UFC Knee to the Head | When is it Legal?

In this page we will cover when you are able to knee to the head legally, when it is illegal, and why it's illegal in those situations.

ufc knee to the head

Table of Contents

Can You Knee to the Head in the UFC?

It varies by situation, but in the simplest terms, you are only able to knee to the head in the UFC when your opponent is standing up. If your opponent is grounded (any part of their body besides the soles of their feet touching the mat), it is illegal to knee to the head, and can result in a disqualification.

In fact in UFC 259, Petr Yan was dominating his fight against Aljamain Sterling, until he threw an illegal knee that famously disqualified him, and resulted in Sterling winning the title.

Illegal knees can have a devastating effect on an opponent that isn't expecting it, and can cost a fighter hundreds of thousands of dollars by losing the fight.

When Can You Knee to the Body in the UFC?

You can knee to the body at any point in the UFC. Whether you are standing up with your opponent, in the clinch, and even on the ground. The most common knees to the body occur in the clinch.

However, George St-Pierre would do something unique by TKO'ing his opponent Matt Serra, by knees to the body in UFC 69.

What Makes Some Knees Illegal?

A well placed knee can have life-altering effects, especially if it wasn't properly blocked by the opponent. By only allowing knees against opponents that are standing up, it makes the fighter have to cover a large amount of distance in order to land the knee, or force the fighter to clinch up, grab the back of the head, and then be able to knee.

knee strike

Regardless, it forces a more difficult situation for a fighter in order to land the knee.

If knees to the head of a downed opponent were allowed, due to the knees  already being at floor-level, it would be extremely easy to throw a knee with a giant amount of power, in a flash.

Evangelina Santos Fractured Skull From a Knee

MMA fighter Evangelina Santos was hit by a perfectly placed and timed flying knee, that causes his forehead to shatter, obtained a fractured skull and needed immediate surgery for it.

Santos would never fight again, and retired shortly after recovery.