In combat sports, your height and reach matter. It would be best if you had different strategies to defeat shorter and taller opponents because not every striking technique against taller guys is the same.
When we talk about shorter fighters, many combat sports fans think about Mike Tyson, which is great. He was relatively short but was destroying his taller rivals.
However, while his technique is excellent for boxing, where only punches are legal, and no kicks, knees, or elbows are allowed, if you are fighting in Muay Thai, you will need to adjust your strategy.
Each striking or grappling martial arts have specific rules, and according to the rules, different strategies are essential to defeating rivals.
In this article, we will discuss:
- Is being tall good for Muay Thai?
- What to consider when fighting taller guys
- Strategies to defeat taller fighters
After reading this article, you will have an idea about whether being tall or short is good for Muay Thai, you will know all the crucial facts about fighting taller guys, and you will create your unique strategy to defeat them.
Let’s see how you can effectively fight taller guys in Muay Thai.
Table of Contents
Is Being Tall Good for Muay Thai?
Being tall is considered beneficial in any striking martial arts.
However, I can tell you that the most common mistake made by people is understanding height mistakenly.
The thing that really matters is your reach.
You might be the shorter guy but have a longer reach. For example, in Mixed Martial Arts, Conor McGregor, whose height is 175 CM, has a reach of 188 CM.
Still, McGregor has an unusual biological structure, and usually, an average person has almost the same reach as their height, so being taller is associated with having longer hands, too.
Being tall is an advantage, as soon as you have a long reach that you know how to use.
When you add in things like powerful punches and the kicking power of Muay Thai, a long reach is a dangerous thing to fight.
Having long reach gives you the ability to land the punch from a long distance and is helpful in exchanges.
What To Consider During Fighting Taller Guys: Must Know Facts
Let me share my experience of fighting for 5 years. In my weight category, there are many shorter guys, so I am the one who tries to fight from the outside and use my height as an advantage.
Whether I am using boxing or Muay Thai techniques for MMA, I can tell you that it is comfortable for me to fight from the outside; still, sometimes, I find it difficult to fight against shorter guys when they are using certain techniques, so let me share some of them.
Movement and Footwork
Movement is something that makes me uncomfortable as the taller fighter.
Usually, taller guys wait for short fighters to make mistakes and punish them.
As my coach says, a static target is easy to target, so try to be as dynamic as possible. Move a lot, but move correctly.
Going in front and back directions is not enough. Cutting corners and moving in a circle are crucial.
Having great footwork means cutting corners quickly and changing the directions of movements in a second.
Great footwork is essential to maintain your distance, avoid punches, and start your attack.
Before I started working on this article, I read other articles about it. I was disappointed when many writers said lots of head movement is crucial in Thai Boxing to defeat taller guys.
Muay Thai is a special and unique martial art full of spectacular strikes and kicks. This is one of the few famous martial arts where knees and elbows are legal.
Lots of head movement is hazardous in Muay Thai because of kicks and spinning elbows.
In Boxing, you can use lots of head movement; it is harder to be caught with hooks only, but in Muay Thai, fighters are raised to catch their rivals while moving, so you have to be very careful while heading movement.
Of course, head movement is essential, but unlike Boxing, in Muay Thai, your turning area for head movement is minimal, and you always should think if your opponent is covering his/her high kick with a jab or other punch.
To describe most easily, if head movement in other striking combat sports is used to avoid the punch, in Thai Boxing, head movement is used to “reflect” the punch and not fully take it.
You Have To Take A Punch To Land A Punch
Instead of head movement, I recommend preparing to take punches.
Taking a softer punch to land a harder one is the most relevant strategy for Muay Thai.
Before the competition comes, we have some hard sparring sessions in the Muay Thai gym. I’ve witnessed lots of brutal knockouts during those sparring sessions.
If you will duck a little bit too much or turn your head a bit left or right, there is the knee or kick that has nothing but bad wishes for you. .
Be Careful About Where You Take Punches
Taking punch correctly means not taking full damage on yourself. Here comes the principle of head movement in Muay Thai.
Try to take punches with your forehead because it causes less damage to your brain. Also, try to reflect on opponents’ punches with your gloves.
It is better if your rival’s punch will go in the air after reflecting instead of stopping it with a block.
Throwing punches in the air will make your rival more tired and also will bring less damage to you than blocking the full power of the punch.
Mix It Up and Change Levels
You always have to mix different combinations with your rival. It is harder to punch the taller guy in the face; it is far away. However, his body is closer to you and is a great place to attack.
Try to mix low kicks, body shots, and overhands. These are the three most efficient attacks, from my point of view, that can be used against the tallerr guy.
Benefits of Changing Levels
Mixing levels up has two benefits.
One is the damage itself.
However, even if you will not land a punch or kick perfectly and do not deliver the pain, you are making your rival think. After all, the next strike may not be so forgiving.
In this way, you are framing up your rival, and framing him increases your techniques’ chances.
The clinch is one of the essential parts of Muay Thai.
Higher opponents will try to catch you in Thai Clinch and bomb you with knees. Their height advantage will increase their chances in the traditional clinch.
Smaller fighters need to be better in the clinch than taller Muay Thai fighters
The best advice I can give you as the smaller fighter is to avoid clinching as much as possible because I do not see shorter guys winning in a clinch fight when they are equally skilled.
However, some short guys are more skilled than taller ones and can win, too, so if you are that talented short fighter, you can destroy your rival.
I recommend working hard on defending yourself in the clinch instead of attacking in the clinch because, most likely, this is not the field where you will find success.
If you are a shorter guy in the same weight class, most likely, you are the physically stronger one, too. You need to be more explosive.
Your rival has a longer reach, so what can make help you land a punch or kick faster?
Speed and explosive power.
Work on it because you have to close the distance, which requires lots of speed. There are plenty of home MMA drills to punch or kick faster, so make sure to check those out.
How To Defeat Taller Guys In Muay Thai: Strategies
I’ve sparred with many different fighters, and I’ve seen lots of fights. I have also participated in preparation camps for other UFC, Bellator, and ACA fighters, so let me share some experiences of mine.
Counter-Attack From The Outside
For me, the guy who hates getting punched in the face, working from the outside of my rival’s distance works better.
He has the advantage in reach and longer hands, so I need my advantages to beat him. The advantages I need to earn are:
I need to be faster and more explosive to close the distance quickly. It does not matter if I am mixing it or trying to be a head hunter; he has longer hands. I need to be faster to land first.
When I move on the circle outside of my rival’s distance, I move way more than my opponent.
I need to have better cardio to maintain rhythm during the fight. If I do not have better cardio, I will get tired more easily and lose the fight.
Dog Fight with a taller guy in muay thai
This is the strategy that I would recommend in the last minutes of the fight, but if you want to be good in this aspect, you need to try it in sparring, too.
If you want to defeat taller guys in Muay Thai, you need to keep closing distance and never back down. This is one of the strategies where tall guys feel uncomfortable.
Often, tall guys have their hands down because they feel safe working from the outside, and they are used to doing it.
If you close the distance and maintain it, you will have the advantage because taller guys are not used to fighting there.
Still, it’s hard to do it, be sure to:
- Be ready to take punches
- Have better cardio
- Mix / change levels
Mixing it up and changing levels is crucial while using this strategy. If you close the distance, you can start working from the body, and as soon as he/she drops his hands down to protect the body, you can follow up with devastating hooks.
Muay Thai against taller guys Warning:
- Do not move your head a lot when closing distance because you might get caught by high kicks
- Be careful changing levels, and never duck your face too much; otherwise, you might taste the sweetness of knee
The best tip I can give you to avoid high kicks or knees is to feint a lot.
However, most fighters feint to make the other fighter think about technique and are not looking for their reaction.
The idea behind feint is to learn how your rival reacts to your movement and prepare your combination according to it.
I’ve seen many fighters using their hands only when they have a huge reach advantage.
If you are in the same weight category, and he is way taller than you, it means they have less muscle.
Less muscle translates as less protection around the legs. I love mixing combinations and finishing each with brutal kicks.
However, I always aim at the legs because, from my point of view, it is easier to damage taller guys’ legs at some point.
Damaging legs might be beneficial for you in several ways:
- TKO via low kicks – it can happen
- Districting your rival’s movement, which opens lots of doors for you
- You can face the low kick, land a question mark kick, or a superman punch. Whatever works for you.
Muay Thai low kick sparring Warning:
Spamming low kicks are dangerous because rivals, especially those with long hands, can catch you with a cross. To avoid that, you need to mix combinations and use low kicks correctly, which means stepping a bit left and ducking a bit left while attacking with a right low kick.
How To Fight Taller Guys In Muay Thai – Final Tips
There are as many styles as many fighters and the same amount of strategies to defeat them.
If you are the shorter guy for your weight category, try to have a strategy and use it in sparrings.
For example, if you have sparring sessions this Friday in the gym, try to spar every round against taller and use the “Dog Fight” strategy every single round.
You will fail, eat lots of punches, but keep trying to stay inside and improve this strategy.
Next sparring sessions, try the second strategy, and so on.
Finally, my biggest advice is to watch different fights, analyze them, and try to suit your style.
For example, as an MMA fighter, I am trying to have Khabib’s takedown/pressure and always watch his videos in slow motion to understand what and how he is executing his technique.
However, do not imitate one fighter only; try to pick the best part from each fighter and test if it works for you, and eventually, someone may be learning from watching you fight!