In Muay Thai, the clinch is an undeniably dominant position. Not only does the position enable you to throw solid knees and elbows from a close range, but it also opens the door for sweeps and control over your opponent. Working into the clinch takes a lot of practice. It involves learning to close the distance on your opponent while avoiding getting hit in the process.
Once you learn to work your way into the clinch, your goal becomes learning to land strikes, sweep, or control your opponent in whichever way you choose. Learning combinations that you like or play well in your game is vital. If you are looking to add some clinch combinations to your game, be sure to check out these five clinch combinations.
1) Knee-Release With One Hand-Pull Into Elbow
This is an excellent combination that plays on the natural push and pulls that begins to happen while in the clinch. Here’s how to execute this combination from the clinch:
- While in the clinch, draw your opponent’s head down and towards you while you drive a knee straight up the middle toward their stomach.
- As they pull back, release one of your hands from the clinch.
- Utilize the release hand, and the opening in the space created by your opponent pulling back up to land an elbow (or even a punch) up the middle.
This combination is a great way to land several heavy strikes while utilizing the clinch as the setup.
2) Knees-Movement-Foot Sweep
This combination is an excellent technique to utilize when you are finding that your opponent is making big adjustments to your knees and movement. Here’s how to pull it off:
- Utilize the clinch to create movement and get your opponent off balance.
- Add in the knees to help break your opponent’s posture.
- As the knees and movement begin to throw your opponent off-balance and stepping to regain a base, meet their foot with a foot sweep by sliding the bottom of your foot against the outside of their foot.
- Use your grip on the clinch to help turn or push your opponent alongside the foot sweep to complete the sweep.
- If you don’t complete the sweep, utilize the opening for follow-up strikes instead.
3) Defend The Knee-Turning Elbow
This combination is ideal for use when the clinch is not tied up tight around the neck, but rather looser arms playing with the clinch at its longer range. It is a defense and counter approach to striking while in the clinch and allows you to take advantage of your opponent’s movements to land a powerful strike. To execute this strike, your arms should be on the outside on top of your opponent’s arms. Here’s how to make it work:
- While in the loose clinch fighting for position, ensure your arms are around the outside and on top of your opponent’s arms. Maintain a solid base with your feet.
- As your partner goes to throw their knee at you, lean your body to the left to ensure the knee does not land on your body. This movement should also help to release the tension in your opponent’s grip on your arm.
- As your opponent releases tension on the arm, allow your left arm to slide over the top of your opponent’s arm and toward their face.
- Return to your clinch on their arm or swim in to gain control of the head.
This is an excellent, and simple, strike from within the clinch to execute. The next time you find yourself in a longer-range clinch with your opponent throwing knees at you, be sure to try utilizing their movement to find this strike.
4) Strikes On The Break
While we often think of all the strikes we can throw while tied up in the clinch, it’s important to remember that sometimes, the clinch breaks. This may be either due to a hard strike landing that makes an opponent want to change the range, or even due to losing your grip while moving within the clinch.
Regardless, planning for striking combinations when the clinch breaks is essential to continued domination in the ring. The next time you feel the clinch is about to break, avoid trying to hold on even longer and instead transition to some of these striking combinations:
- If your opponent ends up facing you at close range: Jab-Cross–Low Kick
- If your opponent ends up facing you at a further range: Teep or Superman Punch
- If your opponent ends up with the side of their body facing you: Kick across the body
- If your opponent ends up with the side of their body to you at close range: Reach in across the front of your opponent’s body with your arm while your leg slides across the back of their legs for the sweep.
- If the clinch doesn’t fully break, but you still have a single hand on their head: Control the head with one hand while you land strikes to the face.
Regardless of how the clinch breaks, be sure to be ready to capitalize on it by striking first.
5) Side Knees, Knees Up The Middle, Push, Head Kick
If you love your knees but are a fighter who is always looking to make your way to the head kick, this clinch combination is for you. This combination is a mix of close clinch work, leading to disengagement to find the long range needed for a head kick. Here’s how to do it:
- While in the clinch, utilize movement as you land knees up the middle and knees to the side.
- Once your knees start to result in control over your opponent’s balance, disengage with a push on your opponent’s shoulders.
- As your opponent gets moved back to a range that is more ideal for you, land the head kick.
If you find yourself in the clinch but tend to prefer the longer-range strikes, give this combination a try.
Essential Clinch Combinations
Whether you enjoy a tightly grasped clinch, a longer range clinch, utilizing the break of the clinch, or even working out of the clinch back to a longer range, these combinations will leave you feeling equipped to find some solid strikes no matter where you end up. Give them a try next time you find yourself clinching up with your opponent.
Evolve University’s Muay Thai Clinch Master Course
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No detail is spared as Evolve MMA’s Muay Thai World Champions break down the fundamental aspects of the Muay Thai clinch. Structured and taught in a systemized way that will allow students to build their clinch game piece by piece, the Muay Thai Clinch Master Course is organized by position, covering the four main clinch positions — double inside, double outside, single collar neck tie, and double collar neck tie. Learn the vital details behind positional control, elbows, knees, sweeps, transitions, pulls, and defense in the clinch.
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