Clinch Fighting and the MMA Glove
One of the most important fighting skills needed by the MMA fighter is the clinch. Clinch fighting has been known and is extensively used in a number of fighting styles such as Muay Thai, Sambo, Wing Chun, Sumo, Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling, Judo, and of course, Mixed Martial Arts. The effective use of clinching maneuvers can be used to stage other maneuvers such as throws, takedowns, and sweeps. More importantly, the clinch can place the fighter into a dominant position in ground fighting.
One of the best examples of the importance of clinch fighting was during UFC 49 between Randy Couture and Vitor Belfort. Vitor was younger and faster than Randy and had very solid boxing skills. However, Randy proved that despite being older, he was able to outmaneuver Vitor in every round thanks to his double underhooks. Whenever Vitor threw a punch, Randy clinched him with a double underhook and forced him into ground fighting where Randy dominated. As it turned out, Vitor had no effective counter against clinching and this cost him this fight. Say this were a Pokerblog, you could look at it like having a great hand but no strategy or bluffing skills. Although Vitor had a ‘better hand,’ being younger and faster, he simply doesn’t have the control and experience that Randy does.
There are various clinching techniques but one of note is the double underhooks because it can be effectively used by smaller opponents against taller fighters. The objective of the double underhooks is to place the arms “under” the opponent’s arms then try lifting the opponent. As this technique suggests, smaller fighters are at an advantage since their arms are already lower than their opponents’. When lifted off the ground even a bit, the opponent is at a disadvantage because he has les chances to defend and he can be placed right onto the ground where he can be dominated. Other popular Muay Thai clinch techniques include the double collar tie and pinch grip.
Clearly, the excitement of MMA fights stems from the variety of moves that can be executed with clinching maneuvers. However, this is made possible with the use of open-handed gloves as opposed to the usual boxing gloves. The modern boxing glove began in ancient Greece with the use of leather strips used to wrap around the hands. Contrary to the current notion that gloves were designed to protect the opponent, these ancient gloves were meant to protect the fighter’s hands. The Romans took this even further by making the leather hard and with attached spikes. This made ancient boxing more brutal as this ensured either death or being permanently maimed. Because of the extreme brutality, boxing was banned in the western world until it reemerged in Britain around the 1700’s with bare-knuckle fisticuffs. Although bare-fisted, these fights still seemed too brutal for the public and eventually, the Queensbury Rules were created which required the use of padded boxing gloves.
With the popularity of MMA fights came the emergence of MMA gloves, also known as grappling gloves. They were open-fingered and weighed around 4-6 ounces due to its padding. It provided protection to the hands wearing the gloves while allowing the fingers to execute clinch fighting maneuvers. It was originally used in Shooto fights in Japan then adopted by the UFC. Aside from protecting the hands, it also reduced the incidence of facial lacerations among fighters. Curiously, there were less head hits during the bare fist era because it was more damaging to the hands because of the hard skull. According to the British Medical Association, although gloves reduced facial lacerations, it did not reduce the possibility of brain injury.
There is no denying that although MMA has become accepted as a legitimate sport, it still remains as a dangerous contact sport for the ill-trained. However, there is no stopping the spread and popularity of MMA across the world. The MMA glove helped in making this sport a bit less dangerous by providing protection to the fighters while at the same time afforded the fighters a wide array of grappling moves such as clinching maneuvers. MMA owes this and much of its excitement to this innovative gear.