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30th Mar 2016

This is why we need to see Muay Thai legend Saenchai fight in the UFC

Make it happen

Ben Kenyon

If you’re a fan of the UFC you want to watch the world’s top fighters having it out.

That’s always been the allure of the UFC since the days when guys like Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock ruled the cage – back when they didn’t even have weight classes, gloves or more than two rules.

But while we’ve had legendary exponents in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, boxing and even karate competing, there is one fighting art that we’ve never seen grace the octagon in its purest form – Muay Thai.

It’s a strange paradox in that some of the UFC’s greatest champions like Jose Aldo and Anderson Silva have Thai boxing as their most potent weapon, yet we’ve never had any of Thai boxing’s greatest champions competing in the organisation.

But we could be about to see one Muay Thai legend finally cross the divide and have a crack at fighting in the UFC.

The four-weight Thai champion Saenchi has been dropping ever more un-subtle hints that he’s about to make a foray into MMA, with this latest photo of him adorned in the UFC’s famous Reebok fightwear.


He’s even hinted he could be training with Tristar Gym’s Firas Zahabi and ex-UFC champ Georges St Pierre.

The man is a titan of the sport of Thai Boxing and his stand-up game is truly unique.

Yes we know that he could struggle badly against wrestlers, BJJ specialists or anyone else with any half-decent take-down and ground game but the pure romantic in us would love to see this 35-year-old Thai warrior compete in the UFC.

The four-weight champion is a proper McGregor fight-any-man-anywhere-any-time kind of guy and had won 17 fights on the bounce in the past two years.

If you needed any more reasons to want to see him in the Octagon, here are a few…

KO power

You can appreciate great wrestlers like GSP and his 25-minute masterclasses against the likes of Dan Hardy. You can admire the efficient and effective jiu jitsu of the likes of current heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum.

But there’s nothing that gets the fans going like a good knock-out. That’s why fighters from Chuck Lidell to Conor McGregor really electrify the sport.

Saenchai has proven time and time again that he can put a man’s lights out with any one of his ‘eight limbs’.

The four-time Lumpinee champion has floored fighters with his kicks, his fists, his knees and some pretty devastating elbows.

Sen elb

He even KO’d an opponent with a throw back in 2005.

What makes it even more exciting is some of these traditional Thai techniques are rarely, if ever, witnessed inside the octagon.

We’ve seen the damage that MMA-orientated Muay Thai can do (just look at what Anderson Silva’s flying knee did to Michael Bisping’s face at UFC London).

But the 28-year veteran Saenchai has some ridiculous shots in his locker – and it would be intriguing to see how UFC fighters deal with the unorthodox threat of this crafty southpaw.


The UFC has witnessed some great kicks from fighters down the years. There’s something awesome about seeing bloke laid out cold from a spectacular head kick.

Mirko Cro Cop did it for fun back in the day…until he got sparked out at his own game with a truly magnificent shot by Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 70.

Sure the likes of Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Conor McGregor have an impressive kicking repertoire, but they’re nothing compared to Saenchai.

While his legendary Thai compatriot Buakaw is known for the crippling ferocity of his kicks, Saenchai is famed for his timing, accuracy and sheer ingenuity in the kicking department.

The UFC will have never seen anything like it before.

Flying axe kick to the face? Okay…

Sen ax

A jumping inside leg kick? Here you go…


A flying scissor kick? Eat that…


True Muay Thai

Thai Boxing is one of the most effective weapons a fighter has in his stand-up arsenal. You only have to look at lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos to see how he uses it to pressure, beat down and overwhelm his opponents. He’s an animal.

Similarly former featherweight champion Jose Aldo brutalises fighters with that low and scything Thai leg kick.

But the Thai boxing used by MMA fighters is very pared down and functional.

The most straightforward and direct techniques have been taken from the traditional Thai sport and unleashed on the octagon. The leg kick, the knee, the elbow. Simple but brutally effective.

That’s where the introduction of someone of Saenchai’s calibre would be incredibly interesting.


Just as in the embryonic days of the UFC where you’d have a pure grappler facing a boxer or a taekwondo specialist, Saenchai is a Muay Thai thoroughbred the likes of which the organisation has never seen. In short, he’s an unknown quantity on this stage.

It’s hard to say how well many of his Thai techniques would translate into MMA – particularly against wrestlers and BJJ specialists.

But that’s the exciting thing. Saenchai is an incredibly dexterous fighter who can knock people out with either leg as easy as he can smash through a guard with an elbow.


This is what makes all strikers great. When fighters can’t predict your movement patterns or what you’re going to land next, you know they’re in dangerous waters.

It’s always the shot you don’t see coming that does the most damage. Just ask Jose Aldo.

Anderson Silva was supreme at this. Pulling a fight-ending shot out of nowhere. We saw it time and time again in his record-breaking reign at the top of the middleweight division.

If you have watched any of Saenchai’s fights you’ll see this same mercurial talent for unleashing unexpected shots from every conceivable angle.


He’s particularly good at landing that killer blow when opponents are at the most vulnerable, after over-extending on a punch or going for a wild roundhouse.

The man has been fighting for three decades for f**k’s sake. Some of his potential UFC opponents won’t have even been alive that long. He knows every trick in the book.


Whether it’s Bisping with his trash talk, McGregor with his pre-fight mind games or Nate Diaz with his X-rated antics, fight fans want to be entertained.

You can be the greatest fighter of all time, but if you can put on a show, what’s it all for?

You only have to look at Floyd Mayweather’s historic 49th fight against Andre Berto – it only had a dismal 400,000 pay-per-view buys.

Contrast that with the 1.5 million who paid to see Diaz humble McGregor and you can see the value of entertainment and putting on a show for the fans in the fight game.

Saenchai is a classic showman in the ring. He fights with flair and panache. He’ll throw out a spectacular technique and then revel in the crowds reaction.


He’ll goad an opponent into shooting in and making a mistake so he can punish them.

And he just loves putting people on their arses.


The UFC needs more of this kind of stuff. Sign him up, Dana.