Pep Talk Q&A: Elbows, Takedowns & Heel Hooks

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(Kenny Florians elbows have bloodied many opponents.)


I’m not a fan of elbows on the ground. I think it creates a lot of damage and ends too many fights early by cuts or damage. Wouldn’t we be better without them in the UFC?

Sam S.

The powers that be in Strikeforce agree with you as well as the Japanese MMA circuit where elbows are a no-no. In fact, Takanori Gomo expressed some concerns about how his adjustment to the rule change will affect him in the UFC. While I agree with you that ground elbows are a potent weapon, are they any more dangerous than a headkick or an elbow on the cage? I know this is a hot topic because Jon Jones literally broke Brandon Vera’s face at UFC on Versus and Joseph Benavidez’ elbow split Miguel Torres’ head open and was the beginning of the end in that fight. But, I’m leary to start removing weapons in MMA. In fact, I’m not a big believer that the 12-6 elbow should be illegal because The “illegal” elbows Jones nailed Hammill with obviously weren’t any more damaging than the elbow he ended Vera’s night with. The other issue for me is that the removal of offensive techniques from a fighter’s arsenal gives the opponent less to defend against and less of a reason to scramble out of positions on the ground and could potentially slow down the action of a fight.

(GSP can’t win for winning.)

The question I have occurred to me as I scanned some of the forums following UFC 111. I admire GSP but I find there are others I’d rather watch. GSP keeps wrestling his way to victory with his off-the-charts athleticism. He fights the toughest guys — Hughes, Fitch, Koscheck, Alves, Penn etc. but because he doesn’t finish them every time, he’s criticized. Does it say more about us as fans of the sport that we demand finishes or is GSP, in his role as a fighter, somehow obligated to entertain us rather than to play to his strengths and his opponent’s weaknesses? Ultimately, should he fight to win by limiting his exposure to damage or swing to entertain us?

Perry Bergson

GSP is a hot topic after his UFC 111 decision win over Dan Hardy, and deservedly so. And you framed the debate perfectly, Perry. I think the GSP criticism comes from a frustration of fans on a few different levels of conservatism. There is no question when you look at GSP’s performances in the past that he has elite skills in every area of mixed martial arts. Dynamic, diverse striking, incredible wrestling, great jits and off-the-chart cardio and athleticism. When you look at his second and third fights with Hughes and the Trigg fight, for example, he was the very definition of a mixed martial artist. Now, he’s made a decision to outwrestle and control his opponent until someone shows they can stop him. In fact, in the Hardy fight, his corner was even telling him not to pass Hardy’s guard. There’s no question that his more conservative approach isn’t as exciting to watch and makes fans impatient, in large part because they know he has some amazing, dynamic tools in his skillset that he doesn’t put on display as much anymore. UFC 111 marked the first time that I’ve heard fans boo during a GSP fight and fans were blowing up Dana’s Twitter because they were unhappy with the fight. It’s GSP’s choice to be more conservative and focus on his wrestling, but fans want to be entertained. Ask Jon Fitch. And speaking of Fitch, I didn’t hear anyone complain when GSP decisioned him at UFC 87. Why? Because he beat Fitch everywhere…diverse striking, wrestling, dynamic transitions on the ground, cardio. It was lopsided but it looked a lot different than wrestling/ground control that marked the Alves and Hardy fights.

The other thing that fans are questioning is GSP’s disinterest in taking any fights at 185. When Anderson Silva had two lackluster performances against Cote and Leites (not his fault that Cote’s knee gave out or that Leites refused to fight him) he was given a second fight at 205 against former champion Forrest Griffin and flat out embarrassed him. He’s even spoken about fighting at heavyweight! BJ went up to 170 to test himself against GSP. Fans like to see that guys are willing to test themselves when they are as dominant as GSP, Anderson and BJ are in their respective divisions. Again, a more conservative decision by Georges, but not as fan-friendly. GSP obviously has a right to make safer choices in and out of the cage, just as fans have a right not to find those choices as interesting.

(Toquinho torques Drwal’s leg at UFC 111.)

Pep, how can the UFC suspend Rousimar Palhares? I think the referee screwed up and didn’t get in there fast enough. And some people are saying he should be cut. That’s crazy. What do you think?

Aaron D.

Aaron, it was actually the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board that issued the 90-day suspension to Palhares. I am a big fan of Rousimar and think he’s one to watch at 185 (or 170 if he could make the cut), but I have to agree with the decision. I don’t have a problem with Palhares waiting until the ref came in to release the hold. We’ve seen phantom taps and tapouts that a ref didn’t see. Referee Kevin Mulhall should have been much closer to the action and, therefore, able to break it up sooner. However, once Mulhall got there, he gave both physical and verbal instructions to release the hold and Rousimar still held on as Mulhall tugged at him several times to release the hold. Additionally, Yahoo’s Steve Cofield reported that the Control Board looked at Palhares’ prior fights with Flavio Luiz Moura and Helio Dipp where he seemed to hold submissions after the referee called him off as well.

That said, I don’t think that Palhares should be cut by the UFC because of this incident. Unlike Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Palhares did not admit that he intentionally held the hold to punish his opponent and has apologized for his actions. This is his first incident in the UFC and while the 90-day suspension is unlikely to keep him out of any fights in that time frame, it does put him on notice that behavior like this is unlikely to be tolerated if it happens again.

Larry Pepe is the host of Pro MMA Radio. Follow him on Twitter at @LarryPepe.

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