If you want to talk about Muay Thai fighters that bring the most action to the ring, those with the Muay Mat style lead the conversation.
Of all the approaches to the art of eight limbs, Muay Mat is probably the most fan-friendly – particularly for Western audiences and casual viewers.
These athletes have a gung-ho approach. They’re aggressive, go all-out for the KO, and train to absorb almost as much punishment as they dish out.
The main weapons of a Muay Mat are their punches and low kicks. In a sport that traditionally values kicks and knees to the body and head more highly, that often puts them at a disadvantage if a bout goes to the scorecards. However, these competitors’ high knockout rates mean the judges often aren’t needed.
History is littered with legendary Muay Mat, including many from outside Thailand, but these guys stand out from the crowd as the most beloved.
Top of the list of Muay Mat is the man known as “The Iron Hands of Siam” – Anuwat Kaewsamrit.
This man had two of the heaviest hands in the history of the sport, and they made him a fixture on Thai TV during his heyday.
He would push forward, walk through his opponents’ strikes, and pay them back with interest. Even legends of the game who were renowned for their durability were finished by Anuwat.
Iconic names like Lerdsila Phuket Top Tem, Singdam Kiatmoo9, Singtongnoi Por Telakun, and Liam Harrison were all victims of Anuwat’s thunderous firsts and lethal leg kicks.
Plus, his longevity and list of titles are remarkable. He won his first Rajadamnern Stadium World Championship belt in 1998, and went on to win four more, with his last coming in 2010.
He also claimed a Lumpinee Stadium World Title, the Sports Writers Association of Thailand Fighter of the Year award (the most prestigious prize in Thailand) two years in a row, and a cabinet full of other World Championship belts.
Many fans might know Sagat Petchyindee as the man who inspired the makers of Street Fighter to name their Muay Thai character after him, but there is far more to him than that.
Sagat is regarded as one of the greatest competitors of all time thanks to his capture of multiple Lumpinee and Rajadamnern titles during the ultra-competitive golden age of Muay Thai.
Sagat was a master of technique, and was capable of being graceful in the ring, but that is certainly not what he is best known for.
He is remembered as a force of nature with dynamite in his hands. Of course, he possessed a near-perfect arsenal of other strikes, but his record is littered with the wreckage of foes that fell to the force of his piston-like punches.
Even the tightest of guards could not stop Sagat from finding his mark and battering his opponents into submission.
The man known as “The Crusher” and “Doctor KO” was an absolute bull in the ring. Coban Lookchaomaesaitong was a relentless power puncher who most opponents found impossible to stop.
Even if he had his kick caught, Coban would blast his rivals with a hail of punches until they relinquished their grip – either by choice, or because they went down.
He had no fear of taking a punch to land one of his own, particularly his southpaw cross, which authored the demise of countless victims.
Compared to many of the greats, Coban’s résumé is not littered with Thai stadium belts, though he did capture a Lumpinee World Title.
He also captured several World Championships outside the traditional Muay Thai meccas. Several of his greatest triumphs came outside his homeland, which was not as common in the 1990s as it is now.
Coban fought and beat a host of Westerners, including Danny Bill and Dida Diafat, but he is probably best known for the unprecedented first-round KO of Ramon Dekkers that started a legendary rivalry.
The late Ramon “The Diamond” Dekkers is the pioneer of Muay Thai outside the sport’s homeland. Many Thais – especially those who shared the ring with him – regard him as the greatest farang (foreign) fighter.
Before the Dutchman’s rise to fame, many Westerners would only face Thais in custom-rules bouts on their home turf. Many also made sure they had a size advantage in these contests.
Dekkers was not afraid to travel to their home turf and take on the Thais at their own game. His Dutch style of striking with powerful punching combinations gave top-quality opponents tons of problems and won him a legion of fans.
He was the first farang to defeat a reigning Lumpinee champion, but his most notable fights came against Coban. After losing their first fight, Dekkers not only beat the iron-jawed Thai icon, he stopped him. These rivals fought twice more and split a pair of decisions.
Dekkers was so exciting, many Muay Thai purists found a new appreciation for Dekkers’ heavy-handed style.
Perhaps most significantly of all, his success inspired a generation of athletes to embrace the art of eight limbs. For that, he received recognition from the Thai royal family.
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