Are hand locks Illegal in UFC?

25 July 2022

At the very beginning of the MMA organization known as the UFC, the original motto for the shows was “there are no rules.” There has since been an implementation of many regulations and rules including no eye pokes, no low blows, and no small joint manipulation. The last rule brings one question to mind, however, are hand locks or wrist locks illegal in the UFC?

Hand locks are a legal fighting tactic within the octagon of the UFC. Because the hand is not considered a small joint, it does not fall into the no small joint manipulation rule. Hand locks are not commonly used, but they are not illegal. 

In this article, we are going to discuss the ins and outs of exactly what a hand lock is and why it is legal in the UFC. So keep reading! We have everything you need to know about hand locks in the UFC right here.

What is a Hand Lock?

A hand or wrist lock is a common maneuver used within grappling martial arts such as Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, and hapkido, in which you lock the joint of your opponent’s wrist, and in some cases the radioulnar joints through rotation of the hand. 

The hand lock is a technique that can be applied from a stance by grabbing your opponent’s hand and twisting it unnatural. It is considered safe to practice with a teammate, but if applied with force in a competitive setting, it can tear ligaments in your hand and even cause a dislocation or bone fracture.

Is a Hand Lock Illegal in the UFC?

Twenty-five years have now passed since the quote “there are no rules” was first echoed in the UFC and in that time MMA has evolved into quite a reputable and competitor-safe sport, with plenty of regulations to keep all parties safe. 

The UFC has its rules available for anyone to view on their website, and one of the lesser known rules is that under no circumstances are you allowed to manipulate the small joints of the body.

The small joints of the body include the toes and fingers, whereas hands, wrists, ankles, knees, shoulders, and elbows are all considered large joints, thus the manipulation of these joints is deemed legal in the UFC.

So, if you were to find yourself in a position in the UFC, where you are able to manipulate the hand of an opponent into submission, it would be deemed a legal victory. 

Are Handlocks Commonly Used in the UFC?

Handlocks are not commonly employed in MMA fights such as in the UFC for a couple of reasons. The first main reason is that fighters have their hands wrapped, tapped, and packed inside of tight gloves which immobilize the hand, thus making it slightly difficult to pull off a hand lock. 

Secondly, if a fighter tries to place their opponent in a hand lock through control of the wrist, this leaves a lot of room for the opponent to make space and escape the submission they are in. This is because you don’t hold as much control over your opponent in this style of submission as opposed to something like a chokehold. 

There is one famous example from the UFC’s competitor organization known as Bellator, where a fighter named Dave Hermann used a submission known as the omoplata hand lock to gain a victory over Michal Kita back in 2010. 

This omoplate itself is not a hand lock but is a technique in which the attacker uses the legs and hips of an opponent to extend their shoulder joint past its normal range of motion. If the attacker cannot get a submission here, it’s very easy to transfer to the submission known as the Omoplata hand lock, which is exactly what gained Dave Hermann victory at Bellator in 2010.


In conclusion, a hand lock is not considered an illegal move in the UFC, as it does not fall into their illegal small joint manipulation set of rules. Instead, it is categorized as something that manipulates a larger joint such as an ankle or elbow, or hand. 

While a hand lock is not common due to it being a submission that requires a lot more control than a typical choke or arm lock, there have been times when a hand lock has gained professional fighters a win within an MMA competition.