What exactly IS a 12 to 6 elbow? How do point deductions work?
What exactly IS a 12 to 6 elbow? How do point deductions work? How much can you weigh in at? What strikes can you use on a grounded opponent? Hell, what makes someone a grounded opponent? While there are a few exceptions, most of the Unified Rules of MMA aren’t that hard to understand. However, you wouldn’t think so from the things a lot of fighters say and do…
A lot of rules in MMA today are misunderstood. Fighters will get called for violating them by referees, fans and executives will complain about them, and it’ll sounds like people just don’t get some rules. However, many of these rules are in place for a reason and they aren’t that hard to understand. The “Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts” as they are called, have been the standard for US MMA since the beginning of the decade. They have evolved over the years but they are still very simple.
The Unified Rules were first established by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board in 2001 after the state had allowed MMA fights to take place in the state to observe the competitions. The whole purpose was to come up with a uniform set of rules for the sport so that the State Board could then regulate the sport. It eventually became the de facto rule set used by almost every athletic commission in North America and by many commissions worldwide. They have undergone small modifications since then for good reason. The UFC has taken to implementing the same rules when they hold events outside of commission jurisdictions.
Regardless, here are the rules that most people often get wrong.
10. Dress Code
When the UFC first started there was very little if any regulation on what was appropriate in ring attire. This was one of the early complaints against the UFC and MMA in general because of the fact that some fighters would often walk into the fight wearing regular street clothes. In some cases fighters would walk in wearing pro wrestling style speedos. The latest example of a fighter wearing a speedo in a UFC fight was at UFC 133 when Dennis Hallman infamously wore them after loosing a bet (the UFC banned speedos in the promotion following the event). Another popular outfit among actual martial artists in the early days was a martial arts gi, which UFC legend Royce Gracie wore during his first tenure in the UFC.
However, once the Unified Rules were adopted, fighters began conforming to a specific dress code in all jurisdictions. Shirts, gis, long pants and shoes were all outlawed and all fighters were required to wear a cup and mouthpiece. In most North American jurisdictions these rules are still followed today with most male fighters wearing either loose or tight fitting fight shorts. Though women are given a greater leeway in their choice of fight apparel, they are still required to wear a mouth piece and their hair generally needs to be tied up in some way. Also if Dana White has his way a standard UFC uniform could be enforced.
9. Length Of Matches
There are several fighters today who complain about the length of fights and how they should be unlimited until a fighter is finished. Former UFC Welterweight Champion is one of these outspoken critics who said if he could get rid of anything it would be the time limits. It’s understandable why people would complain considering the way MMA judges will sometimes completely botch a match after it went the distance. It can also be frustrating when dealing with fighters who resort to “point fighting” who’s strategy is to essentially show the judges they won a decision. The only problem with the elimination of time limits is that fights could go on for theoretically hours on end if neither fighter had a particular advantage.
While dealing with judges can be frustrating (and will be addressed later on this list) time limits are one of those rules that are set in stone by the Unified Rules. In the Unified Rules, non-title fights are set at three rounds set at five minutes a piece, while championship rounds are set at five rounds of the same length. However, a local commission can make an exception to the non-title fight limits at the promotions request as has been done with the UFC at pretty much every non-title main event since UFC 138 with a few exceptions. This has also been taken advantage of by promotions who have held one night tournaments in recent years by either shortening the number of rounds in a bout or the length of the rounds themselves. Such exceptions are rare though as promotions generally don’t try to push their luck.
8. Weight Allowances
Gone are the days when all fighters face each other in one division to determine the best fighter overall. Nowadays everyone is separated into weight classes to determine the best fighter of a certain weight. However, this can be a little deceptive considering that fighters can walk around anywhere from ten to fifty pounds above their “fight weight”. It can also be confusing when a fighter in the 170 pound division and comes in weighing 171. One probably wonders “Isn’t that over the weight class?”.
There is actually a simple explanation for this. While the Unified Rules has specific weight classes, most commissions allow for a one pound weight allowance in non-title fights. However, title fights need to be at the weight class limit, no exceptions. There are also occasions where a fighter is just over the limit and is allowed to work off the weight within two hours and if they don’t have to forfeit a percentage of their purse to both their opponent and the overseeing commission. An exception to the weight classes is what is called a “catchweight” bout where fighters agree to fight at a weight outside general weight class boundaries.
7. Legal And Illegal Strikes To A Grounded Opponent
Many of the legends of the sport are known for some more brutal techniques that they utilized in the early UFC and Pride Fighting Championships, namely soccer kicks, knees to the head and ground stomps. In fact former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua has been quoted as saying that he’d like to see such techniques brought back. They were no doubt utilized to great effect by fighters such as Rua, and legend Wanderlei Silva who reigned as Pride FC Middleweight Champion (Light Heavyweight stateside) for close to seven years. If one were to actually watch such fights there are definitely some highlight reel knockouts that are entertaining. Regardless, the only place people will see such techniques in a legal setting at the present day is in the Asian One FC promotion as the Unified Rules outlaws any such maneuvers.
To be specific, the Unified Rules forbids knees, kicks, and stomps to the head of a grounded opponent. The reasoning behind this rule is that they are supposed to be dangerous techniques that can cause injuries as bad as paralysis. There are arguments against outlawing such techniques though such as that elbow strikes (which are legal under the unified rules) are more dangerous. Also there’s the fact that these rules were made in 2001 as a response to several criticisms. It can be frustrating for those used to legal ground strikes but that’s how it is.
6. Definition Of A Grounded Opponent
The previous rule roles into this one which is the definition of a grounded opponent. According to the Unified Rules, a grounded opponent is a combatant who has more then just their feet on the ground. Essentially if someone has a hand on the ground they’re grounded. If they have a knee on the floor they’re grounded. If they are sitting down or on their back, they’re grounded.
This can actually be a little bit of a pain considering some fighters who don’t want to get a knee to the head or face simple put their hand on the ground. At that point they are considered grounded and the referee is obligated to protect them. It’s a frustrating situation, but it happens. There have been efforts to change the unified rules to give fighters more leeway on this issue, but it’s far from ironed out. For now though the rules are the rules in this area.
5. Point Deductions
Something that often comes up in MMA whether something is done by accident or not are point deductions. People see a fighter do something wrong, they’re stood up and a fighter will get deducted a point. Sometimes a fighter is deducted a point without warning. Some people and fighters often ask why a point deduction happens. Once again we turn to the Unified Rules.
The Unified Rules has a long list of fouls which include the aforementioned illegal strikes, crotch shots, eye pokes, head butts, etc. If a fighter uses it once by accident, they are usually given a verbal warning. If it happens again, the official will usually pull the fighters apart and warn the offending fighter. If it happens a third time that is usually when a point deduction happens. There are of course exceptions and sometimes referees do things prematurely but that is usually how point deductions happen.
4. The 12 To 6 Elbow Rule
Once again the previous rules actually role into this one which is the whole ordeal of the 12-to-6 elbow strike. It’s no secret that elbow strikes are in fact legal under the Unified Rules. What isn’t well known is that they are limited in their use of elbow strikes. Elbows need to come in at an angle and cannot come directly down upon an opponent. If it does come down it is what’s called a 12-to-6 elbow strike. This comes from the reference of a clock with 12 being up and 6 being down.
The reason for outlawing such a technique actually goes back to when the Unified Rules were first installed. Supposedly such a strike could cause paralysis if used to the back of the head of the spine. However, such reasoning if flawed when one considers that those areas are already protected under the Unified Rules. There’s a movement to revise the Unified Rules to allow such strikes to become legalized and it’s understandable considering that UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones only career “loss” is a disqualification for using said technique. However, like most revisions it is taking time to get done.
3. Banned Substances
A particularly hot topic right now in MMA is the whole banned substances controversy. The said controversy has involved many legends of the sport as of late including Chael Sonnen, Wanderlei Silva, and Vitor Belfort to name a few. One of the issues is what is supposedly legal and what is not in MMA. The list is honestly very basic with any illegal drug, narcotic, stimulant, depressant, analgesic of any kind, or any kind of alcoholic substance is not allowed. Any positive drug test of any kind of these substances results in usually a fine and suspension of said fighter, along with changing a win to a no contest.
While it is clear that some substances such as hCG (not even naturally present in human male bodies) and human growth hormone should be on the list, many fighters and reporters are questioning the presence of marijuana on the list. Several reasons that have been posed are the presence of marijuana in the human body up to two weeks after it has been used in some way. Retired fighter Nate Quarry has been one such critic stating that the Diaz brothers, who have medical marijuana cards in California should not be penalized. While the validity of such statements is up for debate, the fact of the matter is that a fighter should not be using a banned substance while training for a fight, period. That being said it doesn’t matter if a fighter used marijuana two days before a fight or two weeks before a fight, they agreed not to use it and if they do, they get penalized.
2. Who Appoints The Referees
One of the issues that is usually on everybody’s minds right now is the quality of officiating when it comes to MMA. There are complaints as to whether a fight was ended too early or whether it was stopped too late by the official in the ring or cage. At times people have to defend those officials actions or no one defends the actions. A common fan criticism is that the UFC needs to find better referees to officiate their fights. The problem with that statement is that the UFC does not have control of who officiates the fight unless the fights are in a commission free area.
In the majority of cases the in cage officials are not assigned by the MMA promotion, but by the local overseeing commission. This can certainly be frustrating when an official such as Yves Lavinge or Steve Mazagatti is in the ring and makes a call that almost everybody disagrees with. It is also the reason why referees such as “Big” John McCarthy and Herb Dean are so much more appreciated by fans, fighters, promoters, and reporters alike as they are almost always on top of their game and make the best calls. A big example includes Herb Dean stopping the fight between Frank Mir and Tim Sylvia when he witnessed Sylvia’s arm snapping at an angle no one else could see. As stated above, the UFC does select their officials mainly outside of North America but because of UFC Fight Pass the casual fan only watches a few of those matches.
1. Who Appoints The Judges
It is very frustrating when two fighters go at it and most people believe that one fighter won but the judges scored it for the other fighter. Once again fans and critics point to the UFC and say they need to appoint better judges to score the fights. It is frustrating when it seems that fights regularly are botched when it comes to scoring. This only motivates fighters even more to follow Dana White’s advice and never leave it in the hands of the judges. However, there are just those times when fighters are so close one can’t get the edge on the other. Once again this isn’t the UFC’s fault except with shows outside of North America.
As with the officials, the MMA judges are appointed by the local athletic commissions. This is also frustrating at times because some commissions constantly have poor judging. One of the problems is that the judging systems are flawed and also differ from state to state. Usually the UFC exercises good judgement in selecting judges for their overseas shows, but in a rare case UFC President Dana White decided to do a first and yanked judge from a recent show in Macao. It is certainly understandable how frustrating this whole situation is for fighters, promoters and fans and why this makes the top misunderstood rule on this list.