Common Mistakes Fighters Make in the Clinch

By: Ronnie Najjar

Common Mistakes Fighters Make in the Clinch

By: Ronnie Najjar

Your Clinch game is as strong as your weakest link. If you’re doing even ONE of these mistakes below, your clinch will suck. You can’t even get away with one of these mistakes. Check ’em out:

#1 Clinching in regular fight stance

Most students are surprised to learn that the clinching stance is different to the fighting stance!

Your Clinch stance: Feet parallel, feet slightly more than hips width apart and unlock hips like a micro squat. Stand with the weight on the balls of your feet, heels slightly off the floor. This makes kneeing easier by using the floor to bounce off from the ball of your feet and spring into a knee as opposed to using your hip flexor to lift your leg- that’s too slow.

#2 Giving away the neck

This is a super bad habit in training. Don’t let your partner or opponent grab your neck, and then start the clinch. Practice NOT allowing them to come near your neck. Knee your partner coming in, block using your forearms and slip away whilst spinning them around, knee countering or dunking them. And do so in the fight!

#3 Flimsy Knees

Learn to knee properly and when I say properly I mean HARD. Make sure it hurts. Practice on the bag and knee with the point of your knee. Swing it out for a side knee, dig it in for a straight knee. Bend the bag in half. Visualize your targets and program your mind and body because in the fight you don’t want to do tip-tap bullshit knees. You’ll score points but do no damage.

#4 Focusing too much on the wrestle

The point of the clinch is to FIGHT, not wrestle! So get to work. Knee-Knee-Knee! (Or elbow if it’s a Full Thai Rules fight). You need to practice consistently kneeing big-time in training. Don’t just knee every now and then. Pop those fuckers up non-stop and wear your opponent out!

#5 Lazy clinch guard

Keep your hands up like you would when striking! In training we separate the clinch and train it alone most of the time- “Time for clinching” and what usually happens is fighters relax and drop their hands because there’s no punches coming etc. In a fight it’s not “time for clinching”- it’s boxing-clinching-elbows… So keep your hands up or you will get socked in the face.

#6 Taking Both hands off the opponents neck when changing position

This one is a huge one for one main reason- I learned the hard way in one of my early fight as I ate at least 30 elbows to the cranium and couldn’t figure out why.

Later I discovered something so simple that ruined me in the fight: NEVER EVER take two hands off your opponent, when changing position. ALWAYS have one hand behind their neck and once you position one hand firmly, only then swap. If both hands are off you are completely open for elbows, and you can be swung around like a rag doll as you have nothing to hang onto. You wouldn’t believe how many people take both hands off without realizing it.

#7 Criss-crossing feet

Just like in the fight stance, maintain the clinch stance and don’t get your feet tied or fumble for all the obvious reasons- balance, stability and all that jazz. Crossing your feet will mess everything in every way.

#8 Engaging/ Disengaging with zero defense in between

This is a simple one, but extremely common. Entering the clinch it’s easy to forget a tight defense and overreach to grab opponents neck, then get clocked in the face. Also in reverse, when disengaging and stepping out you need to stay tight with hands up.

#9 Facing side on inside the clinch

Stay front on. If you turn to the side they’ll dunk you.

#10 Bending for a shorter opponent

This one is also very common. You don’t want to bend your spine- as soon as you’re stance/ spine/ foundation is broken, you’re gone- no strength.

Stand tall and strong, chin tucked in. Don’t make the mistake of bending over when you have a shorter opponent, and coming to his level. You make them come to your level.


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