Elbows have the potential to be a MMA fighter’s greatest weapon. They have the highest density of any bone in the human body and the damage inflicted by a clean hit can end a fight in an instant. Today, Evolve University will share 5 ways to add elbows to your MMA game.
1) Defensive Elbows
Conventional high guard tactics are less effective in mixed martial arts due to the smaller four-ounce glove size. Skilled fighters can sneak their punches in between the gaps in your high guard, even when you are shelled up. This is due to the small triangle of space between your hands and shoulders. The larger gloves found in boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai let fighters cover that gap.
Dustin Poirier is a fighter that makes frequent use of elbow blocks. He does this in a modified Philly Shell stance for MMA. This is not to be confused with the Michigan Crab style that Floyd Mayweather uses. Although both are similar, the sideways pointed lead foot of the crab style makes it a poor choice for mixed martial arts because of leg kicks. In contrast, Dustin Poirier has his front foot pointed forward, allowing him to check kicks and set up lead hook counters. He used elbows frequently in his latest fight with Conor McGregor. In fact, McGregor’s gruesome leg injury was partially caused by Dustin blocking his front kick with his elbow.
The cross arm block is another technique that can be effective in MMA. This technique involves a fighter crossing their rear arm over their body, with their rear hand resting on their lead shoulder. This defense completely blocks all sides of your chin and can break your opponent’s hand if they land cleanly on your elbow. Your lead arm can reinforce your rear arm, parry strikes to the body, or load up for a counter hook.
2) Offensive Elbows
An elbow can be thrown with two intended purposes. There’s the slicing, slashing elbow where your goal is to cut your opponent open, and the smashing elbow, which is a blunt force impact. Slashing elbows can blind an opponent by aiming the cut right above their eye. Blood will drip down their eyes and impair their vision. If the cut is deep enough, the ringside doctor will stop the fight and you will win by TKO. In contrast, smashing elbows are meant to knock your opponent out cold on impact.
The horizontal elbow is a staple of Muay Thai and has been used to knock many fighters out in mixed martial arts. To perform a horizontal elbow with your lead hand, bring your lead elbow across your centerline, keeping your elbow as bent as much as possible. Your arms should be relaxed, with the back of your lead hand touching your rear shoulder and your lead palm facing your lead elbow. Switch the rear and lead arm placements to perform a horizontal elbow with your rear arm. The footwork for horizontal elbows is identical to hook punches in boxing.
The down elbow is performed the same way as the horizontal elbow with a change in the angle of the strike. Instead of coming across horizontally, your elbow will diagonally downwards, splitting your opponent’s guard. This can be useful if your opponent is able to block your horizontal elbows.
Up elbows can help you slow an aggressive opponent down to fight at your pace. To perform this technique, place your palm on your forehead or temple while stepping towards your opponent. Ideally, your opponent will run directly into your elbow, using their momentum against them.
3) Clinch Elbows
Elbows can be used to control, distract, and damage your opponent in the clinch. One technique commonly seen in Muay Thai is setting an elbow up by placing your hand on your opponent’s bicep. This can be done from your lead and rear side and was a signature technique of former Muay Thai champion Yodkhunpon Sittraiphum, one of the best Muay Sok to ever step in the ring. Another way to use elbows in the clinch is to counter and shut down your opponent’s knees. Fighters will often lean back when throwing a knee. Time their return from the lean and they will run into your elbow, discouraging them from throwing more knees in the clinch. The last elbow technique for the clinch we will be covering is a way to close distance. Throw a light jab at your opponent’s lead hand. Keeping your hand on top of your opponent’s, step to the right and pivot out while collapsing your elbow through the gap between your opponent’s lead hand and lead shoulder. This technique keeps their lead hand out of play while you land an elbow and enter a dominant clinch position.
4) Ground Elbows
Elbows are a dangerous tool from the ground, regardless of your position. For example, quick down elbows are a great addition to basing out when your opponent shoots for a takedown. If you have your opponent in a full mount, there are many options for elbows. Small spike and up elbows can slip through their guard and drain their gas tank if you land on their body. This will wear them down physically and mentally for you to deliver the knockout blow or submission to win the fight.
Another powerful elbow from the top position is the spear elbow. This technique starts by bringing your elbow above your head, then sending it crashing downwards and inwards. MMA legend Khabib Nurmagomedov used this technique frequently during his dominant reign.
Even from the bottom position, spear elbows can inflict serious damage on an opponent. Tony Ferguson was known for holding fighters in his rubber guard and continuously elbowing them.
5) Counter Elbows
The Philly Shell can set up some counters with your elbow strikes. If your opponent and you are in a closed stance, you can counter their power hand by using a shoulder bump, then stepping into a spinning back elbow. Yodkhunpon’s technique of hand trapping into clinch elbows can also be used to parry punches into your elbows from outside of clinch range.
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