The fourth lesson of my client’s second course in Mixed Martial Arts for Martial Arts Cross-Training looked at countering the kick-catch. This reactionary tactic can also be considered grouped under closing the distance. It’s a risky move getting one’s foot caught, but it can be great bait for an opponent to who is defending the clinch.
We began with a warm-up on the focus mitts, beginning with some simple boxing combinations. Taking the lesson into clinch-range we added on a diagonal knee strike to jab/cross/hook/shovel hook. From here we looked at using knees to set up an opponent for some classic upper body throws and takedowns. We focused on jab/cross/clinch/alternate round knees/major hip throw. With the stand-up-to-clinch approach established we moved onto kick-catching.
Besides simply ripping the kick out, which is common in Muay Thai, but can leave a fighter open to having their back taken, another effective defence is to clinch, drive down with the trapped leg and return fire with a straight knee. The most dangerous part in this situation is getting your leg intercepted. Your balance is immediately compromised so you need to compensate for this immediately. Begin hopping towards your opponent quickly and be active with your hands, as your opponent’s guard is one-handed at best. However, this is not the counter-tactic just a means to delay getting taken down or thrown a powerful knee strike. Use your active hands to get the plumb position, clinch and throw your weight violently down into your trapped leg. This brutal and pragmatic action, which rarely sits well with the “go with the flow” or “use their strength against them” Nazis, often gets the job well. It breaks what is often a single arm grip and pulls the opponent down into the path of your knee strike, which is given extra range and momentum. It is classic backward recoil and forward momentum aided in its ultimate impact by having the opponent’s head pulled down by both the force of the grip-break and its natural proportional heaviness. Upward straight knees to pulled down head are a nigh on perfect combination for a knockout.
After this we looked at even more dramatic response that exploited the full range of the clinch and isn’t really covered in modern Muay Thai rules. This involves jumping guard from the kick-catch. Here the fighter needs to jump up, using his opponent to balance, and wrap a leg around his opponent’s waist. He should entwine his free leg with his trapped one grip around his opponent’s body with his arms. As soon as this initial grip is established the fighter should seek a double under-hook. From here slide the grip down to the small of the back and push the feet down to a standing position. It important to maintain a tight clinch to prevent the opponent from dropping his hips back. The fighter walks forward, his hips over his opponent’s hips and pulls his clinch inwards, breaking his opponent’s balance. If the opponent responds with strong resistance, pushing back, he might be set up for a snap belly-to-belly supplex.
Of course, if you jump guard you must prepared for the obvious counter any decent wrestler will opt for, particularly if you are fighting under MMA rules: the slam. Ever since Rampage Jackson showed the world what good deadlifting, power cleans and medicine ball slams can do when applied to an attempted submission from guard, all grapplers should be ready to brace for impact. In this instance, the fighter pulling guard needs to instantly get in tight on his opponent. This way when the fighter is rammed into the mat is compact and the impact is dispersed through both him and his opponent.
We then focused on wrapping one arm with a single over-hook and threatening with a scissor guard. If the opponent pulls back and tries to base himself the fighter attacks the arm with an arm-bar or shoulder lock (oma plata). Otherwise, the fighter rolls onto the side where he has trapped the arm and uses the scissor guard to sweep his opponent.