After watching hundreds of people step into the Muay Thai ring and have their first fight in Thailand, I’ve become pretty good at guessing how someone will do in a fight. There are some fighters you know will either win or go the distance in a hard fight regardless of their opponent, and there are other guys that are likely to lose unless they fight a bum.
When I spar with someone preparing for a fight, it is easy to tell if that person is ready for a fight or not. Any mistakes you do in sparring will often become more amplified in a fight. So if a guy is dropping is hands in sparring, he’ll probably have his hands to his waist during the fight. Even worse, if a guy is flinching when you punch him in sparring, you can bet he’ll be turning away when he eats hard shots in a fight.
Anyone can look good when they are technical sparring at a slow pace, but when you turn up the heat with added pressure and harder shots, that is the best way to gauge how they will handle themselves under pressure. Guys who only soft spar leading up to their fights are often in a world of shock when they get hit hard.
After watching enough foreigners fight in Thailand, you can predict a number of outcomes that are likely to happen to new fighters in Thailand.
Here are 14 fight outcomes that can happen when you fight in Thailand:
1. Your Opponent Takes a Dive
We’ve all heard of the famous Tuk Tuk fighters in Thailand who dive in fights. If you ever fight a Thai in your first Muay Thai fight don’t expect to fight a serious fighter who is training 6 days a week. That would be unfair. If you fought a serious Thai fighter for your first fight, you would be destroyed. You will fight someone who may have a lot of experience, but will probably be out of shape and not training at the time.
In addition to the lack of cardio, these Thais also get matched up with foreigners 10-30 lbs heavier than them. If these out of shape fighters can win in the first few rounds, they will try to. However, most of the time these guys will quit if the going gets hard because they don’t get paid enough to suffer serious injuries.
If your opponent takes a dive, there is nothing you can do. At least you got to experience an authentic Tuk Tuk driver and tell that story to your friends back home. The good news is that you can probably jump back into the ring within a few weeks and challenge yourself with a harder opponent.
2. You Get Steamrolled by a Foreigner
Thailand is a tricky place to fight because you never know how experienced the guy is standing across from you. I remember one guy having his first fight in Thailand getting put up against a North American Kickboxing Champion. The only reason he found out that his opponent was a Kickboxing champ was because someone from the gym recognized him. Unfortunately, that knowledge came after the fact and this guy got KOed in the first round and never fought again.
I always tell people to expect your opponent to be good, regardless of what your trainer, promoter or other gym says about him. Guys will always lie about their fighter so they can place big bets on them in the fight. Most of the time these guys tell the promoter that it is their first “Muay Thai” fight. What they fail to mention are the 20+ amateur fights that they have back home.
Sometimes guys get steamrolled by aggressive fighters who go crazy in the first round. Guys who only technical spar and have never been hit hard in their lives are likely to get KOed by an aggressive guy going full power. This is one reason why you should always prepare for an aggressive opponent who is going to come at you hard in the fight.
3. You Destroy Your Opponent
This scenario is essentially the reverse of the last scenario, with you doing the steamrolling. You are the one who has a decent amount of experience, and you get matched up against a foreigner who is far less skilled or a Thai fighter much smaller than you.
Most of the time you will completely overwhelm your opponent because of either your skill or superior size. Your opponent has no chance in the fight, and it is only a matter of time before you finish off the fight.
You probably won’t be too happy about the outcome of the fight because you know that you weren’t really tested in the fight. Regardless, you have to fight who they put in front of you, and you did what you need to do.
4. You Get Taken to School by a Skilled Thai
As you are getting warmed up for your fight, you notice your Thai opponent is significantly lighter than you. In your mind, you probably start thinking which round you’ll knock him out in. No way that small Thai will stand a chance in the ring with you.
Unfortunately, when the bell sounds, it will probably take you about 30 seconds before you start to feel the panic floating into your mind. The first thing that will come into your head is “I can’t hit this little sh*t!” After a few rounds of your opponent dancing around the ring, you will try even harder to go for the knockout.
At this point in the fight, the harder you go, the more your opponent will counter you. These fights usually get stopped by the referee who calls the fight in the 4th round after it is clear you have no chance of winning the fight, or your opponent will win in the 5th round on points. Regardless of how the fight ends, you had no chance in this fight and got your first taste of schooling in Thailand.
5. You Go Through a 5 Round WAR
This is the outcome you should hope for when you fight. While it feels good to school someone in the ring, you don’t get a feeling of accomplishment. Sure you might catch someone with a lucky shot, but going 5 rounds giving and taking the entire fight is something that will make you proud for the rest of your life.
These are the types of fights that true fighters live for. There is nothing more than being pushed to your limits and seeing how much you can take in a fight. Don’t get me wrong, these fights are often the hardest fights to deal with, but they are also the most rewarding.
The fight is often a close matchup between either a Thai or a Foreigner who is a similar skill level as you. The winner of these fights is determined by who can push harder when it matters the most. You are fighting on hard in these 5 round wars.
6. You Get Knocked Out
Shit happens in the ring. Even the best fighters go through fights when they get caught with a punch they didn’t see coming. There is a big difference between getting steam rolled in a fight and getting caught by a shot in a fight you are in. Fighting is a dangerous game, and this is a fight outcome that you hope doesn’t happen in a fight, but the possibility always exists.
Knockouts can happen in the early rounds or the later rounds when you are tired. Getting knocked out sucks because usually, you are doing well in the fight leading up until that point. A bad KO can also result in some serious headaches later on that will require you to take a rest from training after. Remember, the true test of a fighter is how you recover when someone knocks you down. Losing will truly test your mental fortitude.
7. You Give Up
One issue that you have to deal with when you fight is fear. Fear is an emotion that will always be present, no matter how much experience you get. Some inexperienced fighters don’t know how to handle fear and end up letting their fear completely consume them.
Every once in a while you will see a foreigner give up when things get too hard in a fight. Sometimes they take a few hard low kicks and don’t want to answer the bell because they are worried about what will happen in the next round. Other times you see guys who go down with a few easy shots that should not knock them down. When fear wins the internal battle inside of someone’s mind, that is when people quit because of the fear.
This is the one fight scenario that you want to avoid at all cost. If people see that you are the type of fighter who quits when things get tough, nobody will want to train you, and people will lose respect for you. If you are going to get Knocked out in a fight, go down swinging. Giving up before a fight is over will only hurt you in the long run.
8. You Run Out of Gas
During your first 5-10 Muay Thai fights your gas tank is probably going to be the biggest factor in the outcome of the fight. If you try and go all out and knockout your opponent in the early rounds of a fight, you put yourself at risk of setting yourself up for failure in the later rounds.
Learning how to control your gas tank and utilize your stamina to last the full 5 rounds is an important aspect of fighting. Smarter fighters are self-aware of how much they have left in the tank and can balance their offense to match that level accordingly.
Whatever cardio you have in training, divide it by half when you fight. Due to nerves and pressure, you will gas out so much faster in the ring than when you are training. Because of this, a lot of fighters do really well in the first 3 rounds of a fight but run out of steam in the later rounds.
Running out of gas in a fight is probably the worst way to lose a fight because you will feel helpless in the last rounds. Whatever you want to do, your body will be too tired to do anything effectively, and you will get slowly picked apart.
9. You Out skill Your Opponent
There is no better feeling than being in the ring with someone who you are better than. Being one step ahead of your opponent will give you confidence in the fight that you can win regardless of what your opponent does. Unless your opponent has an effective strategy to counter the difference in skill, this fight should be very winnable if you fight smart and don’t get sloppy.
Usually, when you possess and advantage in skill, your opponent is likely to be a heavy handed fighter who relies on power. If you get to comfortable and let your guard down in the fight, you will put yourself at the risk of being caught. Just because you outclass an opponent, doesn’t guarantee that you will win.
10. You Get Destroyed in the Clinch
You know you have fought in Thailand when you run into an opponent who completely destroys you in the clinch. When I say destroy, your opponent will have his way with you and make you realize how much work your clinch really needs. What people don’t realize is that clinching is a completely different art than standup striking. Sure you can have the best punches and kicks in the game, but if you don’t have a good clinch, you will have issues.
These fights are great learning experiences because after the fights you will dedicate a lot of your time to focusing on improving your clinch. Whatever you thought you knew, you will work even harder to improve that aspect of your game.
11. You Get Sliced and Diced by Elbows
Foreigners who are fighting in Thailand for the first time often fear elbow cuts the most. Most people don’t want to have their face marked up with long scars from elbows that they receive. Unfortunately, when you fight Thai opponent’s you will run into guys who are good at cutting.
No matter how good you are, you will get cut when you face enough opponents in the ring. This is simply a numbers game. The more fights you have, the more likely you are to get cut. This is especially true for people who fight aggressively with punches and like to move forward with strikes.
12. You Win A Fight by Knockout
While nobody wants to be on the receiving end of a knockout, winning a fight by knockout can be an exhilarating feeling. Sometimes when you are battling back and forth with your opponent, you might be able to catch them with a shot that lands. When you land the strike and see them go down, you will experience euphoria and relief that the fight is over.
Whether you got lucky or not, you will be happy with the outcome of the fight. Fighting is a numbers game, and sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. You should never focus on going for a knockout, but if you get one, you won’t complain about it!
13. You Win or Lose a Close Fight on Points
Going the distance is one of the most likely outcomes you will experience in Thailand. Not all fights that go the distance are bloody wars. You can end up getting in a nice technical battle with your opponent, which can often result in a very close fight decided by the judges.
Whenever a fight goes down to the wire, the last few rounds of the fight will often determine the winner. The fighter who has the better cardio is most likely to win the fight in the end. Often fights are decided by a few knees or body kicks in the final round, which makes the gamblers go crazy.
Regardless of the outcome of these fights, you will learn a lot by being in a close battle. These are the fights that gamblers want to see because they don’t know who will win or lose the fight. These fights will require you to push hard in the final rounds to try and steal the fight from your opponent.
14. Low Kick Stoppage
Another painful outcome that can occur in the ring is you end up facing an opponent who is a skilled low kicker. He might start the fight off slow, but after two hard leg chops you realize that you can’t keep taking the punishment. Suddenly the panic button may start going off in your head as you realize you either start blocking his kicks or you are going to get stopped.
As the fight continues your opponent will keep on attacking your legs whenever you throw a punch or push forward. Slowly, but surely your legs start to feel numb and they start locking up and you are walking forward. Forget trying to throw a hard kick at your opponent; your legs have already become toast.
Usually by the time you realize that you can’t take anymore low kicks, you have already reached the point of no return in the fight. These are painful fights to experience because if you can make it through the fight, you probably will be limping around for 3 weeks after the fight.
Note* There are countless scenarios that can happen in the ring. I’ve seen guys break their legs, vomit after a body shot and all kinds of other strange stuff. This list covers the more common outcomes you might encounter, but really anything can happen. More often than not you will fight someone your level and the fight will go to the judges score cards.
When it comes to competition, there is only winning and learning. Regardless of the outcome of a fight (unless you quit), you will gain valuable experience that will make you better for your next fight. People often get caught up in the hype of winning and losing. While it may look great on paper having an undefeated record, if the best fighters in Thailand have all suffered dozens of losses, you shouldn’t feel bad when you lose.
Losing will often make you stronger because it will show you areas of your game you need to improve on. Sometimes when you only win you become overconfident and don’t look for areas to improve after the fight. Remember that fighting is about gaining experience, so don’t get to hung up on the results. Focus on the process and constantly make improvements after every fight and you will keep on improving your game.
Do you want to learn more?
If you enjoyed reading this article then I highly recommend you check out my two books called Muay Thai Strategy and Muay Thai Counters. These books walks you through everything that you need to build a complete Muay Thai game from the ground up, including how to counter different fighting styles.
Click here if you want to learn more about the Strategy bundle.