Have you ever wondered what it is about a fighter that makes them so dominant over an opponent in the ring? As the saying often goes “Styles make fights” and this is so very true in the sport of Muay Thai.
To the untrained eye, opinions are usually based on size, height, how much muscle a fighter has and how scary a fighter looks. But anyone who trains Muay Thai knows this is all far from relevant to who wins a fight.
Of course at the lowest level this will play a part in who comes out victorious, however when two fighters are matched evenly it comes down to who is more skilled. Besides, a skilled fighter will always find a way to beat fighters bigger and stronger too.
Similarly to western boxing there are different styles fighters pick up and utilize in their game. In boxing you may have seen these terms Swarmers, Out-boxers, Counter punchers, Sluggers, and Boxing-punchers.
While some of these can still be relevant to Muay Thai there is so much more complexity and variety to the Muay Thai Styles due to the extra use of knees, elbows and kicks.
There are 4 main fighting styles that a Nak Muay (Muay Thai Fighter) will choose to perfect. The style a fighter uses is usually what is taught to them by their trainer/gym. Some gyms favour certain styles and are renowned for it.
It is often true that a style can be utilized by your strengths and weaknesses. My trainer does a very good job at finding this and everyone in my gym has a different style based on the things they are good at and can have success with.
The 4 fighting styles make Muay Thai much more interesting. It is not as simple as looking at two fighters, seeing who looks stronger and predicting them to win. You have to take into consideration which style they choose to fight with.
So here are the styles:
Muay Khao (The Knee Fighter)
The Muay Thai Khao style is a very popular choice. This style involves utilisation of the clinch and elbow strikes. Fighters will march their opponent down using constant forward pressure pushing into close range to land their vicious elbows and knees.
This style requires very high output, high endurance and constant pressure. You often see tall rangy fighters using this style and being very good at it.
A great example of a fighter is Yodwicha. He marches opponents down into the clinch to land his devastating knee strikes.
- Very gruelling to fight against requires and opponent to be switched on to avoid being KOd
- Takes an opponent to deep waters and pushes them to limits wearing them down
- Can be mentally draining for your opponent
- You will often win via stoppage
- This styles is scored highly if done properly due to domination and landing knee strikes
- Avoid being scored on as you push into the clinch
- Can often walk onto strikes whilst closing the distance
- Requires a strong heart and mind
- Requires immense cardio to sustain the pressure
- Can be smartly scored on by fighters
How to beat a Muay Khao
- Utilise footwork to circle off, don’t walk back in straight lines.
- Avoid walking onto the ropes and being kneed.
- Time your strikes as your opponent is walking forward so it is hard for them to defend.
- Push them off out of the clinch
Example – Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn – Sky Piercing Knee (Muay Khao Highlight)
Muay Mat (Heavy Puncher)
The style fans love to watch is Muay Mat fighters. These are the aggressive, forward coming fighters that utilise hands and low kicks. Muay Mat fighters will push their opponents back looking for a KO finish and do everything they can to cause as much damage as possible. Whilst doing this they sometimes sacrifice losing on points and taking damage themselves.
Muay Mat fighters close the distance using tactics to upset their opponents rhythm, make them drop their guard and then off load with boxing and low kick strikes.
This style requires a fighter to have a strong, muscular body and to be able to take punishment. If the Muay Mats body is strong enough this style will beat all other fighting styles.
Examples of fighters who use this style – Pornsanae Sitmonchai, Anuwat Kaewsamwrit, Yodlekpet Or.Pitisak
- Very entertaining for fight fans
- Will cause a lot of damage to opponents
- Best style for finishes/KOs
- Physiological advantage over opponents
- Can be scored on with strikes
- Sometimes lose on point if you don’t get KO
- Can take a lot of punishment
- Must be able to endure the same level of pressure throughout to be effective – this means having good cardiovascular.
How to beat Muay Mat
Muay Femur is the best fighting style to combat a Muay Mat. This fighter is able to
- Score and pick up points
- Use footwork and evasion to minimise damage.
Example – Anuwat Kaewsamrit – The Iron Hands of Siam (Highlights)
Muay Femur – The Skilled Fighter
Muay Femur’s fighting style relies on skill and technique. These fighters are well-rounded and use all Muay Thai weapons to beat opponents, punches, kicks, knees and elbows.
The Femur fighters possess amazing fight IQ and eyes. Deemed to have an almost “6th sense”, it seems as though they know what you are going to do before you have done it. They are masters of pattern recognition and are able to interrupt an opponent’s rhythm laying traps on the way.
They are able to sit back and outwit opponents making them miss whilst countering with precise strikes and perfect technique.
Examples of Muay Femur fighters includes Saenchai, Sam-A Gaiyanghado, Nong-O Gaiyanghado and Samart Payakaroon.
- Often smarter than opponents can out point them
- Can minimise damage by being evasive and hard to hit
- Can counter most opponents
- Can be beaten at close range by punchers
- Beaten in the clinch
- Can get tired due to constant movement and use of footwork
How to beat a Muay Femur
- Muay Femur fighters are often beaten in the clinch if they are unable to stay out of it.
- It is also possible that they can get KOd by strong Muay Mat fighters.
Example – Saenchai: Knockouts and Antics (Thai Fight) | แสนชัย
Muay Tae – The Kicker
The final Muay Thai style is the Muay Tae fighters. These fighters utilize roundhouse kicks to score points and keep their opponents at range.
The Muay Tae fighter poses strong roundhouse kicks that are fast and accurate used to slow an opponent down, hurt their arm and keep them at range.
A good example of a fighter who did this well is Buakaw Banchamek. During his K1 days he had one of the strongest left kicks in the game, he uses this to neutralise the strong boxers.
- Powerful, fast kicks on target
- Good point scorer in Muay Thai
- Powerful strikes to slow opponents down
- Can be beat by clinchers
- Can be outwitted by Muay Femur with good evasion and defence
- Must keep fight at range for this style to be effective
How to beat a Muay Tae
- Use evasion and good defence to prevent them scoring points
- Push into the clinch closing the range so they are
Example – Singdam O Aukritt – Devastating Left Kick (Highlight) | Muay Tae
The saying is very true, styles do really make fights. There is so much more to fighting that meets the eye and this is what makes Muay Thai so interesting. You could have an aggressive fighter beat by being outskilled. Fighters can look strong but be beat out the score cards by a fighter who plays to game and uses better tactics.
At the same time you could have a fighter who you expect to win but is worn doubt strategically due to pressure. Anything can happen and this is what makes the sport so beautiful.
Have a think which style resonates with you the most.