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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.

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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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