Fight fans! Yesterday was another big day for many of us. Do you know why?
(Don’t feel too bad if you don’t. Me, I was too busy keeping up with the UFC 171 coverage.)
Did you enjoy a St. Patrick’s Day parade yesterday? Maybe, spend a little time in a fine Irish pub? I’ve got a local favorite which has a great old painting of Irish boxing great Barry McGuigan. (Will the next generation feature paintings of Irish MMA greats? We’ll see..)
Sounds good. But, nope, not what I meant. Here’s something you may not know: March 17 is celebrated as Muay Thai Day in Bangkok, a day to honor the sport. In particular, Thais honor the memory and achievements of Nai Khanomtom.
Muay Thai blogger Nopadon Wongpokdee explains at MyMuayThai.com in greater detail, but to be brief: Nai Khanomtom was an 18th Century Thai warrior who was captured by the Burmese. He got his revenge on his captors, earning his freedom, and renown, with his hand-to-hand fighting — incorporating some particularly strong kicks. (Muay Thai is sometimes called “The Science of Eight Limbs” in honor of its diverse weaponry: kicks, punches, elbows, and knees.) Part of Khanomtom’s legacy is a version of the famous ceremonial dance (“Ram Muay”) which is still performed before Muay Thai bouts today.
A few hundred years later, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, one of many MMA fighters who boasts Muay Thai as a base, will look to make some history as he enters the cage for UFC Fight Night 38 this coming Sunday.
He began training the art in his teens, and became one of the standouts of the famous Chute Boxe Academy in Curitiba, Brazil — which would produce battlers like Wanderlei Silva, Pele Landis-Johns, Anderson Silva, and many others. By his early 20’s, Shogun and his brother Murilo “Ninja” were incorporating Muay Thai specialties like roundhouse kicks and flying knees into MMA fights for PRIDE in Japan, and IFC in Brazil.
A decade later, Shogun, now a 32-year old former UFC champion, will look to exact revenge on an old nemesis in Dan Henderson next weekend. The two fought an entertaining, back-and-forth bout in 2012, with Henderson narrowly winning the slug-fest and the decision.
Despite that, Shogun will enter the Octagon for the rematch a (-218) favorite. Why?
Some will point to Henderson’s recent losing streak, including his first ever knockout at the hands (and feet) of Vitor Belfort. The former elite wrestler Henderson has struggled of late, and seems down to his “H-Bomb” right hand, and few other ways, to win.
Sure, it’s been a tough stretch for his opponent. But I also think many observers expect Rua can do much better than his previous performance.
In that bout, Shogun ended up swinging wildly and eating too many punches — rather than slip and advance for sharp counter punches and solid leg kicks, as in his performances against Lyoto Machida. Maybe Shogun doesn’t have the reflexes he once had, but due to his background in Muay Thai, maybe he has a few more weapons left at his disposal than his opponent here.
Rua would seem to have the tools to escape the cage next weekend with a hand raised in victory — like Khanomtom himself, a few hundred years ago — and give us all a little history besides.