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Illegal UFC Moves: 12 Unallowed Defense Maneuvers Revealed


Last Updated on May 25, 2024

Most UFC fans believe that an MMA match is a no-holds-barred sport. They believe that anything and everything goes in the UFC fights.


That was what everybody believed in the 1990s when the UFC emerged. Unfortunately, the newcomers and even some MMA fans don't know that there is a long list of illegal UFC moves that can get fighters disqualified or drop some points.

12 Illegal UFC Moves That Can Get You Disqualified

Generally, the MMA rules cover everything from groin shots to eye pokes and strikes on the back of the head. These illegal moves are considered dangerous, but in most cases, they can give a fighter an advantage over their opponents. So if you want to know some illegal moves that can end a match, please read on…

1. Eye Gouging Or Pokes

Eye Gouging Or Pokes

Just like in MMA promotions, eye gouging or eye pokes are illegal. Despite being illegal, eye pokes are quite common in mixed martial arts. After all, the fighters tend to fight with their palms facing each other while maintaining a distance.

Unfortunately, eye gouging can result in fighters losing several points, and in severe cases, a fighter may get disqualified.

But if the referee believes it was an accident, they can give the fighters leeway. When this happens, the referee usually has a temporary stoppage to confirm if the fighter who has been poked can continue with the MMA bout.

But if these illegal strikes don't stop after the referees warn the fighters, they may end up stopping the match. In fact, since 2005, 7 UFC matches ended in a no contest thanks to eye pokes.

2. Groin Shots

Groin Shots

Generally, groin shots are illegal in all combat sports, and to protect themselves; some MMAs allow the competitors to wear a groin cup when fighting. Unfortunately, these cups can prevent damage from a powerful kick to your groin region.

Therefore, when the referees notice that a fighter has been kicked in the groin region, they can stop the match for up to 5 minutes and allow the opponent to recover. But if they can't recover, illegal strikes can result in disqualification or no-contest loss for the striker.

3. Stomps, Kicks, Or Knees To The Head Of A Downed opponent

Stomps, Kicks, Or Knees To The Head Of A Downed opponent

In some mixed martial arts like Pride, stomps, kicks, and knees to the head of a downed opponent are illegal in the UFC. But in UFC, it is listed as one of the illegal moves that can result in disqualification. Powerful kicks to head-made positions such as sprawl and side control can be very dangerous to the grounded opponent.

Therefore, considering how dangerous they are, these strikes can result in the disqualification of the striker. A good example of kicks to a grounded opponent is a UFC bantamweight match at the UFC-259, where Petr Yan delivered a dangerous knee to the head of Sterling Aljamain, who was grounded. 

The match was stopped, and Yan was disqualified, resulting in Sterling becoming the new bantamweight champion.

4. Fish Hooking

Fish Hooking

Another move that is illegal in the UFC is fish hooking. This means that a fighter folds their finger in the shape of a hook, places it in the opponent's nose, eyes or mouth, and pulls it away from their face.

Fish hooking can cause tissue damage and lacerations; don't forget that it can be very painful.  A great example is Caraway Bryan's submission win over Perez Erik in their 2014 UFC fight. Even though Bryan wasn't booked, there was footage showing him using this illegal move while applying a rear-naked choke on Perez.

Unfortunately, the referee didn't notice it, but fish hooking is not that common in the UFC.

5. Piledrivers


Piledrivers may be legal in Pride and WWE, but they are considered one of the most dangerous illegal moves in the Octagon. You may know this move from WWE as the Undertaker's finishing move. It is the main reason Stone Cold retired from WWE; after all, the same move by Owen Hart ended up breaking his neck.

Therefore, before trying this move in UFC, just think about its effect on your opponent; remember, UFC is as real as any MMA competition.

6. 12-to-6 Elbows

12-to-6 Elbows

The 12-to-6 elbow kicks are elbow kicks that travel downwards and are not allowed in MMA. This kick is considered illegal since it can cause some serious damage, just like knee kicks to your opponent's head.

Jon Jones' only loss in his MMA career was controversial after he used this move on grounded Matt Hamill. This controversial match is still contested to date, but even if he didn't do it intentionally, the referee did make the right decision.

7. Head Butts Are Illegal

Head Butts Are Illegal

Head butts may be legal in Lethwei, one of the most lethal MMA, but they are not allowed in a UFC fight. Unlike Lethwei, UFC uses different rules, and head butts are considered accidental offenses. Head butts can normally occur when the fighters are in the clinch position or grappling.

Head butting can result in one of the fighters bleeding around some of the sensitive parts of your face, like the nose or eyes, and some nasty cuts. Unfortunately, head butts among UFC fighters are quite common in MMA.

Do you remember when Cruz Dominick head-butted Cejudo in the UFC-259? Cejudo got a nasty cut near his eyebrow, which was bleeding excessively. Accidental head butts can help a fighter, especially when their opponents get compromised.

After the match, Cejudo claimed he was worried about the cut and wanted the match to end within the shortest time possible.

8. Rabbit Punch

Rabbit Punch

Rabbit punches also referred to as a blow to the back of the head, are illegal in the UFC. The rabbit punches have been banned for obvious reasons; after all, the punches always land at the place where your spinal cord meets the brain. The base of your head is a sensitive region that's vulnerable to injuries.    

Remember, a powerful blow to the back of the head can injure your opponent since it can damage the connection between the spinal cord and the brain. Fortunately, it's not common in UFC and can mostly be found in kickboxing and boxing when their main goal is throwing punches.

9. Holding The Cage

Holding The Cage

Generally, holding to the ring or cage during a UFC match can be illegal. It's a known fact that fighters grab onto the cage while avoiding takedowns or trying to change position. Fighters also use the ring instinctively when they are about to go down.

Unfortunately, holding the cage can give anyone an unfair benefit over their opponent and can result in them taking control of the other fighter or escaping certain positions that would have been almost impossible.

10. Hair Pulling

Hair Pulling

Hair pulling doesn't normally occur in a cage, even in the female's UFC division. Even though it's rare, hair pulling can happen when the martial artists are battling or wrestling in the clinch, but it's rarely done on purpose. A fighter pulling hair can be used to gain a position over an opponent; plus, it is very painful.

This illegal move can also help you change your position when locked in a certain position or help you stop your opponent from gaining a position over you. Therefore, hair pulling is considered one of UFC's most painful illegal moves.

11. Holding An Opponent's Gloves Or Shorts

Holding An Opponent's Gloves Or Shorts

Just like holding the cage, grabbing your opponent's gloves or shorts can give a UFC fighter an advantage; it can prevent your opponent from gaining a position over you. Since it's just plain dirty, it can result in an unfair advantage, especially during an MMA fight.

12. Throat Strikes

Throat Strikes

Generally, UFC fighters are allowed to target their opponent's neck with several submissions like triangle chokes and a rear naked choke. But intentionally punching your opponent's throat is considered illegal.

Knock-Out Point: Proceed to our next article related to this topic -- UFC Scoring.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Slapping Illegal In MMA?

No, it isn't illegal. Even though soccer kicks, crotch hits, and hair pulling are illegal moves in UFC, slaps are still legal. When fighters fight, they use slaps to intimidate their opponents; some fighters like Nate Diaz claim that they use Stockton slaps to play with their opponent's mentality.

Is Flying Knee A Legal UFC Move?

Yes, it is. While it's okay to knee or kick another fighter's head while standing, according to the MMA rules, hitting the head of a grounded opponent is illegal. Flying knees are legal when your opponent is standing, but when grounded, it can result in disqualification or point deduction.

Repeated head kicks or knees to the head can result in Chronic traumatic encephalopathy; therefore, the rules are there to protect the fighters.

Are Ax Kicks Illegal In UFC?

No, they're not illegal. Ax-kicks are allowed in the UFC. In fact, many fighters, including Jon Jones, have used this move several times in their career. But ax kicks to a grounded opponent's head, just like other kicks, are considered illegal.


UFC is one of the most interesting combat on the planet that is as real as it gets, but did you know that there are several illegal moves in UFC? Well, as much as it is a physical combat sport, some unique moves can endanger the fighters' lives. 

Some moves like the piledriver have ended the career of many athletes, including Stone Cold; therefore, these kinds of moves are considered illegal and can result in disqualification.   

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