Strike First - Muay Thai's Role in MMA
Muay Thai is considered to be the premier striking art in combat sports. A lot of people believe that statement to be true. After all, it is also known as the art of 8 limbs and it gives its practitioners a variety of weapons at their disposal. There are the fists, elbows, knees, and shins. As formidable a line-up of tools as you can have in any hand-to-hand combat scenario.
One of the ways that Muay Thai is perceived as the best striking art is because of its use in Mixed Martial Arts or MMA. This is significant because of how big MMA has become.
MMA’s Explosion & Impact in Martial Arts
In recent years, there is no doubt that MMA has been at the forefront of the martial arts movement. The biggest MMA promotions in the world, such as the UFC, have built up MMA to such an extent that it’s seen as the ultimate showcase for martial arts. It’s actually what casual fans think of whenever martial arts are mentioned these days.
Many argue that MMA is perhaps the most authentic display of the practical side of martial arts. They say that it is the most realistic since it utilizes everything from striking to grappling. So can Muay Thai be considered the number one choice for striking in MMA? Let’s take a good look at Muay Thai’s role in MMA.
Muay Thai in MMA
Muay Thai as the main striking base in MMA makes sense. That has been proven time and time again in actual practice and not just in theory. In MMA, fighters are allowed to strike using their fists, elbows, knees, and feet/shins, which is also the case in Muay Thai.
The more weapons you can use and are good at in MMA, the better. And if you are a fighter that prefers to strike, then you would prefer to end the fight while standing up. No other striking art gives you a better chance to do that than Muay Thai.
Even those MMA fighters that are primarily grapplers need to learn some form of striking. All fights start standing up, so those who come from a wrestling or BJJ background will still need to learn how to strike. Again, Muay Thai makes the most sense because it offers the most diverse set of weapons.
One of the more underrated aspects of Muay Thai that make it great for MMA is its clinch game. Clinching is one aspect of Muay Thai that makes it distinct from other striking arts and to some, this is why it is the best suited for MMA. Fighters that know how to clinch have an advantage and can use it in a variety of ways. They could go for attacks while clinching their opponents with their knees or elbows. Or they could use it to transition and take their opponents to the ground. Either way, the clinch is a great way to dominate opponents.
Another reason Muay Thai is a great choice for use in MMA is the hard training and sparring. Among the true tests of the effectiveness of a martial art or combat sport is the presence of sparring in its training. That’s one of the best ways to prepare fighters and practitioners for actual fights and/or self-defense situations.
This leads us to another great advantage of Muay Thai and that’s the extreme level of conditioning. Muay Thai fighters are known to be some of the most excellently conditioned fighters on the planet and the hard training is mainly responsible for that. In MMA, you need to be in the best possible condition to compete, given that the rounds are longer at 5 minutes and the fight could go anywhere at any time. Muay Thai’s conditioning gets you ready for all that.
The Best Way to Adapt Muay Thai into MMA
So what is the best way to use or adapt Muay Thai into MMA? Obviously, some adjustments need to be made. But that is true for any striking art that will be used in MMA. While the adjustments needed are quite minor, they are still important if the art of 8 limbs will be successfully adapted by a fighter to his MMA game.
First of all, you need to take a wider stance in MMA. This will help you prepare for the incoming takedown attempts that are sure to come your way. The traditional Muay Thai stance, which is more upright, will not be of much use when you are competing inside the cage.
You also cannot put most of your weight on your back food, which is what most Muay Thai fighters do. This helps them when they want to fire off teeps or push kicks quickly and it also helps them block incoming roundhouse kicks easily. In MMA, you will be better off if you are light on your feet so you can utilize your footwork with in and out and lateral movement.
Lastly, you will need to take other skills and fighting styles into account, particularly grappling. You are not just going to compete with other strikers but also with fighters who have great wrestling and submission skills. Learning those other skills and how to defend will help you immensely. Of course, it will also be great if you learn to blend all of those other skills with your Muay Thai skills.
One thing is clear, you cannot go wrong with choosing Muay Thai as your main base for striking in MMA. It has a very clear role to play in the sport and it’s certainly a major one that can help lead any MMA fighter to success!