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Three Ways to Clinch with an Opponent in MMA and Muay Thai

Updated on March 29, 2015
Head pressure is an important component of effective clinch fighting.
Head pressure is an important component of effective clinch fighting. | Source

Whether you compete in MMA, kickboxing, Muay Thai or some other type of striking competition, you will occasionally find yourself wanting to clinch with an opponent who has no interest in clinching with you. You might be confident in your clinch takedowns, or perhaps you want to unleash your close-range arsenal of knees, elbows and dirty boxing. Regardless, getting into a position where this is possible can be difficult when your opponent is fighting hard to avoid the takedown – especially if a wrestling shot is not an option. In this situation, many inexperienced martial artists rush in and clutch wildly at their opponents, often eating quite a few punches for their trouble. These strategies are a far better idea.

Planning your strategy for how and when to establish the clinch before the fight begins will significantly increase the odds of your being able to do so so during the fight.
Planning your strategy for how and when to establish the clinch before the fight begins will significantly increase the odds of your being able to do so so during the fight. | Source

# 1: Pat and Crash

Use your footwork to establish continuous forward pressure toward your opponent. Your goal is to defend your opponent’s strikes while picking up his rhythm. Once you feel that you can see his jabs coming, defend one by patting it down hard toward your waist. Most pats simply move the jab off line by a few inches; your goal is to move it a foot or so down, buying yourself the time to step in hard and create a frame with your right forearm against your opponent’s chest (assuming your opponent uses an orthodox stance – use the other arm if he is a southpaw). At the same time, grip the back of your opponent’s head with your right hand. You are now in position to begin playing your clinch game.

If your opponent simply backpedals and refuses to engage, use your own jab to force the action. Once your opponent responds to your pressure by firing back, instantly initiate the pat and crash. Be careful when you pat; even though you need a hard, explosive pat, your hand should still not travel more than a few inches. Otherwise, you will be the one out of position, instead of your opponent.

The "pat and crash" entry is an effective means of establishing a necktie clinch in Muay Thai or MMA.
The "pat and crash" entry is an effective means of establishing a necktie clinch in Muay Thai or MMA. | Source

# 2: Slip and Bump

The slip and bump uses a similar concept to the pat and crash. However, since it use a slip to initiate the motion, rather than a pat, it is more difficult for your opponent to defend due to the fact that their forward momentum is opposed to your forward momentum.

Begin with the same movement scheme as in the pat and crash. Once you have learned your opponent’s rhythm, slip to the outside on either a jab or a cross. Assuming you chose a jab, step in hard with your lead foot a split second after you begin the slip; your goal is to run your lead shoulder into your opponent’s torso near his armpit (the “bump” part of the move). The body lock is the most natural clinch option after this entry, but you can use a wide variety of others as well.

Be careful to keep your head tight to your opponent and your weight centered over your hips to avoid being caught in a guillotine choke after a "slip and bump" into a body lock.
Be careful to keep your head tight to your opponent and your weight centered over your hips to avoid being caught in a guillotine choke after a "slip and bump" into a body lock. | Source

# 3: Insert and Interrupt

If your opponent is determined not to allow you close enough to clinch, he will likely rely heavily on fast, straight punches as he backpedals and circles away. If you maintain a tight, high guard, however, sooner or later he will likely try to do significant damage by throwing a wide hook behind that guard. That is the moment for which you should be waiting.

If the wide hook is a left, cover tight with your right arm. At the same time, take a hard step inside the hook’s arc, driving your left forearm into the left side of your opponent’s neck to create space. If permitted by your competition’s rules, you could throw a left elbow on the way into the clinch. Either way, immediately hook the back of your opponent’s head with your left hand, and the top of his left arm with your right hand. You can now throw knees or transition to whatever type of clinch you prefer.

After the "insert and interrupt," once you have a secured a tight overhook, you can either pull your opponent's head tight to you to prevent escape or you can crossface and angle out to create space for knees.
After the "insert and interrupt," once you have a secured a tight overhook, you can either pull your opponent's head tight to you to prevent escape or you can crossface and angle out to create space for knees. | Source

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