The following post on how to defeat a more experienced opponent is written by Jon from MuayThaiAnalyst.com. If you enjoy this breakdown and analysis of Kevin Ross vs. Malaipet, you’ll definitely enjoy the rest of Jon’s work on his website. Also, check out part 1 and part 2 of this 3-part series on “Why Malaipet Couldn’t Stop Crazy”.
Why Malaipet Couldn’t Stop Crazy
In this the third article of a three part series, we examine Kevin Ross’s advanced offensive tactics and strategies during his fight with Malaipet Sasiprapa.
Martial Arts legend and philosopher Bruce Lee posits 5 ways of attack in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do: Simple Direct Attack, Attack By Combination, Progressive Indirect Attack, Limb Immobilization, and Attack by Drawing.
Malaipet’s offense is predominately comprised of simple direct attacks. He tends to dart in and out of range with single strikes. By contrast, Ross employed attack by combination and progressive indirect attack in this fight. He tried to stay in close range with Malaipet and kept a high output of consecutive strikes. To make his attacks less predictable and more difficult to defend, Ross also made efforts to vary his techniques, targets, speeds and angles.
Attack by Combination
An attack by combination consists of a combination of strikes used to create an opening for a finishing blow. While the techniques in the combination are committed strikes, not all are thrown with maximum power.
Punch Combination to Low Kick
Ross has spent time training at Sitmonchai gym, home to muay thai legend and fan favorite, Pornsanae Sitmonchai. Sitmonchai fighters are known for punctuating their punch combinations with ferocious leg kicks and Ross employs this tactic as well. He gets Malaipet to raise his guard and obscure his vision with his punches. He follows up with the leg kick after Malaipet is distracted. Here, he uses a jab, body cross, lead uppercut before the leg kick.
Here, Ross sets up the leg kick with a jab and overhand right He doesn’t commit much of his weight forward into the overhand right. This allows him to quickly raise his right leg for the leg kick and catch Malaipet clean.
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.” – Bruce Lee
Ross smartly modifies and extends his combinations based on Malaipet’s reactions and the openings he leaves. Here, Ross throws a 1-2 lead uppercut. Anticipating the right leg kick, Malaipet raises his left knee shield leaving his right side open. Ross sees his and throws a left body kick to Malaipet’s exposed ribs.
Here, Ross attempts left body kick but sees Malaipet raising his knee to block. Ross decides to change course, pulls his left leg in and delivers a rear right kick. Malaipet tries to block but is too late.
Setting Up a Sweep with Leg Kick
Set ups involve conditioning your opponent to expect a certain pattern to elicit a specific reaction. When your opponent begins react predictability, you break the pattern and exploit the openings resulting from their reaction.
Here, Ross scores a right low kick as Malaipet backs away. As Ross moves forward, Malaipet raises his left knee shield expecting another leg kick. Instead, Ross kicks out Malaipet’s supporting right leg with his right foot and while reaching across and pulling down Malaipet’s body with his right arm, resulting in a beautifully executed sweep.
Progressive Indirect Attack
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Progressive indirect attack (PIA) entails the use of feints or uncommitted strikes to get into position to launch a committed attack. What distinguishes PIA from simple direct attack is the attacker does not withdraw during the exchange. Here, Ross backs Malaipet into a corner with a left horizontal elbow. He then feints a left uppercut elbow to get closer and keep Malaipet’s attention focused up top and fires a hard right leg kick.
Ross backs Malaipet against the ropes and gets him to close his guard with a couple uncommitted jabs. With Malaipet’s hands in front of his face and the sides of his head exposed, Ross throws a beautiful spinning right elbow to Malaipet’s exposed temple.
Ross slowly raises his right knee forward feinting either a teep or a leg kick. After Malaipet to raises his left knee shield, reacting to the feint, Ross knows his attention has been directed down low. Ross pulls his right leg back and lands a quick right cross. The feint helps Ross distract Malaipet and get him closer into range.
Varying Levels and Targets
It can be difficult to land single strikes against an experienced opponent. However, combinations targeting a number of different levels, coming from a variety of angles are much more difficult to defend. This can overwhelm the defensive capabilities of even the wiliest of fighters.
In this sequence, Ross first targets the body with a cross and then goes upstairs with a lead uppercut. He pauses to gauge Malaipet’s reaction, then grabs the back of his head with his left glove and pulls him into a right uppercut. Changing levels was key to Ross’s ability to land these three successive punches on Malaipet.
Varying Speed and Rhythm
Muay Thai is not a race and the fastest fighter doesn’t always win. While speed is an asset, varying the speed of your attacks can actually increase the percentage of strikes you land.
In the course of a fight, you can condition your opponent to expect attacks at certain speeds. They begin to register your regular movements as threats and may be blind (or at least slow to react to) motions at a slower or faster pace.
Here Ross lazily raises his right knee. Malaipet doesn’t react at all and Ross extends his right leg to cleanly land a teep to the face. Malaipet never sees it coming because Ross chooses to move slower than his usual pace.
Playing with your speed also provides the added benefit of breaking up your natural rhythm, making all your actions more difficult to predict.
Varying Direction of Attack
Ross uses lateral movement to take his head off the center line and create new angles of attack at several points during the fight. Here, Ross calmly slips under a modified superman punch from Malaipet. With his body already moving to his left, he lifts his right leg to smoothly deliver a low kick.
Here, Ross slips Malaipet’s overhand right and grabs unto his body with double underhooks. Ross moves forward for the trip but ref breaks them up before he can finish.
Here, Ross throws a long right straight to get Malaipet to raise his guard. Expecting the right leg, Malaipet also raises his left knee shield. With Malaipet’s vision temporary obscured by his guard, Ross takes a moment to shift to his left. After Malaipet drops the knee shield, Ross lands the right leg kick Malaipet expected to come earlier. This is an example of a progressive indirect which also incorporates lateral movement.
“In single combat, we can confuse the enemy by attacking with varied techniques when the chance arises.” – Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings
Ross incorporates a number of flashy and specular techniques in the later rounds including spinning elbows, jumping elbow and jumping knees. Flashy and specular techniques can be high scoring when they land. They are not necessarily more damaging than mainstay muay thai techniques but can catch an opponent unaware as they tend to come from unusual angles. In the words of the Soul Assassin, “when fighting Malaipet you gotta throw a spinning elbow or two #CantStopCrazy.”
Sideways Rising Elbow
Here, Malaipet scores a solid rear round kick. Ross immediately turns his body to the side, shuffles forward and counters with a sideways rising elbow.
A sideways rising elbow begins with both feet parallel on a 90 degrees angle from your opponent. This looks similar to a karate horse stance without such deep bend at the knees. To deliver the strike, you shuffle sideways towards your opponent, raising your lead elbow by pushing up with your legs and rotating your lead shoulder outwards towards your opponent. Your elbow should travel on a line parallel to your body and rise in one smooth coordinated motion. The most common target is the chin but it can also be used effectively against the stomach and solar plexus. For additional safety, you can hold your rear head across your face in front of your chin.
Spinning Back Elbow
Ross skips forward with his left knee raised. Not sure what Ross is planning, Malaipet raises his guard and left knee shield. As Ross’s left foot lands, he spins clockwise and throws a spinning elbow. Although Malaipet was able to defend this elbow, Ross was still able to knock him backwards out to position to deliver a counter strike.
Jumping Downward Elbow
As the combatants inch forward to meet, Ross leaps up, grabs onto Malaipet’s right shoulder with his left glove and drops to tip of his right elbow on Malaipet’s head.
It looks like Malaipet may have expected Ross to throw a jumping left knee and thus raised his right knee shield to defend. There are quite a number of offense options from a leaping entry. Since the airborne attacker cannot change course mid flight, it is often best for the defender to simply pivot away to evade and counter when he lands.
Jumping Knee from Clinch
Late in the 5th round, Ross has a single collar tie on Malaipet and Malaipet doesn’t have any controlling grips in the clinch. Ross takes advantage by moving his body back to create space and deliver a jumping knee to Malaipet’s chin. This is a very damaging and high scoring technique.
If Malaipet held on to a collar tie or underhook in the clinch, he could have denied Ross the ability to back away and create space for the flying knee to the chin.
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- I'm a muay thai enthusiast currently living and training in Thailand.
On my site, muaythatianalyst.com, I analyze specific tactics deployed during muay thai fights as well the strategic progression of the match.
I also break down certain muay thai techniques and distill bio-mechanical principals that make fast, powerful and effective.