Mixed Martial Arts is a sport that incorporates many different disciplines of combat. To become a champion in the sport, a fighter must be extremely well rounded. As the sport grows older, it is ever evolving with elite athletes and coaches. As Charles Darwin taught us with his “Survival of the Fittest” Theory, evolution will continue to increase the quality of the combatants. In the grand scheme of the sport this is a great thing but unfortunately everything in life comes with a cost. The cost of evolution in MMA has led to the death of the most beautifully violent technique the world has ever seen, the Muay Thai Clinch.
Clinch work will always exist in MMA, but the nostalgic portrayal of the clinch that lives in many MMA daydreams is of a far different version. The version that saw Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva unleash a lifetime of pain on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s granite chin. The version Anderson Silva used to make UFC Legend and Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin look nothing more than a Math Teacher. A version that made the world terrified of feeling interlocked fingers placed upon the back of their neck.
The undeniable truth, as much as it hurts, is that we will never again see the Muay Thai Clinch successfully used as it once was. It is more likely we see a referee breaking up two fighters in the clinch than seeing a knee landed to the face. The influx of high level Freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestlers into the MMA world has eliminated the true Muay Thai Clinch as a legitimate in fight threat. If a fighter is to lift their leg in close quarters it is almost certain they will be taken down, even if they land the strike. The risk of this once lethal technique significantly outweighs the reward and thus each event it grows closer and closer to extinction.
Only a few chapters have been written so far in the history book of MMA but no matter what comes in the future, I will always flip to the Muay Thai dominant era first.