3 Underrated Muay Thai Techniques For MMA

Many mixed martial artists have trained in Muay Thai at some point in their lives, and it’s become the unofficial preferred striking background for the sport. Muay Thai is the most versatile striking-based martial art on the planet, as it allows using elbows, punches, knees, and kicks. Muay Thai also covers clinch fighting, making it an excellent base for MMA. 

However, despite Muay Thai’s popularity with mixed martial artists, many effective Muay Thai techniques are rarely used inside the cage


Three Most Underused Muay Thai Techniques In Mixed Martial Arts

Ready to find which Muay Thai techniques are most underused in MMA? Let’s get started:


1) The Teep 

The push kick, aka the teep, is vastly underused in mixed martial arts, despite being one of the most used techniques in Muay Thai, including the top levels. It’s the equivalent of a jab with your legs. You can measure distance, distract opponents, and keep them off you with the teep. You can also use the teep to set up other strikes once your opponent starts reacting to it. 

However, many MMA fighters rarely use this effective tool, mainly from a fear of their opponents catching their legs and using it to take them down. However, it’s an unjustified fear since catching kicks is perfectly legal in Muay Thai. Muay Thai fighters use leg catches to set up leg sweeps or strikes. 

The few mixed martial artists who use the teep often enjoy lots of success with it. Jon Jones is one of the best examples of an MMA fighter who uses the teep effectively to control the distance and soften up opponents during his fights. It allows him to optimize his insane 84.5-inch reach inside the cage. Your jab keeps opponents out of punching range, while your teep keeps them out of kicking range. 

The teep can be thrown with either leg. Here’s what the technique looks like:

  • From your fighting stance, push off on the balls of the leg you’re posting with. This keeps you more stable, improves the accuracy of your kick, and generates additional power.
  • Raise the knee of your kicking leg as high as possible to your chest or shoulder area. The higher the knee is raised, the more likely you’ll be able to get past your opponent’s defense. Raising your knee high also makes it easier to target their face.
  • Extend your kicking leg toward your opponent as if you were kicking down a door. Pivot your post leg slightly and extend your hips as your foot moves toward your opponent.
  • Swing the arm on the same side of your kicking leg downward to generate additional power and keep your other arm up, protecting your face.
  • Snap your leg back after making contact, so you’re back in your fighting stance.


2) Leg Catches

Muay Thai fighters trained in Thailand often catch kicks during their fight. You don’t see it that often with Muay Thai fighters from other parts of the world or mixed martial artists. MMA fighters with Muay Thai backgrounds often spend more time worrying about their opponents catching their kicks than trying to catch their opponent’s kicks. 

Leg catches are incredibly effective for strikers in MMA since they score points for knockdowns. Closely contested rounds can be won by catching your opponent’s leg and sending them to the canvas with a leg sweep. 

Muay Thai legends like Saenchai effortlessly catch kicks and use them to sweep opponents or set up strikes. With one leg suspended in the air, your opponent becomes open to a wide range of strikes. One of the coolest finishes Saenchai uses after catching an opponent’s leg is following up with a cartwheel kick. 

You’ll need to work on your awareness and timing if you want to be able to catch kicks like a Muay Thai fighter. That’s the most challenging part of successfully catching a kick. Once you get the timing down, the mechanics for the catch are pretty simple. It starts with analyzing your opponent’s tells so you know when their thinking about throwing a kick. 

Here’s what it looks like:

  • Once the kick is heading towards you, sidestep away from it while bringing your arm down in a swooping motion to catch the leg. Side-stepping away from the kick takes some of the power off it, reducing the effects of its impact.
  • Once you’re in control of your opponent’s leg, lift your shoulder and arm to break their posture. This makes them vulnerable to your sweeps. Switch stances by moving your front foot back and your rear foot forward. This further unbalances your opponent while putting your new rear leg in position to sweep.
  • Sweep your opponent with your new rear leg as they look to regain their balance. Aim for the calf area when you throw the kick and follow through as if you were trying to cut their lower leg into two pieces.
  • Alternatively, you can follow up with strikes after catching your opponent. Straight punches from your free hand are some of your most effective strikes in this position.


3) Upward Elbows

Here’s a sneaky technique that can be highly effective at close range. MMA fighters typically use elbows from ground positions or inside the clinch, but upward elbows can be used in striking range. Think of them as uppercuts thrown with your elbows. When executed correctly, the technique lands with enough power to bring a fight to an end. 

Here’s what the technique looks like: 

  • From your fighting stance, maintain a high guard, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Step toward your opponent with your lead leg to close the distance on them and swing your elbow upward toward them.
  • Keep your palm facing your head and close to it as you swing away. Bring your elbow back to its starting position once contact has been made.

There are many opportunities in mixed martial arts where a well-timed upward elbow would be effective. For instance, fighters tend to leave the middle of their guards exposed when looking to clinch, creating an ideal opportunity to land an upward elbow. It can be an effective way to deter an aggressive wrestler from crowding you, especially when they know they’re stronger than you are in the clinch. 


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