MMA Fighting Techniques – The Clinch

muay-thai-clinch-with-knee

Stand-up grappling techniques such as the clinch are very important in MMA and an advantage is gained by perfecting them. Once mastered, other techniques can be combined with the grapple, such as strikes with knees and elbows, or punches and takedowns.

The clinch

The clinch is used in many other martial arts with the best examples coming from Muay Thai and wrestling. In wrestling the clinch focuses on hip and body control, and in Muay Thai it focuses on head control. Another method is the dirty boxing clinch, which involves holding the opponent’s head with one arm, pushing and pulling them off balance and then delivering punches to the head and body.

The Muay Thai clinch


The Muay Thai clinch focuses on controlling the opponent’s head, then using this control to push and pull them off balance and to apply punches and knee and elbow strikes. Main points of execution are as follows:

  • The opponent’s head is held tightly in the Muay Thai Clinch, with the hands lying unlinked on top of each other.
  • An elbow strike can be thrown from the clinch.
  • The Muay Thai Clinch is perfect preparation for a knee strike to the head. It is important for the opponent’s head to be lowered and this is achieved by the fighter jumping back with the kneeing leg to create the desired space and lower stance.
  • A knee strike can be executed from the side for targeting the short ribs or the thighs. Before executing, the fighter pulls the opponent’s head to the side to expose the rib.
  • The opponent often straightens up to prevent their head from being pulled down.
  • The opponent’s resistance results in the fighter letting go of the Muay Thai clinch.
  • However, the fighter often capitalises on their opponent’s vulnerable upright position by shooting in for a takedown.

Escaping the Muay Thai clinch

The Muay Thai clinch is very powerful because once in place other techniques can be applied to make the opponeextremely vulnerable. It is therefore important to be able to quickly counteract it.

ESCAPE 1 – Main pointers:

  • The clinched fighter tries to get inside the clinch by bringing one arm through.
  • The fighter’s other hand pushes through inside the opponent’s arms.
  • The fighter gains a secure grip of their opponent’s head. The fighter now has the advantage.
  • The clinched fighter puts their arm over their opponent’s to push back their head. This action reduces the opponent’s grip and generates a gap.

ESCAPE 2: How to do it:

  • The fighter’s other hand follows into the gap.
  • The clinching fighter applies a knee to the opponent’s body to weaken him.
  • The fighter straightens both arms to push their opponent’s head back in order to escape.

The wrestling clinch

The wrestling clinch focuses on controlling the opponent’s torso and hips in order to take them down using a leg or body takedown or a throw. Both competitors try to get their arms under each other’s in order to grab the top of the shoulders, waist or hips; this manoeuvre is also known as an under hook. When both arms of the fighter clinch the shoulders of the opponent, which is also known as a double under hook, an advantage is created because the body lock makes it easier to perform a takedown or a separation. Many other techniques can be combined with the wresting clinch. Key points:

  • Two fighters grappling to achieve an under hook with neither having the advantage.
  • A fighter with both arms under their opponent’s in a double hook. The advantage is now with the fighter.
  • The fighter applies an elbow strike from the underhook.
  • The fighter applies a knee strike from the under Hook.
  • The fighter steps behind the opponent.
  • From the double under hook, the fighter moves one hand so that they are holding the wrist of their other hand behind their opponent.

A WRESTLE CLINCH COMBINED WITH A BODY LOCK

  • By rotating around their own axis, the fighter can trip their opponent.
  • The opponent lands on the floor and is secured by the fighter using a side control.

A WRESTLE CLINCH COMBINED WITH A KNEE TO TAKEDOWN

  • The opponent tries to get out of a clinch by using their knee.
  • The fighter responds by getting their arm under the opponent’s
  • The fighter lifts the caught leg and sweeps the other foot of the leg, while still maintaining their upright opponent from under them.

ESCAPE 1 FROM THE DOUBLE UNDER HOOK

Because the under hook is widely used, it is important to learn how to escape from it to avoid being taken down. The best method is by lowering the hips, and therefore your centre of gravity, as this makes it harder for the opponent to execute a pick up and slam down.

  • The opponent applies a double under hook and the fighter responds by lowering their hips and centre of gravity.
  • The fighter tries to escape the opponent’s hold by pushing their head away with both hands. The fighter also lowers their head as this reduces the opponent’s leverage for a takedown.
  • The fighter continues to move their head down to increase the separation, helped by pushing away the hip of the opponent with one hand. The fighter will then use the space created to reach through with their other arm and secure a single under hook.
  • The opponent applies a double under hook and the fighter responds by lowering their hips and centre of gravity.
  • The fighter raises one elbow and wedges it between the opponent’s neck and shoulder.
  • In this position the fighter starts to relax their arm, pull back and step away from the opponent.

The dirty boxing clinch

The dirty boxing clinch is used in MMA for punching and elbowing the opponent with additional momentum being created by pulling their head down as part of the strike. Pushing and pulling the opponent’s head, and circling round them, helps throw them off balance and therefore makes it harder for them to counter-strike. Switching the clinching arm, pulling the opponent to the other side, and punching with the other arm can also be very effective.

Other clinches, takedowns and knee strikes naturally follow on from, or combine with, the dirty boxing clinch, making it very versatile. Randy Couture mastered these strategies and became one of the most successful UFC fighters.

With the dirty boxing clinch in place, uppercuts can be applied. However, it is important to keep them short by using movement from the hip and leg. A hook to the face or body can also be applied.

A takedown can only be attempted when an appropriate opening occurs. When it does, the fighter becomes vulnerable for a split second. To cover this vulnerability, and also to feint from the takedown to confuse the opponent, it is important to merge striking and grappling techniques.

Sweeps

Sweeps are very effective from a standing position when the opponent has all their weight on one leg, for example when kicking. However, sweeps should always be directed at the leg with the most weight on it.

  • The opponent throws a roundhouse kick to the fighter’s short rib.
  • The fighter reads this and counteracts by trying to catch the kick.
  • The fighter catches their opponent’s leg, wrapping their arm around it and pushing them off balance with their other hand.
  • The fighter steps towards their opponent while still holding their leg and pushing them with their other hand.
  • The fighter sweeps the opponent’s supporting leg.
  • The opponent lands on their back.

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