Muay Thai is gaining steam in mixed martial arts, especially with most of the top fighters showcasing deadly striking skills. Before we delve more into current events and the excellent fighters utilizing the art of eight limbs, let’s ask the basic question, “What is Muay Thai’?”
As the national sport of Thailand, the art of eight limbs is a combat sport featuring stand-up striking and clinching techniques. Competitors can use punches, elbows, knees, and kicks to score points against their opponents or simply knock them out. Bear in mind that elbows, knees, and kicks score more in the eyes of Thai boxing judges. When fighting in the clinch, Nak Muay (Thai boxers), may opt to attack their opponents with strikes or sweep them off their feet. Takedowns score plenty, and could be the deciding factor should the fight go the distance.
Today, Muay Thai is receiving plenty of attention especially with prominent fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Fabricio Werdum, and Anderson Silva making plenty of noise in the UFC, mixed martial arts’ premier organization. Cerrone is a finishing machine with powerful kicks capable of knocking anyone out. Werdum has a deadly one-two punch combination, and is adept at following up with a thudding kick. Silva, who once was the No 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, is deadly wherever the fight ends up in, especially in the clinch where he can unload on knees.
What do these fighters all have in common apart from being skilled Muay Thai practitioners? The answer is simple: they are all very exciting to watch. Just look at their highlights! Cerrone has knockout finishes of the likes of Adriano Martins, Patrick Cote, and Rick Story. Werdum has a flying knee knockout win over Samoan contender Mark Hunt. Silva is a human highlight reel of knockouts with victories over former champions Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin, and Vitor Belfort utilizing punches, kicks, and knees.
More and more fighters are making Muay Thai their bread-and-butter when it comes to competing in mixed martial arts, hoping to make their own mark in the sport with exciting knockouts. Gone are the days of wrestlers holding their opponents down on the mats for extended periods of time. Now, we get knockouts aplenty from the regional shows up to the biggest of stages such as the UFC.
Striking specialists are starting to get better at defending takedowns after studying the art of eight limbs. Today, we see the likes of Benson Henderson and Johny Hendricks turn into excellent strikers. Both were talented amateur wrestlers before they fell in love with their striking ability in mixed martial arts competitions.
In the end, Muay Thai is gaining popularity with the rise of mixed martial arts for one simple reason: it is very exciting. When a Muay Thai specialist steps into the cage, you know what you’re going to get. There will always be a threat of a knockout whether it comes from the knee, elbow, kick, or punch. You may even get lucky and see one of the more acrobatic fighters like Anthony Pettis throw flying round house kicks or knees off the cage.