A strong clinch game, in Muay Thai, allows a Nak Muay to close the distance and inflict serious punishment on his opponent. By way of a series of methods used to lock in, the offensive fighter will seek to control his opponent’s head and deliver considerable strikes to his head and body. Mastering this technique can take years, due to the upright grappling aspect and knowledge of how posture and leverage play their parts in gaining control of a rival.
The advantages of a strong clinch game in Muay Thai did not go unnoticed in the sport of MMA. Over the years, it has become an integral part of many fighters’ stand-up game. There are variations to how a clinch should be used in the sport of MMA in comparison to a Muay Thai fight, given the presence of a ground game. While sweeps and throws are permitted in Muay Thai, the absence of grappling on the ground means that a fighter does not have to worry about making certain mistakes or movements which would leave them open to a ground attack inside the cage.
Fundamentally, the Muay Thai style clinch has been proven to be an effective tool for mixed martial artists.
How to Use the Muay Thai Clinch in MMA
In order to use the Muay Thai clinch in MMA, you must first work yourself into a position to be close enough to pull it off. Once you are within range, you should typically maintain a parallel stance to your opponent and create an opening in order to grasp one or two hands behind his head. Keeping your arms inside of your opponents creates the power with which the grip is fastened.
There are a number of different techniques you can use when it comes to the clinch. The three most used in Muay Thai are:
- The Double Collar Tie – Using both hands, the aim is to pull an opponent’s head down, locking his head and shoulders in a dominant position with the use of your elbows. By exerting pressure by closing in both elbows, you attain clinch control.
- The Single Collar Tie – This technique consists of one grip behind the head/neck and another on the shoulder/arm. The lead hand should pull the defending fighter’s shoulder down, dominating his bicep and forearm with the elbow.
- The Double Underhook – Favored by Muay Thai fighters who are looking to incapacitate a taller opponent, the double underhook is an excellent way to control lankier fighters. To execute a double underhook, you will need to hook your arms around the upper area of the torso. By bending the lead foot and slightly extending your rear leg behind, you can create leverage and space prior to throwing or taking down your foe.
Striking From the Clinch
A considerable number of elite MMA fighters’ striking games are based on Muay Thai. Everything from long distance striking techniques to low kicks and switch kicks are effective tools against any seasoned mixed martial artist. When it comes to battling on the inside – or against the cage – the clinch helps a fighter establish dominance. It is highly probable that to fighters will frequently engage in a clinch inside the cage, so ignoring its important role in a bout can be catastrophic.
The most dangerous strikes a fighter must be prepared for when in the clinch are knees to the face. Many fighters have demonstrated how much of an asset a strong clinch game can be in MMA, especially when it allows them to shoot powerful knees to their opponent’s skulls. Brazilian MMA’s two wildly popular Silvas, Anderson and Wanderlei, were effective at establishing dominance this way in mixed martial arts. Check out how both men manage to apply thunderous strikes to their adversaries from a dominant clinch position:
From the clip above, you can see why “The Axe Murderer” was renowned for his brutal and chaotic strikes. Many of the MMA compilation videos and highlight-reel moments of his career feature some pretty brutal examples of knees from the clinch.
Watch how Silva not only uses knees inside the clinch but uses the flying knee to work his way into closing the clinch. Another cool aspect of Silva’s use of the Muay Thai clinch in this clip is how he cranks down on his opponent’s neck, and pulls him off balance.
What made both men’s inside-the-clinch attacks so dangerous was how the utilized their dominance to keep an opponent guessing. Many times, especially with reference to Anderson, their opponents would have eaten knees early in the fight, and while they were anticipating the same next time around, the Silvas would mix it up with punches and kicks. While pulling an opponent off balance, and disorienting them with a variety of shots, these Brazilian legends often found their happy place inside the clinch.
If you have ever eaten an elbow at close range, you can understand just how much of a ferocious weapon it can be (especially in the clinch). If you’re in close proximity and without clinch control, you are effectively at the behest of your dominant opponent. Even as both of you grapple for dominance, there is a high chance that you will come face to face with something that can be even scarier than your mother-in-law.
Elbows, delivered at inclines and from angles which are hard to defend against, are one of the best candidates for inflicting destruction on your opposite number. The best way to explain just how effective they can be in an MMA fight is via a demonstration of their use in a Muay Thai environment. Check out this clip below:
Takedowns from the Clinch
Unlike Muay Thai, MMA has a ground game. The good news is that the clinch can be used in order to gain an advantage over the opponent on the floor. The Muay Thai dump, for example, is a fairly straightforward way to get your opponent to the floor. While a dominant position from the clinch is regarded as the best way to initiate cutting knees and elbows, it can also be used to set up a submission.
Adding sweeps and throws like those used in the clip above by Muay Thai legend Saenchai, you can really add variety to your clinch game. After all, the more strings a fighter has to his bow, the greater chance he has of winning a bout.