Fight IQ and Impeccable Timing – Petch U Thong vs Superlek
There are a quite a few teachable moments in this fight. Petch U Thong shows a lot of the traits aspiring fighters should try to develop. He always maintains his composure, controls of the pace of the fight, and blends smart offensive tactics with a solid defense. He makes masterful use of the clinch for seemingly effortless sweeps, lands some of beautiful elbows, and makes Superlek wear the crimson mask of defeat for a TKO victory.
Fight Analysis – Petch U Thong vs Superlek
Fast Walk-in Uppercut Elbow
The uppercut elbow is a short range weapon usually employed at clinching or trapping distances in muay thai. Petch U Thong (blue) quickly closes the distance from kicking range and surprises Superlek (red) with the uppercut elbow on a number of occasions.
At the beginning of Round 2, Petch U Thong sprints forward with two quick steps and delivers a beautiful uppercut elbow to Superlek’s chin. To create an opening for the elbow, Petch U Thong cups Superlek’s left arm as he moves forward and pulls down on the arm to generate more torque for the strike. He smartly clinches up with Superlek afterwards to avoid counterstrikes.
Closing the distance quickly helped him catch Superlek off guard and generate additional power for the elbow by harnessing his forward momentum. Being so close to Superlek allows him to catch his opponent at the beginning of the power arc of the strike, where there is plenty of room for follow through. You can see Superlek’s chin snap to the left after the elbow makes contact.
Walking forward, instead of taking a long step with the lead leg, allows Petch U Thong to maintain an upright posture at close range. While it is also possible to land the elbow by lunging forward, you will end up in a lower stance with your feet wider apart. This requires more hip rotation and shoulder turn to properly land the strike, potentially exposing your chin. The elbow will travel a greater distance, giving your opponent more time to react.
To illustrate, Yongthongthai (red) lunges forward with a right uppercut elbow. Pornsanae (blue) catches him with a right hook on his exposed left side. If he was closer, Yongthongthai wouldn’t need to turn his body as much and would have had a easier time keeping his left glove by his chin, protecting him from the right hook.
Superlek skips forward and delivers a right body kick and Petch U Thong evades by moving backwards, out of range. Superlek’s foot makes contact with his ribs but it is merely a glancing blow without much power.
Early on in a fight, moving backwards is a good defensive tactic when you don’t have a good read on your opponent. Although you are not in a position to counter, you gain an understanding of your opponent’s offensive preferences while avoiding damage. Petch U Thong will take a more active approach later in the round.
Overhead Spear Elbow
Petch U Thong walks in quickly again but he attempts a left overhead spear elbow this time. Superlek is a bit too close and the tip of elbow lands on the shoulder instead.
Petch U Thong uses similar footwork as the earlier uppercut elbow but starts from boxing rather than kicking range. The overhead spear elbow has a narrower effective range than the arcing uppercut elbow. This is a linear stabbing motion in contrast to the circular slashing motion of the uppercut elbow. Petch U Thong’s chances of landing it would have been better if he walked in from farther away or stepped forward where he was.
To properly execute the overhead spear elbow technique, you step in, quickly raise your arm and drop the tip of your elbow on your opponent’s forehead in a downward motion. Power comes from your forward momentum, flexing your core muscles in a crunching movement and twisting your upper body.
Talk to the Hand
Superlek skips forward, attempting a diagonal right knee. Petch U Thong steps back, raises his left leg to block the knee and extends his left land pushing on Superlek’s upper arm. Superlek’s upper body is kept at a distance by the straight arm while his lower body continues forward, causing him to fall backwards to the ground.
Setting up Follow on Strikes
By now, Superlek probably expects that Petch U Thong will be coming at him with a lead elbow when he walks forward. Superlek extends his left arm, keeps his right arm tight, and tucks his head down. However, extending his left arm leaves his ribs exposed on the left side. Petch U Thong exploits this opening by following up the elbow with a right body kick.
If you can get your opponent to react in a predictable manner to your moves, you can set traps for them by thinking a few steps ahead.
Countering the Counter Move
By now, Petch U Thong has a pretty good read on Superlek’s kicks. He retreated earlier in the round but now takes a more active approach. He blocks Superlek’s first kick and catches the second. Superlek anticipates that Petch U Thong’s will try to sweep his back foot and jumps up to avoid. Petch U Thong patiently waits for Superlek to come back down and sweeps the supporting leg with his right foot.
Petch U Thong’s patience and adaptability is well rewarded here. Instead of forcing things, he makes the best of the opportunities presented to him, showing good fight IQ once again.
A Sweeping Success
Petch U Thong initiates an arm clinch. Superlek raises his left knee but before he’s able to put it down and secure his balance, Petch U Thong twists him to his left. As Superlek falls to his left, he shifts his weight from his right to left foot. Petch U Thong sweeps out the sole supporting left foot with his right shin, sending Superlek tumbling on his back.
Many fighters usually wait a moment to get settled before attempting a hard knee or throw in the clinch. Petch U Thong is able to catch Superlek off guard with a dynamic and explosive movement moments after engaging.
Reactive Push Kick from Knee Shield
Petch U Thong skips in, hesitates for a moment, and throws a right horizontal elbow. Superlek push kicks Petch U Thong’s thigh with his raised leg and manages to stay out of range of the elbow.
It can better to raise the knee and wait for your opponent to commit before fully extending your leg instead of an outright teep. A tricky opponent can feint an advance and catch your teep or sweep it to the side, leaving you in vulnerable positions, as we will see later in the fight.
Push kicking from the knee shield also allows for a faster strike, shortcutting the route your foot needs to travel. However, you need to develop good balance to effectively kick from this position.
Turning the Tables
As Superlek is about to throw a clinch knee, Petch U Thong wisely turns him clockwise and the knee misses. He does this by pulling on Superlek’s head, pushing on his right shoulder and stepping to his left. As Superlek catches his balanace against the ropes, Petch U Thong takes advantage with a hard right uppercut elbow through the guard.
You can see that Superlek has a cut on his forehead at the end of round 2. Although its not clear that this was the elbow responsible for the cut from this angle, this is the only elbow I saw land around the left side of his forehead in this round.
In the clinch, turning your opponent they throw a knees is both a offensive and defensive maneuver. It puts your body out of the effective range of the knee while off-balancing and potentially dumping your opponent. It is also easiest to turn your opponent when they are on one leg, in the middle of the knee strike. Petch U Thong initiates the turn at the perfect time, when Superlek has his right leg far back.
Modified Hip Toss
At the beginning of round 3, Superlek engages Petch U Thong in an arm clinch and drives forward. Petch U Thong palms Superlek’s face with both gloves to halt this progress, take away his sense of balance and immobilize his arms. He throws Superlek to the ground with a move that faintly resembles harai goshi (hip sweep) from Judo, excluding the foot sweep. Although you are allowed to sweep your opponent with the front of your foot, muay thai rules forbid you from sweeping out your opponent’s legs with your heel.
Petch U Thong uses Superlek’s momentum against him by turning his hips to his left, planting his weight on his left foot, putting his right hip into Superlek’s midsection, twisting his body counter clockwise and pushing Superlek’s face to the ground. Petch U Thong’s right hip acts as a fulcrum and his arms as the lever.
This face palm grip itself is very powerful and it’s possible to throw your opponent even without hipping in. Here, Muangthai (red) pushes down on Tuanpae’s (blue) face and twists down to the right.
Twist and Turn
Superlek presses forward and ties Petch U Thong against the ropes in the clinch and lands some good knees. He has a dominant clinch position with both hands clasped behind Petch U Thong’s head, pulling it downwards. Petch U Thong escapes this by turning his body clockwise and dropping his posture, freeing his head.
This is a great example of how to use position and leverage, rather than brute force, to escape a bad position. Twisting and turning, while pushing up on Superlek’s right arm, creates little space between his neck and Superlek’s right arm. Petch U Thong uses this space to sneak his head out.
Petch U Thong could be in danger of the left knee when he lowers his posture to the right and so he wisely waits until Superlek’s attempts a right knee. His times this move perfectly. As with the clinch turn earlier, twisting his body away from the knee strike also mitigates the force of the blow as he moves his body out of its effective range.
Another Sweeping Success
Petch U Thong has inside grips in an arm clinch, generally an advantageous position. Superlek throws some rabbit knees against Petch U Thong’s thighs. Just as Superlek throws a right knee, Petch U Thong turns him clockwise, pulling in and down with his right hand and kicking out Superlek’s supporting left leg with his right foot. Many sweeps in muay thai involve moving the opponent’s upper body and lower body in opposite directions.
Beginners tend to rely on brute force but with proper biomechanics, it’s possible to throw your opponent with minimal effort. To generate momentum for this sweep, Petch U Thong leans his bodyweight back and twists to his left. This has the opposite effect on Superlek pulling him forward and to the right.
Notice Petch U Thong has fairly straight arms and legs in this throw, rotating via the shoulder and hip joints rather extending his elbows and knees. Straighter limbs are longer levers. Keeping your arms and legs straight will allow you to dump your opponent with much less effort.
Choosing your Battles
Superlek skips forward with a hard body kick. Petch U Thong blocks while retreating and paws at Superlek with a couple jabs to keep him at bay. As Superlek throws a left teep, Petch U Thong dips down and explodes forward with a hard right body kick. Superlek attempts to block but is to late.
Petch U Thong demonstrates good defense acumen and timing here, waiting until Superlek is off balance to counter strike. The missed left teep forces Superlek to put more weight on his left leg to regain his balance. A heavier left leg means he will be slower to block with it. This makes the right round kick a very effective counter strike in this situation.
Slip and Slide
Superlek has a dominant position in the clinch and throws a straight right knee. Petch U Thong slides his body backwards to avoid the knee and ducks his head out. The liniment oil, sweat and blood help lubricate his escape. Petch U Thong throws a hard right uppercut elbow just after they disengage.
Ducking your head down in the clinch is usually a very bad idea and often results in a knee to the face. However, the risk of doing this decreases after your opponent already throws a knee. Timing is key and Petch U Thong’s couldn’t be better.
Tenderizing the Underbelly
Superlek moves forward with a tight high guard and Petch U Thong catches him with a beautiful liver shot. Superlek continues forward, trying to engage him in the clinch. Petch U Thong catches him in the ribs with a hard right knee as he’s backing up.
Seizing the Moment
Superlek has been losing quite decisvely until this point but temporarily reverses the momentum of the fight after Petch U Thong misses a teep. Superlek brushes Petch U Thong’s right teep to the right and pivots to his left. This leaves Petch U Thong’s right flank exposed.
As mentioned earlier, fully committing to a teep can leave you in a vulnerable position but Petch U Thong does a good job of recovering. Superlek takes advantage by throws a diagonal right knee. Petch U Thong has the presence of mind to anticipate this and raises his right knee to block. Superlek takes Petch U Thong’s back for a moment but Petch U Thong counters by spinning to his right and backs up avoiding a follow up knee from Superlek.
Petch U Thong jumps forward and throws a right spear elbow but misses by a little. Superlek pushes him into a corner and throws a right kick as he’s falling back. Unfortunately, from the camera angle, it’s difficult to tell exactly where kick landed. Petch U Thong gets up quickly, not showing damage and this isn’t ruled a knockdown.
Shin on Skull Action
Petch U Thong throws a left body hook and Superlek brings his elbows down to defend. Superlek might still be smarting from the liver shot earlier in the round. By bringing his arms low, Superlek exposes his face and Petch U Thong catches him with a beautifully timed right head kick. Superlek is clearly stunned and rushes forward to clinch.
This is one reason why fighters are often taught to defend body punches by lowering their stance rather than just bringing the hands lower. If you drop your level, you elbows will cover the ribs and your gloves will still protect your chin.
A good way to exploit such common defensive shortcomings is by targeting different levels (head, body, legs) and sides (right, left) in your combinations.
The Crimson Mask
The cuts on Superlek’s forehead are bleeding heavily at the end of round 3.
For some odd reason, Superlek actually has more blood on his face at the beginning of round 4.
It looks like his cornermen didn’t wipe off the blood or apply vaseline. Superlek appears to be blinking a lot so the blood is probably affecting his vision as well. Early into round 4, the referee signals for the doctor to check Superlek. The doctor wipes off the blood and allows the match to continue.
Temporarily saved from an ignominious stoppage, Superlek comes forward aggressively and with great urgency. He knows that this could be stop at any moment if his bleeding continues. Petch U Thong stays smart and defensive against his desperate opponent. He maintains distance with jabs and teeps and lands a beautiful flying knee.
Referee signals for the doctor again after another minute and the doctor waves it off.
Petch U Thong has shown high fight IQ in this one-sided fight against a game and skilled opponent. He stays relaxed throughout, calmly watching his opponent for openings. He also registers his opponents prior reactions and uses this knowledge to plan future offensives. After identifying opportunities, his timing and execution is absolutely impeccable.
Petch U Thong prioritizes defense and doesn’t take much damage in this fight. When he gets in bad positions, he escapes and defends with technique and presence of mind, showing no sign of desperation.
At the time of writing, he is 19 years old and has already fought some top muay thai fighters like Sam A, Superbank, Songkom and Nongbeer. It will be interesting to see far he can go in the Bangkok circuits in the coming years.