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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

The Jimmy Vienot vs Yodwicha Title Fight - Old School Refereeing, a Genuine Clinch Battle, Controversial Decision

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watch the full fight here - note, the use of elbow pads is due to French law

This is not so much a commentary on the controversy in the scoring - which I believe has led to the WMC vacating the decision and the belt, a decision they will re-award on review, leaving the belt to fought for at another time - but the fight itself which was really remarkable in many ways. At a time when clinch is being squeezed out of "modern" "Entertainment Muay Thai" promotions like ONE, Superchamp and MAX, this fight was refereed in such a beautiful Old School way it really went beyond what you'd find in Bangkok Stadia Muay Thai. The way that the clinch was allowed to go, and work itself free even from "stalled" positions was just pretty much 1990s Golden Age Muay Thai. And there is a lot to be commended in Jimmy Vienot to even keep up and fight through that kind of ruleset and aesthetic. He did have visible size on Yodwicha who I believe was fighting above his usual weight, but he was game for this kind of fight, through and through.

The other thing that was pretty interesting to me was just how ineffective Yodwicha was in the clinch in the first two rounds. In his stadia days Yodwicha was the most dominant clinch fighter in Thailand, but he has spent a long time out of traditional Muay Thai scoring, having converted to a potent hands heavy attack that has kept him on top of the International fight scene. It is not often you see a Muay Khao locking fighter convert so seamlessly to the more Kickboxing-like promotions where he can face western fighters, One thing I had noticed on many of Yodwicha's fights in the International Style was that he actually no longer seemed dominant in the clinch. Even in short engagements he would appear uninterested in imposing himself there, even quickly, if the rulesets allowed. He had left behind his fame as a clinch fighter, it appeared, and fully embraced an identity as a Striker.

Clinch dominance is actually a skillset that is, I believe, one of the most fragile in the sport of Muay Thai. It is so much reliant on feel, if you don't continually train AND refine your tool box you will lose a lot of your effectiveness. It's full of nuances, leverages and timing that just erode, in my opinion over the years, and you just have to work to maintain or regrow that elite sense of control. When watching Yodwicha in the first two rounds I was pretty surprised just how ineffective he had become in his lock game. He was taking outside arm positions and getting sealed. Jimmy had put a ton of work in, my guess was that Yodwicha, having transition to striking, put most of his work elsewhere, and it was showing. Jimmy has size, but it shouldn't be something one couldn't overcome.

Then the 3rd round came. And this is what made this fight spectacular. Yodwicha switched up. He shed his Striker Identity and reverted back to his "Dern" Muay Khao fighter of his Bangkok Stadium days, when he won Fighter of the Year as a 16 year old. And see how his entire clinch game changed once he became a dern fighter. He no longer was taking bad lock positions from the outside. He started transitioning IN the clinch itself. He fought for that inside position for the right arm, he slumped out of waist clinches, he stance switched out of overturns. Watching this is just such a beautiful thing, and a big key to the higher vocabularies of what endless clinch fighting looks like, and is. There is a great deal of vocabulary in Yodwicha's scoring rounds, it was inspiring as a lover of clinch as an Muay Khao art to see. It needs to be stated, two things made this performance - this time capsule reversion to his Muay Khao days - possible. The first was that Jimmy Vienot was totally up for it. He contested all the transitions, he fought for and retook positions, he forced Yodwicha to keep finding a new advantage, AND the even more important thing is that the ref just let it all go. He let it evolve, evolve and evolve. What was a Golden Age flashback fight would turned into a completely stagnant clinch-break fest if the ref had applied modern sensibilities about the clinch. The theory that clinch is boring largely has been propagated through the repeated boring breaking of clinch. This beautifully contested fight could easily have been turned into a snooze fest.

Also quite beautiful is that the fight itself was fought under a traditional, narrative scoring aesthetic. Again, Old School. I have no idea how it was scored in judging minds, but both fighters fought it like a traditional fight. This meant that round 3 and 4 were highly weighted AND round five was fought in the traditional Thai "I have a lead, I will defend, you will chase" ethic. Personally, I thought that the choice of Yodwicha to fight the 5th round in this way on an International stage was really, really risky. The West doesn't understand the 5th round all that often, there were boos from the crowd, but as Jimmy Vienot actually showed that he understood the 5th round aesthetic himself, and fought the round that way just as if he were in Thailand, it makes perfect sense that it should be scored in the Thai way...which would give the fight to Yodwicha...you would think.

Thank you for the WMC and the French aesthetic commitment to traditional Muay Thai so that we could even have a fight like this.

Other Thoughts On The Fight

I also though that by Yodwicha fighting the first two rounds as less important and waiting to dern in the 3rd round, in an Internationally staged fight. It makes perfect sense in a traditionally scored fight, you transition to your most devastating game in the scoring rounds, but (I'm pretty sure) the WMC has 10 point must system, and it would really be unclear if non-Thai judges would apply such a scoring system with Thai sensibilities. You risk putting yourself in a meaningful deficit on the scorecard. I generally believe that you have to take circumstances into account, and change your fighting approach to any kind of anticipated built in bias, whether that is something in the ruleset, the judges, the place a fight is fought. You can't just go according to what is "right", you have to fight to overcome expected bias. Just fighting in France would give an expected bias, even if its an unconscious bias of very otherwise fair people. 

Also, of course, the beautiful slipper, transitioning locks of Yodwicha's mid-fight game was not really close to what he was when he was stomping the grounds of Lumpinee. He is still a long way from that kind of training and expression. It was just beautiful to see it come out again. Something to watch in those rounds is the way that he was manipulate his body, or his stance, to continue with his attack, another is to look at the quality of the knee strikes themselves. People who clinch train a lot sometimes lose the very form of a scoring strike. The slap with the knee, as one does in training, or even pantomime knees. Yodwicha had this extra dimension to his knees which made them scoring knees, speaking broadly. Just as with punches, knees need to be scored in how they connect, not just that they are thrown. Sometimes in Thailand you'll get credit for just the gesture of knees, showing balance or demonstrating control over your opponent, but when some knees are connecting, especially on the open side of the opponent, these have a much, much higher value. 

It's not exactly clear at this point how the WMC will handle this decision, all we have is something Yodwicha's wife has reported. Thais, as expected are pretty upset about the fight, and maybe it is because of just how traditional and Old School this fight was fought. It was so "Thai", that Thai scoring is even more expected I would imagine. Yodwicha says in the video clip of his protest "why would I come forward in round 5 if I'd already won 3 and 4?"

 

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A follow up, Yodwicha's team says they have turned down an offer for $115,000 to fight again for the same title in a rematch:

Yodwicha, put off by the way the Vienot WMC title fight in France was handled just turned down 100,000 Euro ($116,000 US) for a rematch for the belt, a fight that would be in Las Vegas. "We have a long cue" his wife writes.

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16 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

A follow up, Yodwicha's team says they have turned down an offer for $115,000 to fight again for the same title in a rematch:

Yodwicha, put off by the way the Vienot WMC title fight in France was handled just turned down 100,000 Euro ($116,000 US) for a rematch for the belt, a fight that would be in Las Vegas. "We have a long cue" his wife writes.

FA1c-0OX0AIg1gU.thumb.jpg.c40343690d1b40f7f9131f0b7aea1bfa.jpg

I think not defending his title would portrait him as a heel (or in other words LOSER)...

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Hello friends! I'd be interested to know if the veterans of this community consider this a robbery. I agree with Kevin that you have to take into account the context of the contest. The result was quite expected for these Western-Thai hybrid events and even from a traditional perspective the fight still seemed close. Yodwicha feels he clearly won round 3, but why exactly is that so? It seemed Jimmy was scoring with more knees, and Yodwicha's didn't necessarily seem any more effective despite the emphatic noises and body language he used while throwing them. Round 4 I thought Yodwicha did better, but it wasn't a huge landslide round where the opponent will be desperate in round 5. Then the other 3 rounds Yodwicha seemed content to not score so much.

I get that Yodwicha would get the nod at Rajadamnern, but in any other setting I dont think you can win 1-2 rounds and feel slighted the judges tipped the other way.

I loved the free flowing clinch in this fight, last time I saw it happen was Yodwicha vs Petchboonchu which was really not recent at all. Its too bad because like the OP says clinch isnt boring, only constant clinch breaks are boring. 

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40 minutes ago, Amura said:

It seemed Jimmy was scoring with more knees, and Yodwicha's didn't necessarily seem any more effective despite the emphatic noises and body language he used while throwing them. Round 4 I thought Yodwicha did better, but it wasn't a huge landslide round where the opponent will be desperate in round 5. Then the other 3 rounds Yodwicha seemed content to not score so much.

In traditional scoring narrative is one of the most important criteria. Yodwicha was ascending moving from 2, 3 and 4, and each round matters more than the last, with the exception of the 5th round. It's not points added up on a calculator. Also in clinch it matters more which side you land knees on (open side or closed side), and if you land with the point of the knee rather than with a slap of the knee. And yes, body language and what Thais call "ruup", which is your posture vs your opponent's posture, also matters. Traditionally, you can't just add strikes up.

But, Vienot seemed to perfectly understand - AND fight - this fight from a traditionally score perspective. The 5th round was fought more or less exactly how it would be fought in Thailand. A 5th round in the West you'd find both fighters pressing hard trying to outscore the other, adding up strikes. In Thailand the fighter who has the proverbial lead retreats and defends his lead. The trailing fighter then advances, which is largely a public acknowledgement that he is behind on the score card. It is up to the advancing fighter to do something dramatic, or at least take a dominant score to reclaim the lead (depending on how big of a lead there is). This is exactly how both Yodwicha and Vienot fought, which placed the entire fight in the context of traditional scoring (which to me was kind of surprising, and admirable). This would mean that narrative really matters. And, given how the 5th round was fought, basically with Vienot conceding, you'd expect Yodwicha's camp to be shocked.

This was, especially with how the last round was fought, what in Thailand Sylvie and I call "a close blowout". Once the fight plays out where it is clear and acknowledged by both parties WHO has the lead, and then nothing happens to change that, that's a blowout...because there is no question, but, the fight might also be closely fought throughout. It's like a largely close footrace, and then both runners both let up at the tape. It might have been close much of the race, but the let up shows that both runners know who has the lead, the one breaking the tape.

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On 10/9/2021 at 4:19 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

In traditional scoring narrative is one of the most important criteria. Yodwicha was ascending moving from 2, 3 and 4, and each round matters more than the last, with the exception of the 5th round. It's not points added up on a calculator. Also in clinch it matters more which side you land knees on (open side or closed side), and if you land with the point of the knee rather than with a slap of the knee. And yes, body language and what Thais call "ruup", which is your posture vs your opponent's posture, also matters. Traditionally, you can't just add strikes up.

But, Vienot seemed to perfectly understand - AND fight - this fight from a traditionally score perspective. The 5th round was fought more or less exactly how it would be fought in Thailand. A 5th round in the West you'd find both fighters pressing hard trying to outscore the other, adding up strikes. In Thailand the fighter who has the proverbial lead retreats and defends his lead. The trailing fighter then advances, which is largely a public acknowledgement that he is behind on the score card. It is up to the advancing fighter to do something dramatic, or at least take a dominant score to reclaim the lead (depending on how big of a lead there is). This is exactly how both Yodwicha and Vienot fought, which placed the entire fight in the context of traditional scoring (which to me was kind of surprising, and admirable). This would mean that narrative really matters. And, given how the 5th round was fought, basically with Vienot conceding, you'd expect Yodwicha's camp to be shocked.

This was, especially with how the last round was fought, what in Thailand Sylvie and I call "a close blowout". Once the fight plays out where it is clear and acknowledged by both parties WHO has the lead, and then nothing happens to change that, that's a blowout...because there is no question, but, the fight might also be closely fought throughout. It's like a largely close footrace, and then both runners both let up at the tape. It might have been close much of the race, but the let up shows that both runners know who has the lead, the one breaking the tape.

So would the way the fighters fought (adhering to traditional rules) change the way it was scored/ruled even though the fight took place outsideThailand? 

And just to clarify on the knees in the clinch. If a knee lands on the closed side of the body (meaning if the knee makes it through the block) it scores higher? Or did you mean, if the fighter goes for the side that's open (ie _not_ kneeing a block) it scores higher?

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28 minutes ago, LengLeng said:

So would the way the fighters fought (adhering to traditional rules) change the way it was scored/ruled even though the fight took place outsideThailand? 

I really don't know how France tends to score Muay Thai fights, so I'm only guessing. But...France does seem to have probably the closest, longest heritage to traditional Muay Thai, so maybe they take pride in being more traditional? The one clue we might have is that the ref in the ring ran the fight VERY much like Golden Age fighting. More traditional than current day Bangkok stadium reffing.  I really don't know though. We had a fight where the ref in the ring, and both fighters fought in a very traditional way, which was pretty surprising. I have no idea about the judges at ringside. I would say though, an org like the WMC can't really impose how judging is to be done. They can say how it is to be done, but people read with their eyes. I'm not really saying the scoring was right or wrong, given it was in the West. If you read my original post I tried to cover that.

28 minutes ago, LengLeng said:

And just to clarify on the knees in the clinch. If a knee lands on the closed side of the body (meaning if the knee makes it through the block) it scores higher?

No, just like with a kick, the "open side" (the side and direction the belly button is pointing) is the higher scoring point. If you are in orthodox, if you take strikes coming from your right, they score higher. This is for strikes that are unblocked by the shins.

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On 10/10/2021 at 5:22 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

 

No, just like with a kick, the "open side" (the side and direction the belly button is pointing) is the higher scoring point. If you are in orthodox, if you take strikes coming from your right, they score higher. This is for strikes that are unblocked by the shins.

Aah of course, thanks for clarification. 

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On 10/5/2021 at 6:49 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

He doesn't have the title. By this description the title would be vacant. A fighter doesn't have an obligation to fight for an org he isn't happy with.

Thanks for the clarity!!😍

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    • The above video is from almost 11 years ago. Sylvie is up the Hudson River where we lived, taking the train down to NYC to train in a Muay Thai gym in the city, more than an hour away from the small town we made our home. This video just gives me quiet tears, hearing her sincerity in response to some pretty harsh commentary coming through YouTube. One of the things Sylvie was exposed to was, from the beginning, being an outsider to "Muay Thai" proper. She was training with a 70 year old man in his basement in New Jersey, an hour and a half's drive away. She was putting up videos of her training because there was nobody like Master K, her first instructor, online anywhere. There was pretty much nothing of "Thai" Muay Thai online. A small community of interested people grew around her channel, but also came the criticism. From the beginning there was a who-do-you-think-you-are tone from many. You can hear it in her voice. She doesn't think she is anyone. She just loves Muay Thai. She's the girl who loves Muay Thai. I cry in part because many of the themes in this video are actually still operating today. She's a huge name in the sport, but personally she is really still just the girl who loves Muay Thai, who takes the alternate path, doesn't ride with gyms, doesn't care about belts, doesn't want to fight Westernized Muay Thai. She's burned a path into Thailand's Muay Thai for many, but she's just replaced Master K - who to this day loves Muay Thai as much as anyone we've ever, ever met, with the possible exception of Dieselnoi - with legends of the sport. Karuhat, Dieselnoi, Yodkhunpon, Samson, Sagat. These are her fight family. And the same quiver is in her voice when she thinks about, actually yearns for, their muay. Wanting to be a part of it, to express it. From someone on the inside, it's just striking how little of this has changed, though like a spiral it has been every climbing higher, towards more ratified and accomplished feat, many of them feats that nobody will duplicate...simply because she's just The Girl Who Loves Muay Thai, and is taking the alternate path. She's running through the foothills of Thailand's greatness. And like then, when people in Muay Thai criticized her, today she has the same. The same unbelievers. And it's as pained today as it was on this day in the video. What's remarkable about her journey is that it necessarily has involved sharing, exposing, all of her flaws to everyone. She's likely the most documented fighter in history. We've put up video of every single fight and probably a 1,000 of hours of training. She has lived herself as exposed to everyone, as much as a fighter can be. What I'm amazed by, watching this 11 years on, is her equipoise, her balance in holding the harshness of others, and her lack of ego in all that she was doing. One of the most difficult things she's encountered in developing as a fighter, reaching for the muay of yodmuay, is actually developing an ego, a pride or dignity, which is defended not only in the ring, but also in Life. How does one get from the above, to where one needs to be as a fighter? What internal transformations have to occur? I happened upon the above video today, the same day Sylvie posted a new vlog talking about her experiences in training with some IFMA team teens at her gym. She was reflecting on how many of the lessons of growth she had not been ready for as a person years ago, especially lessons about frustration and even anger. You can hear the frustration in the video at the top. Mostly it falls behind a "I mean no harm" confession. She's just loving Muay Thai and sharing it. The impulse of those shared early videos of Master K eventually became the Muay Thai Library documentary project, likely the largest, most thorough documentation archive of a fighting art in history of the world. It's the same person doing the same thing. Even to this day, nothing of this has changed. But, what has changed is the depth of her experience, in over a decade of love for the sport, and in fighting an incredible 268 fights, and counting. Take a look at the vlog she put up today, and see what has changed. From the above has come one of the most impactful western Muay Thai fighters in history, both as a person and as a fighter. And the mountain is still being climbed:    
    • What is interesting about this is that it is one of the few steps taken at the New New Lumpinee which doesn't seem like a bend toward Western (or Internationalist) ideas and instead is broadly in support of the ecosystem which has produced Thailand kaimuay Muay Thai superiority for decades. Modernist views are against children or early youth full contact fighting, but in this case Lumpinee is lending its name to younger fighters, in hopes of developing stars and their following much earlier in their lives. No matter what one thinks of child fighting in Thailand its a fundamental part of why Thais fight like no other people in the world, just in terms of skill. Interesting to see Lumpinee leaning into something there has been pushback on.
    • Last week (or so) a video went "viral" on Thai social media. It was a scrappy street fight between a young kathoey (generally used for male to female Trans, but less frequently used also for female to male) protecting herself from a local, cis male bully. Nong Ping is the young Trans woman and in the video, shot by a bystander on their phone, and she absolutely goes to town on this bully. In the end the bully is standing, panting, tired, and nose dripping from his nose. After this video got so widely shared, Nong Toom - "The Beautiful Boxer," and the most famous kathoey celebrity and former Muay Thai fighter - took Nong Ping in under her wing. Nong Toom has had the young woman staying with her and has begun training her in Muay Thai, saying she already has heart and now just has to learn the skill. Nong Toom even accompanied Nong Ping on a TV show that is more or less a platform for guests to air out their grievances and settle disputes (Sia Boat and his fighter who has been charged with throwing a fight for money appeared on the show a month or so back). Nong Ping and her bully appeared on the show with the host, and Nong Toom at the table as well to educate this bully and the public. Here are some photos of Nong Ping. The first is a screenshot from the street fight, the remainder are those posted by Nong Toom as Nong Ping is a guest in her house. Nong Toom says she believes Nong Ping will have the opportunity to have a professional fight after she's been training for a bit. (As per Thailand's laws, Nong Ping will face either a cis male or another kathoey.)   For the latest Thailand Muay Thai News Updates check out our Muay Thai Bones Newsletter
    • No worries!! There are still some peeps Who'll keep stood up for it!!
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