In 1993, Art Davie revealed his vision.
Following hours spent watching the now-legendary “Gracie in Action” videos a few years earlier, the American pitched an idea to Rorion Gracie. The concept was to arrange a tournament to finally prove, once and for all, what the most effective martial art was on the planet. Once the new partners had arranged for a pay-per-view company to show the event – and ironed out some creases – the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was born.
While Rorion’s son, Royce, dominated the first tournament, as the UFC progressed, things became a little more nebulous. Fast forward to 2019 and the UFC – and the world of mixed martial arts – is based upon a completely different idea. Instead of trying to find the most effective martial art, fighters borrow a little from many different styles. Given the requirement for a stand-up and ground game, fighters need to be as well-rounded as possible.
However, when it comes to the striking aspect of MMA, there is little doubt that Muay Thai, Thailand’s national martial art, is king. Over the years, we have witnessed some incredible scenarios and climaxes to MMA bouts thanks to the potent weapons of Muay Thai.
Below, we take a look at 5 times Muay Thai won the war.
Jon Jones vs. Stephan Bonnar – UFC 94 – 2009
- Spinning Elbow
Jon Jones earned his eighth professional win with a dominating performance over Stephan Bonnar back in 2009. While the Rochester, New York native was tipped for big things, those watching at the time likely had no idea that he would eventually go on to be arguably the most gifted fighter in MMA history. Despite a proclivity for controversy, Jones has brought himself back to the summit of the light heavyweight division.
In this particular bout, Jones showcased some excellent talent when demonstrating his knowledge of Muay Thai, with knees from the clinch and a spinning elbow that set up the finish. Pulling off this technique requires a lot of practice and Jones’ fighting smarts and long arms certainly helped him do just that.
Jose Aldo vs. Urijah Faber – WEC 48 – 2010
- Leg Kicks
What can you say about this legendary fight that hasn’t already been discussed thousands of times? For many students of MMA, Jose Aldo‘s barbaric and systematic butchering of poor Urijah Faber’s legs should serve as an example to the benefits of immobilizing an opponent. The “California Kid” had no answer for the Brazilian’s Muay Thai-style leg kicks, and took such severe punishment that he was completely incapacitated and unable to fight.
With the presence of a ground game in the cage, leg kicks in MMA can sometimes leave a fighter at risk of paying for making a mistake. Something a Muay Thai fighter does not have to worry about. However, with the right technique, understanding of distance, and cage IQ, leg kicks can be one of the most important tools a mixed martial artist can take with them into a fight.
Matt Brown vs. Diego Sanchez – UFC Fight Night 120 – 2017
- Slashing Elbow
Matt Brown has often demonstrated some of the best Muay Thai skills in MMA throughout his long career in the sport. However, when he came up against fellow veteran and warrior, Diego Sanchez, he used his understanding of Thailand’s national sport to pull off an excellent knockout win.
As you can see in the clip above, Brown is initially put under pressure by Sanchez, stumbling out of the clinch and landing on his gloves. As he gets back to his feet, Sanchez throws a very lazy kick which Brown catches before walking his hopping opponent backward and towards the cage.
With Sanchez hopping on one leg – and scrambling just to maintain his balance – he leaves himself completely unprotected before his opponent holds his head in place. Brown then slashes a deftly thrown elbow at Sanchez, which causes the former championship contender to fold like a deckchair on the canvas.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson II – Pride FC – 2003
- Knees from the Clinch
There was a time when Wanderlei Silva was considered one of the truly baddest men on the planet. The Brazilian was a brutal striker who fought with such intensity that he genuinely scared observers. If the observers were a little intimidated by “The Axe Murderer,” you can imagine how some of his opponents must have felt when the first bell rang out before a fight.
One of the most incredible displays of Silva’s Muay Thai-style techniques came against former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at Pride Final Conflict in 2003. Silva, who had engaged in a tenacious stand-up rematch with his opponent, brutalized Jackson with a series of knees from the clinch that rendered the American unconscious not long after.
In the clip above, watch how Silva stuns Jackson and presses him against the ropes before clasping his hands behind his head in order to control his neck. With “Rampage” at his mercy, there is only one way things would go.
Tywan Claxton vs Jonny Bonilla-Bowman – Bellator 186 – 2017
- Flying Knee
One of the most spectacular debuts in any major MMA promotion occurred in November 2017 when Tywan Claxton took to the cage against Jonny Bonilla-Bowman at Bellator 186. Claxton, who was certainly one to watch before the bout, earned notoriety around the world for his jaw-dropping Muay Thai-style flying knee that almost took the head clean off his opponent’s shoulders at the 1:29 mark of the first round.
The sheer force generated by Claxton – coupled with his awesome technique and athleticism – resulted in one of the best knockouts of the year. Muay Thai fans will certainly have approved of the way Claxton ended the bout, given how difficult it is to convincingly execute this skill. Landing it in such spectacular circumstances is another thing altogether.