For years, MMA experts and fans have been perplexed by the legality of the 12-6 elbow strike. Since MMA rules have been established, this elbow strike has been deemed illegal.

Many always wonder what makes this strike so dangerous to be deemed illegal? Well let’s look into the 12-6 elbow strike and break down why it’s illegal. Explaining why it was deemed illegal and also the mechanics of the strike.

What is the 12-6 elbow?

The 12-6 elbow strike is a strike where you bring your elbow up and drop it straight down on your opponent. Striking with the tip of your elbow.

This strike got the name as if your arms were arms of a clock. Your arm starts at 12 o’clock and drops to 6 o’clock. Hence the name 12-6 elbow.

When was the 12-6 elbow deemed illegal?

To know when the 12-6 elbow was deemed illegal, you have to go back to the year 2000. This was when the unified rules of MMA were established.

Back then there was a bit of chaos with MMA rule sets. Every promotion had their own rules and state athletic commissions had no idea how to oversee this new sport. 

The state athletic commission credited with demanding a unified rule set for MMA was the New Jersey State Athletic Commission. This was after the UFC, Ring of Fire, and other smaller promotions held shows there and each had their own rule set.

New Jersey decided if they’re going to allow MMA in their state, there must be a unified rule set. Not different promotions coming to their state with their own rules.

So they got representatives from all of the major MMA promotions along with Big John McCarthy. Also the Mohegan Sun tribe and Nevada state athletic executive directive Marc Ratner call in for the meeting.

Initially the New Jersey commission and a state doctor wanted to get rid of elbows altogether. Thankfully Big John was there to argue that stopping all elbows would stall the fights. In clinch and on the ground, fighters would just hold their opponent’s wrists to prevent being struck.

After Big John explained this, the New Jersey doctor Dom Coletta had a rebuttal. Medically he agreed with what Big John said, but there was one elbow he was against. The 12-6 elbow.

This was because he deemed it a dangerous move from seeing brick and ice breaking demonstrations. John began to argue with Coletta, but UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta told him to stand down.

So that is why the 12-6 elbow has been deemed an illegal technique in MMA.

Confusion with the 12-6 elbow rules

After the rule was set that 12-6 elbows were illegal, there was still a lot of confusion with the strike. The rule just said no downward elbows, so that left many officials to have their own interpretation of the rule.

Big John had to go around the country holding seminars explaining what the 12-6 elbow actually is. Also explaining the exact specifics of every other unified MMA rule.

The Jon Jones controversy

The debate over the 12-6 elbow started in 2009 at the TUF 10 finale show. Jon Jones vs Matt Hamill.

In the fight, a young Jon Jones dominated every second of that fight. Landing strikes and takedowns at will.

In the final sequence of the fight, he had Matt Hamill mounted and the fight was stopped after numerous strikes. One of the last strikes happened to be a 12-6 elbow strike.

Jones and the crowd believed that he won the fight, but the commission deemed it a disqualification. Making it the only blemish on Jon Jones’ record to this day.

Since then, the 12-6 elbow has been tirelessly debated among the MMA community. Unfortunately it is still considered an illegal move.