Jack Slack analyzes Jon “Bones” Jones’ spinning elbows:
Jon Jones doesn’t throw the spinning elbow at random for the simple reason that it is difficult to land correctly and if the opponent is stepping in towards him it pretty much gifts the opponent Jones’ back. An excellent example of this came in the first round of Jones’ bout with Mauricio Rua as the latter was lumbering towards Jones. Jones threw the spinning elbow as Rua plodded forward but missed and gave the injured Brazilian back control. Fortunately Rua’s wrestling was not a huge threat to Jones, and instead the champion attempted to drop for a heel hook, giving Jones top position. Notice below how Jones’ elbow flies past Rua’s head and Jones’ shoulder is the only point that contacts Rua with a soft thud.
The actual striking surface on a spinning back elbow is actually remarkably small, unlike Jones’ elbows from guard in which if he misses with his elbow the rigid bone of his forearm still does ample damage, if Jones misses the spinning elbow he only connects with the triceps or shoulder. When this is the case very little damage is done for such a high risk manoeuvre. For all the talk of how Jones’ enormous reach allows him to take risks without fear of repercussions, Jon Jones’ spinning back elbow essentially gives his opponent’s their only chance to get in range when he fails to land it correctly and he still uses it in most of his fights.
The variation with which we are now all most familiar is Jones’ spinning elbow along the fence. This has proven to be the most reliable scenario from which Jones can place himself in position to spin as safely as possible and line up his target to connect with the point of his elbow. Below is the standard Jon Jones set up for his spinning back elbow.
Notice that Jones has Rua pressed against the fence with his head to the left and keeps control of Rua’s right elbow. Every time Jones clinches an opponent along the fence, he frees one arm so that he can spin while using his other hand to drive the opponents head back from underneath their chin. If an opponent holds an overhook or an underhook on either of Jones’ arms he is not free to spin — consequently this technique doesn’t mesh as well with Jones’ takedown game as it appears. If both of Jones’ hands are free and he is still pushing his opponent into the fence, a spinning elbow is pretty much assured.
You will also notice the unique position Jones has to assume before he spins — Jones brings his right leg across in front of himself. In every spinning or turning technique, finding ways to shorten the spin by bringing your pivot leg across yourself while distracting your opponent is vital to improving the likelihood of success. Jones’ use of the clinch — a position in which he is famed for his wrestling — to conceal the preliminary movements or his turning strikes is a wonderful strategic turn and shows that Jones is willing to give up the prospect of a takedown to inflict one shot damage.
There’s much more.