The clinch is an often overlooked aspect of fighting that is just as important as stand-up and ground-fighting. With the widespread use of the sprawl, weak ground fighters with amazing sprawl abilities have been able to distance themselves from wrestlers and dish out punishment in the stand-up. Just take a look at Mirko Cro Cop's career.
But there is one way a skilled wrestler can almost always bring a striker into their world: the clinch. And nobody does it better than Randy Couture.
Randy Couture is a person who will take a punch just so he can get close enough to punish his opponent with his wrestling might and ground and pound. He uses his modified Greco-Roman Wrestling expertise to pin an opponent against the cage and then delivers some dirty boxing damage.
While dirty boxing in the clinch may not be as damaging as, for example, Muay Thai-knees, Randy's style slowly wears an opponent down so that they are likely to make mistakes and lose the fight.
Randy Couture has mastered the clinch so well some believe that this skill, along with his unrivaled fight game plans, gives him a good chance against "The Last Emperor": Fedor Emelianenko.
Wanderlei Silva is another fighter known for his ability to deal carnage in the clinch. There is nobody out there in MMA that epitomizes Muay Thai-knees, in the clinch, more than "The Axe Murderer."
In the late PrideFC organization his knees in the clinch were feared especially after a devastating knockout of Quintin "Rampage" Jackson by repeated knees to the head while solidly trapping him in the clinch, Muay-Thai-style, with his arms around Rampage's neck.
In WEC 35, a somewhat unknown fighter impressed new fans with his Judo skills. His name is Hiromitsu Miura. If you understand any kind of martial art you will know those repeated judo throws executed by Hiromitsu Miura were the stuff of legend.
I am not one to believe Dana White, but he was right about one thing—the lighter weights sure do put on some of the most exciting fights. The first time Hiromitsu Miura used one of his Judo throws was a stunning moment. I wasn't sure I was watching MMA anymore, but I was.
This was the evolution of Mixed Martial Arts, and while some say MMA techniques and styles have reached their peak, I politely disagree.
Unfortunately, Hiromitsu Miura's Judo skills alone were not enough to win him the fight. Carlos Condit was the less tired fighter, and he won the fight that day.
Whether it is Greco-Roman Wrestling, the Muay Thai clinch, or Judo, clinch-fighting skills are an important and often underdeveloped aspect of an MMA fighter. Even the greatest fighters of our time, including Fedor Emelianenko using his Sambo, and Anderson Silva using Muay Thai, all prey on those lacking clinch-fighting abilities.