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October 9, 2023

The Interplay of BJJ and Muay Thai in MMA

Justin Purcell

The Interplay of BJJ and Muay Thai in MMA

In the dynamic arena of mixed martial arts (MMA), various combat disciplines intersect. When they meet, the result is an explosive showcase of technique, strategy, and athleticism. Among these disciplines, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Muay Thai stand out, each bringing its distinct essence and approach to a fight. Jiu Jitsu offers sophisticated ground fighting skills, emphasizing submissions and control, while Muay Thai mesmerizes with its powerful and versatile striking arsenal. 

But how do these two seemingly disparate arts harmonize within the context of MMA? In this article, we break down the interplay between BJJ and Muay Thai, shedding light on their individual roles and their combined might in shaping the sport we celebrate today. Whether you’re looking to refine your own fighting style or simply wish to deepen your understanding of MMA, the intricate dance of grappling and striking has undeniably captivated fans and fighters alike.

Image: Forrest Bishop.

The role of BJJ in MMA

BJJ plays a crucial role in MMA, providing fighters with techniques to control their opponents on the ground and secure fight-ending submissions. In MMA, a solid BJJ foundation can give a fighter the confidence to confront a ground fight, where they can use chokes, joint locks, and positional control to their advantage.

Furthermore, BJJ skills can be a lifeline in defensive scenarios, helping a fighter escape from dangerous positions or evade submission attempts. Without a competent understanding of Jiu Jitsu, a fighter opens themselves up to massive liability, and denies themselves a complete understanding of what it means to be in a professional fight. 

The role of Muay Thai in MMA

While BJJ provides a ground game framework for MMA fighters, Muay Thai equips fighters with a wide range of striking techniques. A monochromatic fighter who is only good on the ground can quickly find themselves in deep trouble if their opponent is adept at stuffing takedowns, or reading shots (see Askren Vs. Masvidal).

From the earliest days of the UFC, kickboxing proved itself to be effective for many MMA fighters, and continues to be a prominent fighting style to this day. While there are many different styles of kickboxing, a fighter skilled in Muay Thai will equip themselves with the full arsenal of weapons the human body brings to bear, making themselves a formidable opponent in a fight.  

Image: Forrest Bishop.

[Martial Arts Synergy: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai]

How BJJ and Muay Thai complement each 0ther in MMA

Early on in the UFC, it was the grapplers who held the trump card. Royce Gracie, Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock dominated in the early days. However as the years went by, it became apparent that an over-emphasis on grappling left these fighters vulnerable to men who could kickbox and grapple.

The world finally got a true display of the future of Mixed Martial Arts in UFC 13, when Tito Ortiz had his debut against Guy Mezger. 30 years on, the UFC has grown to produce numerous hall of famers from Bas Rutten to Jon Jones, all masters of both striking and grappling.

From the MMA hall of fame to local fighting tournaments, having a strong foundation in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai has proven not just beneficial but indispensable in the ever-evolving world of mixed martial arts. With a solid understanding of their individual strengths to shared synergies, a well-rounded fighter knows when to weild both striking and grappling to dominate in the MMA arena.

Together, BJJ and Muay Thai provide a holistic set of skills that address the diverse challenges posed in an MMA fight. As professional fighting grows and transforms, the fusion of these two disciplines in the arena will undoubtedly remain at its heart for years to come. 

Image: Forrest Bishop


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