How Would They Fare Between the Ropes?
In this era of MMA, the world’s most complete combat sport, Muay Thai still takes a back seat to other striking arts.
Why is that? Muay Thai is arguably the most exciting, explosive striking sport in the world. Instances of spectacular KO victories are incredibly common. Even if a fight doesn’t end in KO, you’re bound to see non-stop, action-packed displays of magnificent striking technique.
In MMA, and particularly in the UFC, the term “elite striker” is attached to many of the sport’s top fighters and champions. For Muay Thai fans in the know, this is a bit of a ludicrous claim if compared to the elite strikers in our sport. Still, it prompts one question again and again: “How would _________ fare in Muay Thai?”
Before I get to my list, I need to set one ground rule:
- Fighters cannot come from a Muay Thai/kickboxing background. That disqualifies fighters like Donald Cerrone, Joanna Champion, Edson Barboza, Anderson Silva, Anthony Pettis, Cris Cyborg, Thiago Alves, etc.
Without further ado, here are the top five UFC fighters that would fare well in the Muay Thai ring:
The Stockton bad boy and Gracie black belt. There is never a boring fight when it comes to long-time pro and UFC veteran, Nick Diaz.
Nick has faced and beaten some of MMA’s top strikers, including Paul “Semtex” Daley, a fighter who comes from a strong kickboxing background. He won against Daley via KO in his early pro years fighting for Strikeforce.
Diaz has excellent boxing and it’s hard to dispute that, as many of his victories have come from his hands despite his superior grappling talent. I believe Nick’s greatest weapon is his mind games; he has the ability to get inside his opponent’s head and make them hesitate or crumble, allowing him to slowly dismantle them with his boxing skills. Regularly training with former WBA and WBC champion, Luisito Espinosa, as well as gold medal boxer, Andre Ward, Nick Diaz is famously known for his lethal Gracie BJJ, but gains his notoriety from his wicked boxing prowess.
Diaz is no stranger to kicking. He does have a background in karate and tae kwan, so you can see him occasionally throwing high and low kicks in his MMA fights.
One question does stick in my mind: Do you think Nick Diaz’s psychological warfare and unique boxing skill would effect a stone-cold Muay Thai fighter?
Jon Jones is considered one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. Despite his knuckle-headed juvenile antics in his personal life, no one can doubt his legitimacy and talent as a straight-up killer.
The 6’4, 205-pound light heavyweight possesses an extensive background in wrestling, but that’s not what comes to mind when you hear “Jon Jones.”
Oblique kicks. Roundhouse kicks. Muay Thai clinch. Spinning back elbows. All the great dynamics of a lethal and seasoned Muay Thai fighter.
Beyond Jon Jones’ explosive takedowns in the cage, his highlight reel is littered with miraculous instances of striking, using all eight limbs artistically. With Jon Jones’ adaptation to Muay Thai techniques, seeing him between the ropes wearing boxing gloves and ready to showcase his pure striking ability would be a true spectacle.
Jose Aldo simply wreaks Muay Thai havoc in his UFC fights.
In his dominant years as featherweight champion, Jose Aldo was used the prime example of Muay Thai in MMA without question. His striking frequency is such that some would find it surprising that the Brazilian from Rio de Janeiro actually has a black belt in his native sport of BJJ. In Aldo’s fights, that BJJ black belt collects dust!
In his entire MMA career, “Scarface” only has TWO victories by submission — the rest are KO/TKO.
The most stunning display of Muay Thai beauty from Aldo was in his bout against Urijah Faber for the WEC in 2010. Jose Aldo obliterated Faber’s legs with devastating low kick combinations that left him bound to crutches afterwards.
In Muay Thai, the 145 division is stacked with competition. Who do you think Aldo would put up a great fight against?
You may have seen this one coming. Love him or hate him, the Notorious One has got hands for days.
Conor is the fastest growing star in UFC history. This Irishman can fight. His striking skill and intelligence is something to marvel at. He’s got it all in his arsenal: the psychological warfare, the speed, the timing and for sure the knockout power.
Fighting as a Southpaw, Conor’s bladed and bouncy stance makes his attacks nearly impossible to read and time. His strong boxing and dexterous kicks put him to a stylistic comparison to Glory fighter, Raymond Daniels.
With over 15 victories by way of knockout, Conor can definitely be considered an elite striking standout. He only has three wins by submission in his MMA career that sit in the shadows of his highlight reel of knockouts. Would Muay Thai rules favor and showcase Conor McGregor’s talents and skills even better?
Rafael Dos Anjos
This former UFC lightweight champion climbed the ranks and solidified his style with savage, destructive Muay Thai striking in the cage.
He has victories over top strikers like Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis. Like Aldo, Dos Anjos has a black belt in BJJ that he uses as decoration on his shelf because Muay Thai is what he chooses to utilize.
The Brazilian is tough as nails and has a pressuring style, walking forward and absorbing shots from his opponents until setting up and landing explosive strikes of his own like his hard left kick to the body and right hook to the head. In Muay Thai, fighters rarely move backwards; all they care about is whatever they hit, they want to destroy.
The Brazilian southpaw is a force to be reckoned with while on his feet even as much as he is off his feet. Muay Thai seems to be a favorite over in Brazil as so many native fighters have adopted it and they’re definitely good at it. Should Rafael make a venture inside the Muay Thai ring to really put those skills to the test?
Who do you think should be on this list? Which Muay Thai fighters would you match with these candidates and why? What if the UFC had a sport merger like Bellator and invited Muay Thai/kickboxing to the promotion?
Leave a comment and share your opinion!
- DJ Miller is a naky muay from Nashville, TN. He began his Muay Thai training in 2008 and accumulated more than 30 amateur fights before turning pro. "Martial arts is in my blood," says Miller. "My father is a third degree black belt in Taekwondo.., I love the experiences that Muay Thai has given me and I love sharing my thoughts what's going on in the Muay Thai world with everyone."