PUNCH! KNOCK HIM OUT! COME ON, KILL EACH OTHER! These were the words that boisterously came out of my mouth back when I was an MMA noob. Watching long bouts of endless grappling seemed boring as my heart yearned for a highlight reel knockout. Most of us with no background in martial arts have been there, haven't we?
As time passed on, the true beauty of MMA unveiled itself in its own complicated way and slowly yet steadily, I began to understand what mixed martial arts truly meant. MMA is equivalent to an All-Star team; it's a potpourri of the best from the best categories. MMA brings together the most elite combat disciplines to have been in existence since the beginning of time and owing to a human being's natural survival instincts, the number of these disciplines that make the overall list is predictably high. They may all seem intertwined and influenced by each other in some technical aspect but individually stand out for their distinctive specializations.
The sport of MMA has evolved over the years and has borrowed various styles that are best suited for a freestyle fight where one can experience his or her creative peak without worrying too much about a particular combat style. There are hardly any fights where the fans get to witness a single martial art in full glory as it's always a melting pot of different art forms.
So which are the most used martial arts in the UFC then? Let's take a look, shall we? Note that the martial arts in this list are mentioned in no particular order.
#1 Muay Thai
The very first exponent of Muay Thai can be traced back to the 18th century when a Thai fighter named Nai Khanomtom was captured by the Burmese. Konbaung Dynasty Khanomtom knocked out ten Burmese fighters in succession and was awarded freedom as a result of the respect he had gained for his inhuman feat. His style of fighting later came to be known as Muay Thai, which transcended to greater heights after King Chulalongkorn came to power in the 19th century.
The national sport of Thailand attained global fame after Thai fighters took their martial arts form to Kickboxing matches around the globe. As time passed by, Muay That became the cornerstone of striking in MMA and the reason behind is its comprehensive nature.
Known as the 'art of 8-limbs', Muay Thai incorporates punches, elbows, kicks, and knees by using the different points of the body such as shins, knees, elbows, and fists. Muay Thai fighters like to mix it up with unpredictable striking combinations which include jabs, hooks, uppercuts, spinning backfists, straight and roundhouse kicks, horizontal elbows, straight knees and of course, the flying knee.
However, in addition to the diverse striking capabilities of Muay Thai, the martial art is known for its clinch which is a definite feature of MMA. Boxers are separated during a clinch in boxing bouts but in Muay Thai and MMA fights, the bout is thankfully not stopped. Thus, Muay Thai fighters are known to be exceptionally dangerous in the clinch as they have an arsenal of elbows and knees that can be used to great effect in the clinch. The different variations in the clinch make Muay Thai is a must-have quality for fighters who wish to be successful in MMA.
Muay Thai should not be confused with Kickboxing as the latter is a two-point system which employs only punches and kicks. Muay Thai is far more advanced and well-suited for MMA (both have relaxed rules), which is why almost every UFC fighter trains to integrate a Muay Thai base in their game plan.
Popular Muay Thai Fighters in the UFC:
Rafael Dos Anjos
The list is endless...
Many iterations of Muay Thai have cropped up in recent years with Greg Jackson's Gaidojutsu being one of the most popular ones of the lot. Gaidojutsu takes elements from Muay Thai, wrestling and Judo to form a tailor-made style for MMA. Look at Jon Jones, a black belt in Gaidojutsu and you would realize the effectiveness Jackson's highly inventive brainchild.