For every technique in modern-day combat sports, there lies at least two or three different ways of executing it. Hooks and crosses can be thrown while backpedaling, different styles of kicks deliver the same ferocity as the traditional kickboxing-style version of the roundhouse kick to the head, and athletes sometimes get creative to where they can land a flying knee from any position, simply because they feel they can.

The elbow, in mixed martial arts circles, is arguably the best example of an “all-purpose” strike by design. What this means is that an attacker can literally throw the elbow in a similar way to how most closed-fist strikes are thrown when standing, or it can be thrown as a downward strike when the attacker takes their opponent down. Though it appears most effective as a ground strike when the attacker advances to a full mount, the strike proves just as deadly from anywhere on the ground.

It takes a special kind of creativity to attempt an elbow in a sanctioned bout, let alone knocking someone out with one, because the attacker must be relatively close to the opponent in order to get anything out of the blow, and as any fight fan can attest to, fighting literally in an opponent’s face means running the risk of getting dropped on the way in. Still, when the point of the elbow connects, it pays off. Fight fans love a knockout to begin with, but most in MMA circles are used to seeing hooks, crosses, straights, and uppercuts on the average highlight reel, so when someone can finish with any variant of an elbow, it feels as special as a lot of the knockout shots that rarely ever get pulled off.

Normally, when one thinks of this technique, the first variant that comes to mind is the spinning back elbow, which sees an attacker spin and throw the elbow. UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones often gets remembered as one of the first men to throw and land a spinning back elbow, just as he did at UFC 94 against Stephan Bonnar, but while he dropped Bonnar with that technique, it did not knock the notoriously-tough “American Psycho” out. In fact, the first instance of a spinning back elbow knockout in the UFC came last year, when the world’s premier MMA league went to Macau with Dong Hyun Kim headlining against John Hathaway.

Fresh off of a win over Erick Silva, Kim knew he needed to keep setting up opportunities to finish fights if he wanted to secure his place as a top UFC welterweight contender, but of course, Hathaway planned on making Kim work for anything that “The Stun Gun” planned on pulling off. The end came when Kim landed the knockout and instantly knocked Hathaway’s lights out, but while many have seen the beauty in how violently the strike landed, as well as how expertly Kim landed the elbow, few ever mention the rather humorous irony of the finish. See, Hathaway planned on throwing an elbow of his own in the bout, and yet, he ended up on the business end of Kim’s strike after Kim spun out of the way of Hathaway’s strike.

Even though Kim eventually got bested by Tyron Woodley, Kim still deserves some recognition for making history. Not even Jones, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters, could lock down the first spinning elbow knockout, but then again, not many can lock down an elbow knockout in general. In recent memory, there have only been a few other elbow knockouts besides Kim’s, but it goes to show that risk can definitely equal a monumental reward, especially when executing one of the riskier strikes in the game.

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.