Muay Thai Is Here To Stay
These days, if you’re looking to pick up an MMA discipline, it’s hard to justify learning any other than the one employed by current Middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Muay Thai techniques have been used in MMA before (see Wanderlei Silva’s wins over Quinton Jackson), but never before Silva has a fighter used such strict Muay Thai technique to this level of success. He’s clearly the most talented Middleweight in the world and has a good chance of being labeled the most talented of all time.
His picture perfect Muay Thai technique works so well for two reasons. First, it uses more striking points (8 in total) than any other martial art. This allows for Anderson to unleash a quick knee or elbow in between his usual repertoire (or any fighter’s repertoire) of punches and kicks. Examining his last fight at UFC 77 against Rich Franklin, Silva uses long strikes to find the clinch, and then mixes knees in with his usual bag of tricks. The knees to the midsection, while damaging in their own right, also disable Franklin by disrupting his breathing, something that no other techniques can boast. Once one fighter can change the breathing patterns of his opponent, it’s usually not far from the end.
Second, the technique is almost impossible to defend against. If a fighter chooses to trade punches with a Muay Thai expert, he’ll drop him with a few quick punches or leg kicks. Anderson featured this in his fight with Chris Leben, unleashing roundhouse kicks and uppercuts like he was putting on a demonstration. His striking was so accurate, he didn’t need to rely on the clinch to lead him to victory. If the fighter wants to clinch, however, he should prepare to have a barrage of knees jammed into his midsection. Both fights against Rich Franklin are a more than clear example of this reality. The last choice is the ground, but that’s no good either as most Muay Thai experts have a working knowledge of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well. Silva submitted the Machado BJJ Black Belt Travis Lutter for the only the second time in his long career. Submission master Matt Lindland accounted for the other Lutter submission. In Silva, you have a fighter who can grapple like Lindland, clinch like Wanderlei, and strike like Arlovski. When Muay Thai is at its best, it embodies the strengths of all disciplines.
Fighters all around the world have begun to take note and have since popularized the learning of Muay Thai, starting schools all around the country. While the United States Muay Thai Association has been in existence for the last sixteen years, it has just started to catch fire, now offering a variety of resources for the budding Muay Thai expert. A simple google search for “Muay Thai Schools U.S.” now offers 771,000 search results. In my hometown alone, I can count nine different schools, a sure sign that the art of the eight limbs has arrived, and more importantly, is here to stay.