One of the most utilized techniques in all of combat sports is the clinch. Clinch work plays a vital role in wrestling, Shoot boxing, judo, sambo, sanshou and Muay Thai just to name a few. Because the clinch plays such a major role in many combative arts, it is one of the most important parts of an MMA fighter’s repertoire.

To many fans, the clinch can seem like “hugging” or fighters looking for a cheap way to take a breather, but to the trained observer the clinch is an intense battle for position and leverage.

The Clinch and Striking

While the clinch is a stand up form of grappling, it can be utilized with great effectiveness in the striking game. Look at Muay Thai; fighters grapple on the inside to get control of the “plum” or collar tie.

From this position a fighter can control an opponent’s head and where the head goes, so does the body. An effective plum in the Muay Thai application can lead to a barrage of knee strikes to the head and body of an opponent.

The other way the clinch can be utilized in the striking game is in the form of “dirty boxing”. This technique was made famous by the legendary Randy Couture. Couture would press his opponents against the cage and then use the single collar tie where he would position one hand on the back of his opponent’s neck leaving the other have free to throw strikes.

“Dirty boxing” is one of the most effective ways to soften an opponent up because it forces them to carry the weight of the opposing fighter while absorbing constant punishment. The clinch isn’t pretty, nor is it meant to be. It is a grueling battle used to break the will of an opponent.

The Clinch and Grappling

From a grappling point of view, the clinch is where its at; some of the most exciting techniques in grappling originate from the clinch. There is nothing quite like the roar of a crowd when a fighter is flying through the air.

The two positions fighters look to take advantage of in grappling situations are double underhooks and the over-under. UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is a master of both positions. As an Olympic bronze medalist, Rousey’s mastery of the clinch is unmatched in women’s MMA.

The double underhook and the over-under position are both about creating leverage and establishing a lower center of gravity than your opponent. Once established, opponents are either thrown through the air or are tripped to the mat.

The next time fighters lock horns and look to grapple on their feet don’t boo or check your text messages. Instead sit back and enjoy the technical beauty that is the clinch.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report,, and RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.