event in Portland, one thing was made very clear — prohibiting accomplished Mixed Martial Arts fighters from using elbow strikes on the ground prohibits quicker endings to fights. Matt Lindland, who predicted on Eddie Goldman’s radio show that it would take him a round to get Kevin Casey gassed out before he could dispose of him, ended up having to finish the fight in the third round instead of the second round perhaps because he couldn’t use elbows on Casey. If he had been able to do so, Matt may have gotten the job done quicker. No one was surprised that Lindland won.

Shu Hirata, manager for several Japanese fighters who fight in the States, recently noted that Shinya Aoki was extremely lucky that there was an elbow striking ban for his fight against Gilbert Melendez on April 17th in Nashville. Instead of the five excruciatingly tedious one-sided rounds that we had to endure, the fight could have very well ended with an appropriate finish had Melendez been allowed to dispose of Aoki with strikes.

Aoki wasn’t fighting under the same scoring system as everyone else here in the States. Not only the scoring system but he had never even fought in the cage. I mean, my god, Strikeforce doesn’t even allow elbow shots to the head. If this was in the UFC, he may have ended up being very bloody. It’s obvious fighters here in the States know that if the opponent pulls guard, then take him to the cage, close the distance and drop punches and elbows. Aoki never had to deal with that when he was fighting in a ring.

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.

The Unified rules allow for elbow strikes but don’t allow for 12-to-6 elbows, despite protesting from individuals such as Joe Rogan. It’s time for Strikeforce to allow the professionals to fight and not burden them with an unpopular rule that everyone else can use in other leagues under the Unified rules. It would make the fans, fighters, and television executives at Showtime happy.

Other news & Notes

If you didn’t already see the headline, take note that UFC has reportedly placed a date hold for the Sky Dome in March of 2011. Sure, they can cancel that booking any time, and it’s a good PR move to generate buzz that they’re coming. By the same token, you don’t simply book a facility like that on a whim.

Georges St. Pierre had his sparring match with Georges Laraque at the Tristar Gym in Montreal. Oh my. Is it true that Georges St. Pierre will be doing some boxing training with Freddie Roach? Kevin Iole notes the obvious.

For the life of me, I find myself very surprised at how interested online MMA fans were in the Tim Sylvia vs. Mariusz Pudzianowski fight. Yes, I get it — it’s a freak show and Big Tim did his best at over 300 pounds to add to the circus being promoted by former Toughman associates Butterbean and Corey Fischer (who was investigated by an Ohio Athletic Commission watchdog group for using a professional fighter in Forrest Petz in amateur fights.)

I understand that the intrigue of the fight was to see whether or not we would get another “Ray Mercer” moment in which Sylvia would get embarrassed. In the end, he won the fight early in the second round — and it went longer than it should have. The crowd at the arena was so pumped up for the fight and hated Sylvia so bad.

The takeaway I have from this fight is just how sad the trajectory of Sylvia’s career has been since losing to Fedor. He should never have been begrudged for taking the massive pay day that he did to fight Fedor, but you would have thought that there were better things in his future than fighting Ray Mercer and Mariusz Pudzianowski.

You can’t make a fighter show up in fight shape if he doesn’t want to. Of course, when Tim Sylvia is going around calling himself ‘a legend’ in MMA, there’s not a lot you can do or say. Brent Brookhouse makes an argument about whether or not Tim is ‘a legend’ in MMA. I think amongst newer MMA fans (say: three years or less), the legacy and/or impression of Tim Sylvia (fair/unfair) is that:

Just one of those events is hard enough to recover from, but when you have a string of incidents like that it creates a caricature that is hard to erase or correct.

Steve Cofield naturally raises the question about why the fight was sanctioned in Massachusetts in the first place. Michael David Smith said the Moosin PPV was MMA broadcasting at its worst. Butterbean says he’s aiming to go after UFC by competing with them on the international business front.

Dana White will have an chat this Monday.

Dave Meltzer reports that Quinton Jackson will be a guest host on RAW in June to promote the A-Team movie. Rampage will be in his element here.

Topics: Canada, Media, MMA, StrikeForce, UFC, Zach Arnold | 17 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

17 Responses to “It’s time for Strikeforce to get rid of their ban on elbow strikes on the ground”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1) People put too much importance on exciting wins then high quality wins. The discussions about Tim Sylvia is proof. If he wants to get back into the big shows, he needs to come into his next fight at a maximum of 285 pounds. Show that he is serious and within range of making the 265 limit.

    2) Elbows on the ground need to be legalized. It’s as simple as that. The only time I can remotely justify them not being legal is a situation like Bellator’s that they have guys competing 3 times in 3 months. But I do believe the finals allow elbows. And so do the super fights.

    3) Very smart move to book that Toronto date.

  2. The Gaijin says:

    Tim Sylvia clearly does not care about his mma career or at least a return to the big leagues when he shows up for a do or die (career wise) fight being that fat.

    305? Are you kidding me? What the f%#k is going on a MFS that they would let him go into a fight that fat…totally embarrassing. He’s just lucky Pudzianowski has zero mma skills and blew his wad muscling takedown attempts.

  3. szappan says:

    I’m not a big fan of elbows so I’m glad not every org uses them.

    With no elbows at their disposal, a fighter with top control needs to create some space to deliver strikes. This gives his opponent the opportunity to counter or escape – less chance for lay n’ pray.

    Then again I don’t much care for a uniform set of rules across the MMA spectrum either so what do I know.

  4. Mark says:

    What has Tim Sylvia possibly done to deserve legend status?

    Went 2-1 with Arlovski? Got his arm broken by Mir? Had some of the most painfully boring fights in MMA history? Crapped on himself on live television?

    I’d be shocked if he hits 265 again. I can’t see him motivated to drop 40 pounds during training. And I’ll bet he’ll be one of those guys who really lets himself go and gets humongous within the next few years. Maybe Butterbean can stage a rematch with him against Ricco Rodriguez with Mark Kerr as guest referee and Emmanuel Yarborough as guest judge.

  5. Tradition Rules says:

    Grounded elbows need to be allowed,…and in organizations that do not allow ANY elbows to the head, its time to change.

    The excuse is that “elbows cause cuts”, and that “They are not important because thay cannot cause knockouts . While that CAN casue cuts, I’ve seen plenty of Muay Thai fights where a fighter was knocked and not even cut.

    The sillier thing is the banning of foreatms (basicly lower on the flat of the elbow). They really don’t cause cuts, mainly because the are more likely to be thrown at someone’s jaw.

    I can see the banning of elbows from the “12 to 6” position: It’s a different type of strike that is much more likely to cause serious injury and is not used as often or properly anyway.

    Elbows, forearms in either standup or on the ground also give an added element to wrestlers/grapplers who have strikeing power, but not great boxing skills…not to mention, those who are at a (sizable) reach disadvantage, even with good striking skills, can utilize albows in a clutch or on the ground to better strike an opponent.

  6. Bob says:

    Not a big fan of elbows, I don’t have any stats but my perception is that more fights are stopped because of cuts from elbows than from KOs. However, the early stoppage from elbow cuts is probably marginally safer for the fighter than repeated strikes, so I won’t make an argument for or against.

    I think Tim could (have) benefit (ed) from some perception management, he seems to have a bit of a Napoleon complex which doesn’t come across well for somebody his size.

    As for Tim being a legend, I don’t know. He’s been in some legendary matches although he was often on the losing side. Maybe he and Arlovski will enter the Bellator heavyweight tourney and work toward turning their fortunes around.

    • Phil says:

      Your perception on elbows isn’t really right, or relevant. The number of KO’s vs cuts with elbows doesn’t matter. What is the ratio of cuts vs KO’s for jabs?

      In 2009 the UFC had 1 more fight stopped because of cuts than Dream. The UFC had a lot more fights than dream, and allowed elbows (and not all of those stoppages in the UFC were because of elbows. Cuts rarely stop fights in the US, so there is no issue that needs to be fixed by removing elbows.

  7. Chuck says:

    Tim Sylvia? Legendary? Naw! I say he is the equivalent to James “Bonecrusher” Smith or even Trevor Berbick; good heavyweight who had a belt and beat other good heavyweights, but not one of the GREAT heavyweights (those were the PRIDE heavyweights). And even proved his mere goodness (not greatness) with the losses to the greats of the time…….Noguiera, Fedor, and even Randy Couture (even though he only has a slightly above .600 record).

  8. Alex Sean says:

    When it comes to elbows on the ground I think it comes down to ones philosophy on the sport in general. Personally, I’m a believer that the sport should be designed toward fighters working toward a decisive, indisputable finish. This is why I’m personally not a fan of elbows as while occasionally you will see a fighter finish an opponent with one, it’s way more often it does little-to-no damage and/or cuts the fighter. With that said, is a TKO via cut really a decisive, indisputable finish? I can count on one hand the number of fights that ended with a cut that weren’t disappointing finishes.

    I mean hell, neither of the two fighters you listed as examples in support of allowing them even fight in Strikeforce and, for that matter, have never KO’d a single opponent with just elbow strikes. Ultimately, I just don’t believe that the minute possibility of an occasional elbow KO outweighs the far majority of elbow-related cuts and subsequent indecisive finishes.

    • Steve says:

      I can’t wait to see Jake Shields leave Strikeforce and take his elbows out of mothballs. Watching Jake have to really solely on his hands is just painful. It was almost as bad as watching Clay Guida in Strikeforce. Shields has always been very effective with elbows in his ground and pound and I am looking forward to seeing them again.

      You need more than just punches for effective ground and pound. I have no problem with Japanese organizations banning elbows because they more than make up for it by allowing grounds knees. With knees not available in North American promotions, elbows are an absolute must.

  9. Nepal says:

    I am against elbows on the ground. They do occasionally stop fights due to cuts but not at a very high rate so that’s not my big problem with them. I mean, I do hate to see a fight stopped by an elbow cut, in fact I feel cheated because the fight was stopped not due to any fighting skill (I don’t want to debate whether elbows that cause cuts are actually a skill or not).

    The bigger reason is the reduction of skilled fighting. Dropping elbows is easier and less skilled than going for subs. If a guy can stop a fight via elbow (cuts), why spend the effort to show his submission skills.

    This is one of the old PRIDE/UFC endless debates. To each there own.

  10. Michaelthebox says:

    Last I heard, something like 1 in 100 fights is stopped due to a cut. Elbows causing cuts is not a sufficient argument against cuts.

    Just to give some depth to the argument, as far as I can tell, not a single fight has been stopped due to a cut resulting from an elbow in the UFC so far this year.

  11. Wolverine says:

    In the last four years two UFC fights were stopped due to elbow cuts: Stevenson vs. Edwards in 2006 and CroCop vs. Perosh this year.

  12. Jonathan says:

    I think all elbows and all knees should be allowed, except to the groin, and perhaps the spinal area.

    • Steve says:


      But at the very least, one of those techniques needs to be legal in every fight promotion. Watching guys try to ground and pound without elbows or knees in Strikeforce is like watching fish fucking. You absolutely need more than one variety of strike to threaten the head of a grounded opponent. Having four would be optimal (punches, elbows, knees, kicks) but with two of those outlawed in North America, elbows are essential.

  13. […] That there remains pockets in the media who defend Tim Sylvia, his legacy, and what he’s up to now. I laid out some reasons why he has such a big image problem here. […]

  14. […] asked to leave the org back in 08. Zach Arnold sums up the situation by showing Tim’s legacy from a TUF noob’s point of view: I think amongst newer MMA fans (say: three years or less), the legacy and/or impression of Tim […]


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