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Learn How To Escape Muay Thai Clinch (With Videos)

Fighter breaks the Thai clinch of his opponent during their fight.

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Muay Thai is widely recognised across many martial art disciplines as the best standup striking art in the world. With the clinch being one of its most powerful weapons. So you might ask, what is the best way to escape a Muay Thai clinch?

Escaping a Muay Thai clinch is possible through a range of counters that involved both avoiding completely and when it is achieved, escaping from the clinch. By using the overhook, palm to the face and pushing up of the arm up.

Muay Thai and specifically the clinch has been used to great success in mixed martial arts. Some of the best examples come from Wanderlei Silva when the former Pride middleweight champion at Pride Final conflict 2003.

He controlled the head of Quinton Rampage managing to land a series of knees and punches. Ending the fight with a devastating knee to the head, knocking Jackson out cold.

Another great example would be the stablemate of Silva, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, who also faced Rampage at Pride Total Elimination 2005. And seemingly not learning from his previous loss, he also succumbed to a Thai clinch with Rua breaking his ribs in the process.

Anderson Silva stops Rich Franklin via knees in the clinch

And who could forget pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva? Who in both his fights with Rich Franklin, would win and then defend his title stopping the former champion with knees from a Muay Thai clinch.

In yet another crushing display of the technique being used inside the cage and not the ring. Showing the adaptability of the discipline in other combat sports environments.

The Best Muay Thai Clinch Counters

Knowing how to counter this deadly clinch is essential. As if you have ever been the victim of a Muay Thai clinch you will know just how powerful they can be. And once you are caught in the grip, you can quickly become disorientated and open to a range of attacks.

So the best solution is to know the best counters and avoid if at all possible being there in the first place. But if that is not an option, then read on how best to escape and break the Thai clinch.

Pushing The Arm Away

While you are caught in the clinch position and your opponent is controlling your head, landing knees at will. Use your right hand to get under their arm and force it up and clear of your head while circling off to the side. All the while keeping full control of his arm and neck.

When you have circled off to the side, then use the position to land knees to the upper body and if possible the head. As you are now to the side and controlling the arm and head, it’s a great location from which to land those knees.

Maintain the hold and knee for as long as possible, either until you land a winning blow or the opponent manages to break free of the hold.

Two Muay Thai fighter throw punches during their fight
Muay Thai fighters competing.

Using The Overhook on the Arm

As your opponent is holding you in the clinch and dragging your head down. Using your right arm, sneak it under his left arm and over his shoulder creating an overhook.

As you pull on the overhook the opponent will now be off balance and susceptible to a knee. So ensure you use the technique in one fluid movement and don’t give your opponent time to escape. Always go for the knockout knee in the follow-up as you try and bring the fight to an early end.

Placing Your Hand on the Opponent’s Face

As your opponent clinches, use your left hand to aggressively push them away. While at the same time keeping your left shoulder in tight to them.

Once you have created the space, use the position to land some knees from the side. Your opponent may also react to the face push and if they do, may open up another opportunity to attack.

Try Controlling The Head

Controlling the head is an essential part of mastering the Muay Thai clinch. When an opponent has your head trapped between their hands and is controlling your head. You need to counter that and try to do the same.

This can be difficult if they have the underhook and as a result the superior position. But if you allow them free reign they will be the ones dictating where the fight goes so do your best to gain control of their head to counter.

Use Redirecting to Avoid Being Trapped

One of the best ways to avoid being stuck in the clinch is to use. Use your lateral movement to avoid being in the position in the first place. Create angles so that they cannot square up and get their hands over your neck.

Moving to the side and creating angles is not only a great way to avoid damage. It also puts you in a much better position from which to land your own strikes. But if they still manage to get in close, use some of the techniques I have listed to get separation.

Always Keep Yourself Moving

One way to avoid being in the position in the first place is to simply try and keep moving. In close, you may need to pummel to gain the dominant position. And if you are in against someone who is obviously stronger than you. The best way to deal with a clinch is if at all possible, to avoid it completely.

Muay Thai clinch counters

In Conclusion

So the Thai clinch is one of the most useful tools in the toolkit of the Muay Thai fighter. It’s a tough hold from which to escape and so it’s a great tool to master.

But in the worst scenario, you may be the one on the receiving end, so it’s best to know your way out. It takes plenty of drilling and repetition, pummeling and being on both the receiving and giving side to know how it feels.

It’s no wonder so many Muay Thai skills transferred well into MMA. Perfect for working in close, dirty boxing mixed with knees and elbows, offering up a deadly combination of potential strikes.

With some of the great UFC fighters being well-versed in the art. Choosing it above so many others when they compete inside the octagon. It’s clear to see the reverence in which Muay Thai is held.