10 Phenomenal Muay Thai Fighters And Their Defining Skills

Trying to create a “best” list is a tough challenge for any sport. You can include athletes who have the most wins on their records and the ones who have captured the most accolades, but inevitably, “the best” are always determined by the preferences of fans, each of whom has their criteria for judging who deserves to be featured.

Making this list for Muay Thai is far more daunting. In a sport that is so diverse, with many styles and such a depth of history, there were a ridiculous number of contenders to choose from. Regardless, we soldiered on and selected our list of the 10 most phenomenal Nak Muays of all time, each of whom represents the sport and fighter’s identity in their own way. We’ve even included some footage of each of these legends in action so you can fully appreciate them in all their glory.


1) Samart Payakaroon: The Highest IQ In Muay Thai

“The Jade Faced Tiger,” Samart is a four-division Lumpinee champion who reached the pinnacle of the sport during the hyper-competitive, Golden Era of Muay Thai. Affectionately called “The Muhammad Ali of Muay Thai” for his dominant career, Samart is an expert in all areas of Muay Thai technique. Though he is best known for his evasive footwork and defensive teep which he used to control the pace and range of a fight, the reason he truly deserves a spot on this list is for his incredible ring intelligence, knowing what his opponent’s strengths were and adapting his style to defeat them.

Samart retired from Muay Thai with a record of 130-18-2, with wins over notable adversaries including Namphon Nongkeepahuyuth, Namkubuan, and Samransak.

This fight, against Panomtoanlek Hapalang, showcases Samart at his very best. Using little more than a jab, a teep, and evasive footwork Samart wears his aggressive opponent down until he finds the opening he needs to end the fight in the very first round.


2) Saenchai: The Most Entertaining Muay Femur

Saenchai Muaythaigym will undoubtedly be found in any list of Muay Thai greats. He has more Bangkok Stadium and World Titles than we can fit into this article and wins over some of modern Muay Thai’s biggest names including Liam Harrison, Singdam, and Petchboonchu.

Despite all of these achievements, the quality that truly makes Saenchai a living legend is his exciting brand of Muay Femur in which he blends acrobatics with lightning-fast strikes and an immense ring IQ, all of which allow him to use the aggression of larger opponents against them, countering their heavy strikes with his unconventional counters, including his trademark “Cartwheel Kick.”

The above highlight reel gives you a taste of the flamboyant and exciting brand of Muay Femur that Saenchai has used to entertain crowds of Muay Thai fans in a career of 378 fights and 327 wins.


3) Dany Bill: The Inspirational Muay Farang

In the height of the Golden Era, when Thai champions were revered as the best strikers on the planet, French-Cameroonian, Dany Bill set himself the impossible task of relocating to Bangkok to test himself against the best that the nation had to offer. Unlike many Western fighters who challenged the Thai skillset with tremendous power and weaponized cardio, Bill faced them with a prodigal Muay Femur skillset unseen in a foreigner at that time.

Bill won his first world title against the fearsome Den Muangsurin. It was a belt he held for seven years while collecting wins over other Muay Thai legends, Orono, Sangtiennoi, and Ramon Dekkers on his path to a sensational 115-11 record.


4) Petchboonchu: The Muay Khao Master

Not only is Petchboonchu FA Group the most fearsome clinch and knee fighter in Muay Thai history, but he also has 14 World and Stadium titles to his name, making him the most decorated Muay Thai World Champion the sport has ever seen.

An aggressive Muay Khao fighter, Petchboonchu wasn’t known for exhibiting the most “beautiful” Muay Thai and it was often his immense strength and cardio that saw him defeat his opponents in brutal wars of attrition. This style of fighting gained him wins over the likes of Singdam, Yodwicha, Pakorn, and the legendary Saenchai (on three occasions).

The above fight shows the dominance of Petchboonchu in the clinch. In this bout Petchboonchu starts on the back foot, allowing Saenchai to stalk him across the ring until the end of the second round when he changes paces, smothering the Muay Femur in the clinch to grind out a well-deserved win and retaining his 135lb Lumpinee title.


5) Anuwat Kaewsamrit: The Man With Iron Hands

Muay Mat is one of the most difficult styles of Muay Thai to master. Punches are conditionally scoring weapons in stadium Muay Thai, so a fighter needs to have exceptional hands if they want to beat kick and knee fighters to become a stadium champion.

Anuwat Kaewsamrit, known as “The Iron Hands of Siam,” is one Muay Thai legend who not only reached the top of the sport with his knockout hands, but he also used them to gain the holy trinity of Muay Thai belts, becoming the champion of Bangkok’s three major stadiums in the early 2000s. He was such a Muay Mat prodigy that he even won his first belt, the Rajadamnern Mini-Flyweight title, after only 35 fights.

Anuwat’s devastating punches led him to 108 wins from 152 fights, with wins over the likes of Liam Harrison, Lerdsila, and Singdam.

Anuwat’s Muay Mat prowess is displayed in exemplary fashion in this 2005 bout against the legendary “Eel,” Lerdsila. In the early rounds, Anuwat applies controlled pressure and cuts off the ring while he chops away at his Muay Femur opponent’s legs to slow and weaken his kicks. Then, in the later rounds, he increases the pace and power of his punches, resulting in a round 4 KO victory.


6) Namkabuan Nongkeepayuth: The Ring Genius

In Muay Thai, there isn’t a style of fighting that is superior to all others. Any champion that has mastered one of Muay Thai’s central styles can be defeated by a fighter who can expose the weaknesses in their techniques and, in a sport so diverse, it is rare to find a fighter that has mastered more than one style.

This is what makes Namkabuan so exceptional. Known as “The Ring Genius,” not only for his incredible IQ but for the way that he could easily transition between fighting styles, alternating between offensive and defensive fighting and using all eight of Muay Thai’s limbs with deadly precision. Opponents could never prepare for him, because they couldn’t predict the gameplan he would employ in fights and it was rare that anyone could assert their will on Namkubuan long before he changed gears, disrupting the rhythm of the fight.

This style allowed Namkubuan to win several titles including the 130lb Lumpinee Stadium Championship, which he retained for 6 straight years while accumulating wins over the likes of Lamnanoon, Ramon Dekkers, and Sangtiennoi and a record of 266-15-2.

This bout against Sangtiennoi highlights the diversity of Nambakuan’s unique and bewildering style. He changes pace and style in each round of the fight, showcasing his punching, kicking, clinching, and counter-fighting all whilst switching stances and exploding onto his opponent with agile, jumping techniques.


7) Apidej Sit-Hirun: The Fighter Of The 20th Century

Across the world of martial arts, fans have always idolized the fighters who have overcome adversity, rising from obscurity to become iconic champions and in Muay Thai no one exemplifies this more than Apidej Sit-Hurin.

Born into the poverty of a fishing village in 1941, Apidej started fighting at the age of 12 as a way of supporting his family. After a successful run of fights in the rural stadiums, Apidej was gifted the moniker of “The Golden Leg” for the tremendous power of his roundhouse kicks, a weapon that was responsible for many of his wins.

To this day, Apidej is lauded as the hardest kicker of all time. It’s a title he earned after breaking both of Sompong Charoenmuang’s arms in their iconic 1963 bout. In a career spanning 351 fights Apidej won a whopping 340, capturing 7 welterweight titles across the Thai stadiums and earning him the award of “Fighter Of The 20th Century,” proving that it doesn’t matter where you come from in martial arts, anything is possible with a dream and the discipline to follow it.

The above highlight reel showcases the bone-crushing power of Apidej’s amazing kicks.


8) Hippy Singmanee: The Genius Of The South

Hippy Singmanee tops many of Muay Thai’s “greatest” lists, and for good reason. The Muay Femur from the South of Thailand was renowned for many aspects of his Muay Thai skillset including his IQ, his deadly head kick and his warrior spirit that saw him face and defeat many heavier opponents over the course of his career. Despite this, it is often his perfect technique that fans refer to when his merits are discussed because, despite looking effortless, every one of his strikes concealed devastating power.

Hippy hailed from Thailand’s Southern Province of Nakhon Si Thammarat where his fight career started in a successful fashion. After a string of wins in the rural stadiums he had his first fight in Bangkok at 15 and soon became a dominant champion, capturing both the 105lb and 108lb division titles between 1986-1988. Soon, Hippy was regularly matched to fight opponents up to 20lb heavier than him in close and entertaining bouts in which he regularly came out victorious.

Hippy attributes his success against stronger and heavier opponents to accuracy and timing, but with a record of 161 wins with 72 knockouts there is no doubt that he also carried an uncharacteristic amount of power in his kicks for a fighter with such a slight build.

This iconic third bout between Hippy and Karuhat Sor. Supawan for the vacant 108lb Lumpinee title shows how Hippy could maintain a relaxed composure, even when he’s being stalked down by a three-time stadium champion for five straight rounds.


9) Namsaknoi: The Most Dominant Champion Of All Time

As one of the longest reigning champions in Lumpinee Stadium history and with only 15 defeats in his 300-fight career, Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn is undoubtedly deserving of a spot on any greatest of all time lists.

Like many of his contemporaries, Namsaknoi started Muay Thai young and began fighting at age eight to help support his family. When he turned 12 years old, he relocated to Bangkok, fighting out of Kiatsingnoi Gym for a number of years until, in 1999, he was awarded the coveted Sportswriters Authority Fighter Of The Year award and was subsequently purchased by Por Pramuk gym.

Namsaknoi was revered as a high-level Muay Femur, using exceptional timing and skill to defeat his opponents on the scorecards rather than hunting for knockouts. This changed whenever he was matched against other technical counter-fighters when he would famously switch gears and embody an aggressive Muay Khao style to clinch and knee his way to victory.

Namsaknoi’s incomparable dominance has seen him ceremoniously granted the nickname of “The Emperor.” The title is appropriate considering that over the course of his career, Namsaknoi reigned supreme over three separate Lumpinee weight categories, the final being the 135lb division, whose title he held from 2000-2006, and only relinquished on his retirement.

The above footage shows Namsaknoi (Blue) facing the legendary “Vampire of Knees,” Lamnanoon Sor Sumalee (red) for the Lumpinee Super-featherweight Title in 1999.


10) Sakmongkol: The Quintessential Southpaw

Southpaw fighters are both feared and revered across all of fight sports and in the world of Muay Thai, there isn’t a Southpaw whose name carries more respect than Sakmongkol Sithchuchok. His left leg was his preferred weapon and one he wielded with devastating effect, launching it like a rocket into the bodies of just about every big name of the 90s including Ramon Dekkers, Jongsanan Fairtex, Orono, and John Wayne Parr.

While his left leg was undoubtedly one of the strongest in Muay Thai, Sakmongkol’s heart couldn’t be underestimated. He was more than willing to take a shot to give one back. This resulted in him being a part of many fast-paced and action-packed wars which culminated in him being awarded the prestigious Sportswriter’s Association Fight Of The Year award 3 times between 1996 and 1999.

His 1993 fight against Jongsanan Fairtex (below) is still revered as one of the most brutal fights in Muay Thai history and while it doesn’t highlight his southpaw skillset, it does show the imposing presence and indomitable will that Sakmongkol brought to the ring throughout his career.

It was this combination of heart, power, and southpaw skill that led Sakmongkol to a career record of 231-20-4 with three Lumpinee and five WMC World Titles to his resume.


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