Adapting Muay Thai to MMA Rules: Cosmo Alexandre
With his dominance in both Muay Thai (outside of Thailand) and kickboxing and his successful career in MMA, Cosmo Alexandre could be the best combat-sports athlete to come out of Brazil.
He started training in Muay Thai late in life — relative to most high-level fighters — having begun at age 19 after years of football. This probably gave him a smoother start in comparison to most 19-year-olds, but the important detail is that Cosmo Alexandre from a young age was willing to throw caution to the wind, jump in the deep end and try something new.
The history of muay Thai in Brazil is nowhere near as documented online as is the history of muay Thai in countries like Japan and the Netherlands. Much like in the United Kingdom, muay Thai was imported by a taekwondo practitioner, a man named Nelio Naja. The black belt traveled from Brazil to Thailand and returned with the “art of eight limbs.”
This cross-pollination of styles was a big part of why Brazilian muay Thai, like most styles that aren’t traditional muay Thai, sometimes looks like a different art. It’s also the reason most high-level strikers from Brazil that you find in MMA or kickboxing will claim to have a black belt (or black pra jiad) in Muay Thai.
Cosmo Alexandre is no exception. However, he differs from most prominent Brazilian fighters in that he actually competed in the sport of muay Thai and did so at a high level.
Cosmo Alexandre’s fighting style is a mixture of Brazilian Muay Thai and traditional and Dutch styles of the martial art. Beginning his training in Brazil, he spent several years at the K. Romsritong camp in Samut Sakhon outside of Bangkok. The gym is known for its positive relationship with Brazilian fighters.
It was here that Cosmo Alexandre’s style formalized as he spent six days a week training in the Thai style of the art. Like most great muay Thai fighters, he excels at having a very active lead leg. In this sparring video, we can see his relentless pursuit of his partner’s lead leg. He continuously harasses it with the inside leg kick.
He uses the inside leg kick as an irritating and painful distraction — and as a counter to throw off his partner’s balance when the person attempts to close the gap with strikes. By keeping his opponent’s balance compromised, he can use his crisp hands to attack upstairs.
Cosmo Alexandre’s commitment to inside leg kicks also makes it easier for him to simply sweep the inside leg. The most devastating result of one of these techniques was when he swept the inside leg, then immediately switched to a lead knee that KO’d his opponent.
Cosmo Alexandre in MMA
Relatively few fighters have successfully crossed over from Muay Thai and kickboxing to MMA. While there are plenty of MMA fighters who had kickboxing bouts early in their career at clubs or at the regional level, the number of high-level kickboxers to build successful careers in MMA can be counted on one hand.
Israel Adesanya — I talked about him before — is one recent example. There’s also the great Mirko “Cro-Cop” Filipovic, a top 10 heavyweight in kickboxing and MMA, and, of course, Alistair Overeem and Semmy Schilt, who primarily fought in MMA before making the switch to kickboxing.
Cosmo Alexandre is somewhere in the middle. He doesn’t regularly fight in MMA, nor does he fight top opposition, but he still succeeds at a level most kickboxers never get to. Currently undefeated in every fight he’s had since his debut, he is a great example of a martial artist who understood what he needed to change about his style depending on the rule set.
While a fighter like Israel Adesanya actually benefited in MMA, a sport that has a pace and distance better-suited for a potshotting defensive savant like him, Cosmo Alexandre had to change far more.
The biggest change in Alexandre’s style that should be immediately noticeable is his stance. He is no stranger to changing stances, as his kickboxing career saw him adopt a more balanced stance compared to his rear-leg-heavy approach in muay Thai. He explains this in a video:
In MMA, however, we see a wide, powerful stance that leaves Cosmo Alexandre ready to defend against takedowns. The wider your base is, the harder it is for your opponent to catch you with a double-leg takedown. A wide base encourages single-leg takedowns, which are easier to fight off.
Although his base is different, Cosmo Alexandre does have an advantage in MMA that he doesn’t have in muay Thai or kickboxing: In any given fight, he is almost certainly the better striker.
In his second professional match, we see him immediately drop his opponent. He does this by blitzing in and faking a right hand, which draws his opponent’s guard away. Then he immediately capitalizes on the opening with the left hook that he was always intending to throw.
After a brief scramble, we see them eventually end up in the clinch. It’s good to be Cosmo Alexandre in this situation because the average MMA fighter doesn’t have the comfort or timing to reliably knee an opponent from this position to get a KO. For Alexandre, however, this is something he has done time and time again.
His most recent victory came against Sage Northcutt, a former UFC prospect. Northcutt was almost certainly expected to win the bout. While it was clear that Northcutt was the inferior striker, he had youth on his side, as well as a significant wrestling advantage. My first reaction to hearing about this matchup: That’s a terrible fight for Northcutt.
Within 30 seconds, Cosmo Alexandre figured out that Sage Northcutt couldn’t effectively control range, faked two switch kicks and brought his active lead-leg tactics from his MMA career into play. Those two switch kicks made Northcutt feel as though he couldn’t retreat to his right, so he elected to make a massive overreaction, sprinting into Alexandre’s right hand, which he had always intended to throw.
It was vintage Cosmo Alexandre: Distract with the legs, then capitalize on the opening with monstrous power.
What makes Cosmo Alexandre dangerous under any rule set is not that he has great muay Thai. It’s that he knows how to use great muay Thai under any circumstances.
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