Breaking Down Rodtang Jitmuangnon’s Style Of Fighting

Breaking Down Rodtang Jitmuangnon’s Style Of Fighting
Muay Thai Thursday

Rodtang Jitmuangnon is perhaps the most famous Muay Thai fighter in the sport’s history. While there have certainly been other famous fighters, such as Saenchai, Buakaw, Yodsanklai, and more, none have mesmerized the same kind of global audience as “The Iron Man.”

Rodtang signed to ONE championship as a reigning Omnoi Stadium champion who already had 250 fights credited to his name. Since then, he has been a tour de force, appearing on the promotion a total of 16 times and only losing a single Muay Thai fight against reigning ONE Kickboxing Champion Superlek Kiatmuu9 in a razor-close bout where his opponent missed weight by over 5 pounds.

Rodtang has a very particular style, with several attributes complimenting ONE’s globalized ruleset and helping him rise to become the premier striker on the promotion’s roster. In this article, we are going to break down The Iron Man’s Muay Thai style. We’ll list some of the techniques that he commonly uses in his fights and explain why they are so effective so that you can understand how and why he has become such a dominant force in the world of combat sports.


Rodtang: The Quintessential Muay Mat

Rodtang is the quintessential Muay Mat, which is an aggressive style of Thai boxing wherein a fighter predominantly uses their hands to strike their opponent. In stadium Muay Thai, this is a difficult style of fighting, not only because in order to punch your opponent, you need to find a way past their long-range kick and teep weapons, but also because punching is a conditionally scoring technique. This means that punching your opponent won’t score unless it has caused clear damage and effect.

This style of fighting isn’t as common in Thai stadiums due to that fact. A single body kick can potentially outscore several hard punches and yet, Rodtang found a way to master this style. In his 2018 bout against Mongkonkeaw at Rajadamnern Stadium, just six months before his first fight on ONE Championship, you can see Rodtang employ consistent forward pressure and heavy hands to capture a fourth-round knockout victory. Watching this footage, you will notice that Rodtang doesn’t just charge forward with big hands in the way many amateur Muay Mat fighters tend to do, he also uses a variety of techniques to control the range and pace of the fight and it is these techniques that truly allow him to thrive under the ONE global ruleset.


Calculated, Efficient And Effective

When you watch a Rodtang highlight reel, your eyes will often get drawn to clips of him taking massive shots and then goading his opponents by dancing and pulling faces. It gives the impression that The Iron Man is happy to take a shot to give one back and while this is a trade that Muay Mats often have to make, it isn’t one that Rodtang makes as often as you’d think.

Instead, Rodtang will typically apply controlled pressure, stalking his opponents with a tight guard until, in the words of commentator Michael Shiavello, “He pulls the pin and explodes like a hand grenade” onto his opponent. When he does this, he doesn’t throw caution to the wind. He will throw two or three strikes to different levels on his opponent’s body, and then pause. If he successfully off-balances or hurts his opponent, he will re-engage with more savage strikes. But, if the opportunity to damage his opponent doesn’t present itself, he will move from range or tie them up in the clinch so that they cannot return fire. You can see Rodtang use this method to great effect in the below clip of his fight against Englishman, Jacob Smith.

With this approach, Rodtang ensures that he isn’t taking unnecessary risks, and he makes sure that he doesn’t waste energy on excessive punches that won’t damage his opponent. While these tactics only work when he is on the front foot and setting the pace of the fight, he also employs several effective techniques to control the tempo and range of the fight so that his opponents cannot find their rhythm.


Controlling The Fight

A lot of Rodtang’s success can be attributed to his ability to impose his will upon his opponent. By stalking his opponent across the ring and choosing when to engage and disengage he decides when and where the action will take place. In order to be successful at this, he also needs to be able to stop his opponents from setting their own pace and rhythm and he does this with three specific techniques that are listed below.


1) Leg Kicks

In the global ruleset, aggression is scored highly. So, when a fighter wears a shot, they are going to look to pay it back with interest right away. Often, when Rodtang disengages from an exchange he will step back from range, goading his opponent into walking forward. As they step forward, the Iron Man will often chop their legs with massive low kicks, slowing them down and making them cautious to take the role of aggressor in the fight.


2) Teeps

Rodtang uses a lead leg teep to stop opponents from entering striking range in the very same way that he uses leg kicks to control distance. After a heavy combination of hands, he will fire a lead teep to his opponent’s hip to off-balance them or send them backward, spoiling any plans they may have had to throw strikes at the champion.


3) Clinch

Rodtang doesn’t actively look to clinch his opponents, but he does use a very specific style of clinching to shut down close exchanges. If an opponent gets past the Iron Man’s other weapons, he will look to lock up his arms, stopping them from throwing punches and elbows.

Once he has control of his opponent, Rodtang won’t knee them. He may elbow them if the opportunity presents itself but otherwise, he will stand firm and wait for his opponent to press forward or throw a knee. As soon as they are slightly off balance, he will sweep them, successfully disengaging so that the fight can resume at his preferred range.


The Iron Man In Summary

Rodtang is the quintessential Muay Mat. His forward pressure, heavy hands, and aggressive style are complimented by his ability to set the pace and range of a fight. In this manner, he imposes his will on an opponent who is forced to fight the way that the Iron Man chooses. This style allowed him to seamlessly transition from Stadium Muay Thai into ONE’s global ruleset and has made him the most dominant force on the sport’s global stage.


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