Panpayak Jitmuangnon is one of the most accomplished young muay thai fighters today. At the age of 19, he’s won the Sports Writers of Thailand’s Fighter of the Year award in 2013 and 2014. He is also a 2 time Rajadamnern champion and 2 time Lumpinee champion and current holder of the Lumpinee featherweight title. At the time of writing, Panpayak has a record of 204-31-2 with notable wins over tough veterans like Sam-A, Prajanchai, and Wanchalong.
Panpayak considers himself a technician and wins most fights by decision. He is a classic out fighter, who prefers to keep some distance from his opponent and land long range strikes. His fighting style fits his physical attributes quite well. He is a lanky southpaw who enjoys significant height and reach advantage over most opponents.
Panpayak doesn’t really change his approach opponent to opponent and does well against both orthodox fighters (Luknimit and Prajanchai) and southpaws (Sam-A and Wanchalong). He is able to force his opponents to fight his fight because of his ability to control the range and pace of a fight.
Panpayak’s success is built more around technical excellence rather than strategic brilliance. His offense is relatively straight forward, consisting of a few core techniques. Despite being somewhat predictable, he is consistently able to score with superior timing and distance management. He picks his opponents apart from a safe distance, keeping them on the end of his range where they have difficulty reaching him.
This is the first of a two part series where we will first examine Panpayak’s distance management, prodigious round kick and his tactics for defending and escaping caught kicks. In part two, we will look into Panpayak’s attacks while advancing, retreating and standing toe to toe with his opponent.
While Panpayak can also be effective at punching and clinch range, he prefers to contest the fight at kicking range. He has a number of tools to keep the fight at his preferred range of combat.
Panpayak’s primary means of keeping the fight on the outside is to read his opponent’s advances and retreat before they can close the distance. Here, Lukminit advances quickly attempting to penetrate deeper. If he gets in close, it will difficult to Panpayak to fade from his round kick.
As Luknimit shuffles forward, Panpayak already begins sliding out of range. Luknimit sees his opponent is too far away for the kick and abandons his attack.
Teep to Reset and Reengage
Panpayak will also employ the front teep when he finds his opponent a little too close for comfort. Further, when his opponent develops a good offensive rhythm, he will also use the teep to disrupt their flow, forcing them to reset and reengage.
Here, Sam-A gets into a good rhythm and is close enough to land round kicks. Although Panpayak easily blocks this kick, he decides to reset the range and forcing Sam-A back to a distance where he can fully exploit his reach advantage.
Circling Jab to Escape Corners
When backed against a corner, Panpayak will often circle to his right while peppering his opponent with jabs. Here he fires a series of jabs at Wanchalong’s face. He snap his head back in the process which makes it difficult for Wanchalong to see his footwork and cut off his escape.
Here, Sam-A shuffles forward with a series of pawing jabs to push his opponent back into the corner. Panpayak he parries the jabs and fires off a stiff jab of his own. After snapping Sam-A’s head back, he safely circles out of the corner.
Panpayak’s Rear Round Kick
Like many out-fighters in muay thai, Panpayak’s favored technique is the rear round kick. It forms the cornerstone of his offense. Of the half dozen or so of his matches I’ve reviewed, I cannot recall him attempting a round kick with his lead (right) leg. Despite having a rather uni-lateral offense, he is able to successfully land the rear round kick because of his superior timing and varied set ups.
His kicking technique itself is fast, fluid and without telegraph. He keeps his muscles relaxed through out the strike, prioritizing speed over raw power. His long limbs give him a lot of leverage, allowing him to hit hard without having to “muscle” the kick.
As a tall lanky fighter, the range of his round kicks can often surprise his opponents. Here, Trukunpet drops his hands as he backs away, thinking he is safety out of range. However, Panpayak is still able to catch him with a stiff head kick through the guard.
Defending Caught Kicks
One of the most vulnerable positions in muay thai is to have your kick caught. It leaves you susceptible to embarrassing sweeps and damaging counterstrikes.
With the high number of rear round kicks thrown, Panpayak inevitably has a number of them caught in the course of a fight. However, he rarely gets swept or countered because he has a number of good defenses and escapes from this compromising position.
Punch and Duck
Just as Sam-A catches his left leg, Panpayak peppers Sam-A’s face with left hooks. This forces Sam-A to defend this face with his left hand which prevents him from striking with his fists and elbows. This leaves Sam-A’s legs as the sole remaining threats.
Panpayak anticipates Sam-A’s left kick as Sam-A swings his leg to the side. He smartly ducks under and evades the counter round kick.
Escape by Pushing Off with the Shin
Here, Sam-A catches the leg with a relatively loose grip. Panpayak throws a left hook to force Sam-A to guard his face with his left arm once again. He then bends his left leg pulling Sam-A towards him.
As Sam-A comes forward, Panpayak pushes off his torso with the shin, breaking Sam-A’s grip and creating distance. This is a very elegant and technical escape from a bad position.
Block the Counter Round Kick
Here, Wanchalong catches Panpayak’s left ankle with both hands. Panpayak waits to see what Wanchalong will do before reacting. Wanchalong swings his leg to the side to off balance him and clear the way for a counter round kick.
Panpayak stops the rotation by hooking his left foot on Wanchalong’s right hip. He defends the counter round kick by turning his left shin torwards Wanchalong’s left thigh, blocking the kick before it can reach his body.
Catch Opponent’s Kick and Counter with a Round Kick
Sam-A catches Panpayak’s kick with a loose grip. Panpayak turns his shin defensively towards his opponent to obstruct Sam-A’s advance.
Panpayak is unable to turn his shin enough to cross block Sam-A’s counter left kick and catches the kick instead. With Sam-A’s leg in hand, Panpayak then pulls the leg downwards to off-balance his opponent and to pull him forward into a hard counter round kick.
Parting Shots and Random Thoughts
The ability to manage distance, land hard round kicks and defend / escape caught kicks are mutually supporting pillars of Panpayak’s success. Controlling range allows him to keep the fight on the outside where he can attack with the round kick. The ability to prevent sweeps, defend counters and escape caught kicks and allows him to throw the rear round kick with relative impunity.
In part 2, we will further examine Panpayak’s set ups and timing for attacking with the round kick. We look at how he uses it while advancing, retreating and standing toe to toe with his opponent.