Muay Thai Kickboxing's Influence on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has been heavily influenced by techniques from traditional Muay Thai kickboxing. In its original form, Muay Thai consisted of an arsenal of nine weapons - the head, two fists, two elbows, two knees and two feet. However in modern Muay Thai, both amateur and professional, headbutting an opponent is no longer allowed.
With the success of Muay Thai practitioners in mixed martial arts fighting, the discipline has become a necessary skillset for competitive fighters. However, the influence has been a two way street in that Muay Thai itself has evolved and begun to incorporate hand striking techniques derived from Western boxing.
When Muay Thai fighters compete against fighters of other styles, they will typically emphasize elbow and knee techniques that are unique to Muay Thai. Almost all aspects of Muay Thai utilize a full-body effort. Specifically, punches and kicks involve the rotation of the hips along with an emphasis on deriving power from abdominal muscles.
The punch techniques in Muay Thai used to be very limited, typically comprised of just crosses and circular strikes. However, Western influences, much to the credit of MMA venues, has added the the jab, straight right/cross, hook, and uppercut.
In Muay Thai, the elbow is used in many types of strikes. The most commonly deployed variations are: horizontal, diagonal up or down, uppercut, and downward. Less common are the flying elbow strike and the backward-spinning elbow.
Relatively unique to Muay Thai is the "follow-up elbow". Specifically, this is where an elbow strike is an immediate follow-on to a punch utiling the same arm that is throwing the punch.
The two most common kicks in Muay Thai are the foot jab, and the angle kick. Angle kicks are usually aimed at the ribs or underarm area. The Muay Thai angle kick is often used by MMA competitors. As with most Muay Thai techniques, the angle kick utilizes inertia from a rotation of the body. And often, a Muay Thai fighter will counter rotate their arms to further enhance the force of their kick.
One of the most easy to spot influences of Muay Thai on MMA is the usage of the shin. Muay Thai practitioners condition their shins to be able to exert blows as well as to be a defensive blocking tool.
Lastly, whereas two combatants are separated when they clinch in Western boxing, mixed martial arts matches typically involve the exchange of Muay Thai-derived knee strikes while opponents are in a clinch.