Before I fought MMA and won the UFC title, I was lucky to have boxed when I was a teenager, training with guys like Michael Nunn and Antwun Echols.
I fought #kickboxing, and I fought traditional martial arts before the UFC, so I kind of got a head start on everybody. I also kind of got kind of a unique look at the way striking was supposed to be done, so when I call a Muay Thai event for #LionFight, I’m very aware that I’m watching the best strikers in the world.
Coming from Iowa, I wrestled my entire life, from age five into college, so I understand the benefits of grappling in MMA. But, because full-rules Muay Thai was illegal in the United States for a long time (I couldn’t throw elbows in a Muay Thai fight when I was fighting up in the circuit in Chicago, it was more #K1 rules stuff), America is honestly behind the times in terms of Muay Thai.
We’re still developing a lot of talent here, and when I when I watch a lot of MMA, I’ll watch a lot of these guys' striking. Honestly, at times, it’s unpalatable for me to watch some of it because they’re so rough around the edges. When you watch Lion Fight, it’s aesthetically pleasing. There are vicious attacks; it’s all very fast, very precise, and very explosive, and that’s the way it’s supposed to look, and that’s why it’s very important for people to see what striking is truly supposed to look like at the top level.
Obviously, wrestling and grappling are still extremely important in MMA, so I understand the American wrestling style and mentality. Those guys wrestled their whole life, so striking doesn’t come as easily. But for MMA guys who are still developing, I think all MMA camps should send all their fighters to Muay Thai camps and learn how to strike correctly for a while.
“Smokin” Jo Nattawut, who headlines tonight’s Lion Fight 35 Card, is a great example of the sophistication of #MuayThai striking. Jo has quickly become my favorite Muay Thai fighter to watch. Fortunately, his name is easy enough to remember, unlike his opponent, Kengsiam Nor Sripueng.
Kengsiam is a two time Max Muay Thai gold belt champion from Thailand making his American debut. He’s an A-list level fighter in Thailand with 65 victories and a ton of experience, even though he’s only 22. He should be a good test for Jo Nattawut.
Unfortunately, Antonina Shevchenko won’t be fighting tonight. She’s a blast to watch, and an excellent technician, but she’ll be back with Lion Fight soon enough. And, in the meantime, Naruepol “Mr. GQ” Fairtex, a guy with 179 victories, will be bumped up to co-main.
I was looking forward to watching Antonina, but all these Lion Fight cards are so stacked when it comes to Muay Thai that you’re just not gonna find a crappy fighter. This is the elite of the elite.
Lion Fight 35 (March 3, 2017, 9 P.M. EST / 6 P.M. PST on AXS TV):
- Jo Nattawut (60-6-2) vs. Kengsiam Nor Sripueng (65-12-5)
- Naruepol Fairtex (179-46-5) vs. Amadeu Cristiano (51-15)
- Chip Moraza-Pollard (2-0) vs. Scott Noble (1-0)
- Jeri Sitzes (33-13) vs. Andra Aho (6-1)
- Yeison Berdugo (2-2) vs. Jafar Toshev (0-0)