The strategies of the clinch and the reasons for using it are different for each combat sport. Since Mixed Martial Arts combines so many combat sports, we are going to examine the differences between the clinch as it is used in boxing and the clinch used in Muay Thai fighting.
In the sport of boxing, the clinch is used for one basic reason.
The main reason boxers clinch is to break the other fighter’s momentum. When a boxer is on the offensive, his opponent may cover up in an effort to avoid getting hit. If the advancing boxer continues to strike his opponent, he will certainly inflict a fair amount of damage and the defending fighter may not be able to counter strike. The striker is now in control and the fight could take a nasty turn unless the fighter being beaten can change the momentum in his favor.
A common tactic that boxers employ is the clinch position. By stepping forward and throwing his arms around his opponent, the attack will stop momentarily. While in the boxing clinch, the defender leans into his opponent and lays his weight into him. It is very difficult for either fighter to throw an effective boxing punch while in the clinch and fight fans typically do not appreciate the tactic because it’s not very exciting to watch.
The referee won’t let fighters clinch for long, but there’s really not much he can do other than break the fighters apart. Excessive clinching may earn points deductions after a few warnings, but this is a rare event.
Excessive clinching is common in the later rounds of a competitive bout when the combatants are worn out and tired. Tired fighters may hug and clinch with each other as a way to catch their breath and get a break.
The Thai Clinch, on the other hand, is used in a completely different manner.
In a Muay Thai boxing match, the clinch is not a defensive position at all. In Muay Thai the Thai clinch is a potentially deadly offensive position.
The Thai Clinch is achieved by wrapping your hands, glove over glove, behind your opponent’s skull while pulling the skull downwards and into your chest. In the Thai clinch position, the fighter controls the other opponent and is able to strike his opponent with knees to the body and knees to the head. It is also common to throw elbows while breaking out of the Thai clinch -or even while still clinching.
The referee will not step in to break up a Thai clinch, It is completely legal to strike while in the clinch and even while breaking out of the hold.
As you can imagine, the Thai Clinch is a much more useful tactic in MMA that the boxing clinch could ever be.