One of the most feared Muay Thai opponents for right handed fighters is the infamous Southpaw. These are often the guys who give beginners and advanced guys the most trouble in sparring and in the ring because they have a completely different stance and a lot of guys aren’t equipped to deal with them.
The problem is that Southpaw fighters are more familiar with your fighting style than you are with theirs
This means that before you even start sparring a southpaw, they know exactly what to expect from you because almost all the guys they spar are right handed fighters.
This guide will break down everything you need to know about Southpaw opponents. We will discuss some of the strengths of a Southpaw fighter and techniques they will attempt to utilize against you in a fight. After talking about the Southpaw strategy, we will demonstrated with video clips how you can effectively counter a Southpaw fighter.
Although southpaw fighters are more uncommon in the West, almost half of the fighters in Thailand are Southpaw. The reason for an abnormally high amount is due to the fact that many trainers teach young fighters this stance regardless of their dominant side.
Before we can discuss how to fight a Southpaw, we first have to define what Southpaw means in the context of Muay Thai.
Southpaw: A fighter who leads with their right hand and right foot in front – opposite to the orthodox (regular) stance.
Understanding the Southpaw Fighter
The first time you come across a Southpaw fighter in Muay Thai it can be frustrating. Most beginners won’t clue into the fact that they are facing a southpaw until they get a bit more experience in the ring. A beginner might simply feel uncomfortable during the sparring session without realizing the reason they don’t feel comfortable is because their opponent has an opposite stance.
Natural born southpaw fighters are left handed. Their left hand is the dominant hand that they use. This is why the stance is reverse to the orthodox fighters. The Southpaw stance allows them to utilize their left sided weapons such as the left straight punch and left body kick.
The first step in how to fight a southpaw in Muay Thai is RECOGNIZING your opponent is in the southpaw stance! Once you recognize your opponent’s fighting style you should implement a strategy for that opponent.
A Southpaw fighter’s strongest techniques comes from the left side of their body. Instead of having a left jab, they will have a more powerful left cross that is better suited to punch through your guard. The power leg of the Southpaw fighter is also their back leg. Southpaw fighters will utilize powerful left sided techniques in order to exploit the back side guard of their opponent.
A good southpaw fighter will attempt to utilize left body kicks, left straight punches, left knees, and left elbows against you. Whenever you spar or fight an opponent who utilizes this position, you will need to be on guard for these specific techniques they will use against you.
Did you Know? Out of the top 10 Muay Thai fighters in Thailand Today 5 of them are Southpaw
Southpaw Techniques that are Effective against YOU (Orthodox Fighters)
The left kick is the most common attack you will face from the Southpaw. This is their power leg and the most effective weapon against orthodox fighters. A clean left kick will land flush across your body. Superlek demonstrates the importance of being ready to block a kick at any given time. If you can, try and block the left kicks with your right leg, this will allow you to throw a counter attack with the same leg you block with.
Forward Left Knees
The angle of an orthodox fighters stance is perfect for a clean left knee to land. This is another technique that a good Southpaw fighter will utilize in a fight. In order to land this technique effectively they need to be extremely good with distance and timing. Blocking left knees with your front leg is the most effective way to neutralize this technique from a Southpaw.
Left Elbow Counter Attack
One of the most dangerous techniques for heavy handed fighters is the left elbow counter attack from Southpaw fighters. This is the technique almost always lands on Pornsanae Sitmonchai because of his aggressive fighting style.
The following clip is a great example of a dangerous counter that high level Southpaw fighters will utilize against heavy-handed orthodox opponents. It is important not to lead with a looping left hook because the left elbow is a direct counter.
Right Jab – Left Cross
This is an effective attack because it sets up the left cross that can come through your guard. Look for Southpaw fighters who are good with their hands to utilize this technique against you in a fight. Keeping the right distance will allow you to step back from this combo.
Step Forward Left Elbow
The Step forward left elbow is a great technique that Southpaw fighters utilize when their opponents are backing up. Using a fake to setup the forward left elbow is a great way to cut an opponent in a fight. The following clip showcases how effective this technique can be in a fight.
Straight Left Punches and Right Hooks
The straight left is an effective punch that Southpaw fighters will utilize because if they have a good angle it will split your guard. Another punch that is extremely good against orthodox fighters is the right hook. If the Southpaw angles the hook outside of your lead hand it will hit you right on the chin. Being aware of these punches will make you ready to block them when your opponent attacks. Southpaw fighters who have good boxing skills are going to utilize these techniques a lot in a fight.
Left Inside Low Kick to Lead Leg
This is probably one of the most underutilized techniques from Southpaw fighters, but they can be extremely devastating if you don’t check the checks. Given the fact that most orthodox fighters are used to conditioning their outer legs, the inner thigh is susceptible for punishing inside low kicks. This fight showcases why you should always check inside low kicks. It only takes 2-3 good shots before they stop you in a fight.
While this list is not inclusive of every technique, it provides a good sample of some common attacks Southpaw fighters will throw at you. Now that we have talked about specific techniques a Southpaw fighter will utilize against you, we can discuss how we want to neutralize these techniques in a fight.
Defensive Strategy vs Southpaw
Having a good defense is essential anytime you are facing a Southpaw opponent. The Southpaw’s are going to fire a lot of left side techniques at you, so be prepared to block them and counter immediately following the attacks.
Right leg blocks are essential against Southpaw fighters because you can retaliate with the same leg after you have blocked an attack with it. Same leg counter attacks are faster than if you block with your lead leg.
You should also beware of the straight left and lead right hook of the southpaw. These are two punches that can cause a lot of damage if they land on you. Always be sure to keep you guard up and utilize head movement to avoid getting hit with these punches. The left elbow is another dangerous weapon that will be thrown at you if you come forward against a Southpaw.
Keeping a high guard and ensuring your right hand is covering your face at all times can save you from cuts in the ring.
Superlek demonstrates how to avoid getting sliced with a left elbow as he comes forward.
Lean back counter attacks can be very effective if you are able to make your opponent miss. This allows you to immediately counter attack him which is demonstrated by Superlek in this next clip.
Here is another clip that highlights effective blocking and evasion of an opponent’s kicks.
Movement vs Southpaw Fighters
After understanding the importance of blocking and evading a Southpaw’s techniques, we need to discuss movement. When fighting a southpaw you always want to be circling away from their power side. What is their power side? Any technique that comes from the left side of their body is their power side.
The reason we want to move away from the left side of a Southpaw opponent is because if you move into their power side you will feel more impact from their techniques like the left kick and left overhand right. Circling into your opponent’s power side leaves the risk of that powerful left punch and left kick.
Footwork is Important
Keeping your left lead foot on the outside of your Southpaw opponents’ right lead foot will help to create better angles for your attacks. When you place your left lead on the outside of his foot, it gives you a better angle for your attacks to land and puts you in a better defensive position.
You will notice that the moment you start to circle to the outside of your opponents right lead foot, they will try and circle back to regain position. This is a constant battle that you will be having with a Southpaw opponent. Each person is trying to establish the dominant position by utilizing footwork.
Notice Buakaw gets his lead leg on the outside of Enriko in this clip. Allowing him to go for the easy sweep of his opponent.
This clip showcases the Southpaw fighter circling away from the elbow as it is thrown. Perfect example how good footwork with help you defensively.
Throughout a fight or sparring session, you will have to continually work every round to try and establish the dominant position over your opponent.
Utilizing good footwork allows you to establish a better angle for your punches to land through your opponents guard. Conversely, if he has his foot on the outside of your lead then his straight cross will be lined up perfectly against your guard.
Muay Thai footwork is Different than Boxing
Although you should be circling to your left, unlike boxing you aren’t going to run in and land quick combos and get out. Muay Thai is all about balance and control of your body, if you get inside your opponent you will get locked up in the clinch. If you try and jump around too much, you will get teeped on your ass. Always ensure that you have a solid foundation and good balance no matter what position you are in.
Examples of Good Foot Movement
Fighters who are able to find better angles are more likely to land significant strikes against their opponents. Remember that Muay Thai is about balance and control. You should not be hopping around back and forth like a boxer or kickboxer, be steady and always maintain composure throughout any attack. This will ensure you are not out of position when you attack or defend.
Offensive Strategy vs Southpaw
Anytime you are facing a Southpaw opponent you have to ensure that you utilize your right sided weapons. This is advantageous for orthodox fighters who favor their right sided technique over their left.
By utilizing the right sided weapons against a Southpaw, we will be able to disrupt the offensive rhythm of your opponent.
There are two major reasons to attack your Southpaw opponents backside:
#1 – Take Away The Southpaw Power Side
If your opponent is busy blocking your kicks and punches coming from the left side of their body they won’t be able to utilize these power weapons against you. If you are dealing with a puncher who has a strong left cross you will want to try and land right kicks to his arm. This will not only make it difficult for him to use that hand against you, it will also start wearing down your opponents arm in the later rounds of a fight.
Similarly, if you are fighting someone who has a very good left kick they will be unable to utilize this weapon whenever they block a right kick. You won’t be able to completely stop your opponent from utilizing those techniques, but you can keep him occupied and make it more difficult for him to use them. This will make his counter attacks slower against you if he is trying to block and kick with the same side.
In short, you want to keep your body and your general (but not always to prevent predictability) to the LEFT of your Southpaw opponent. That means you’ll need to move to the left, which is away from the Southpaw power side.
One way to maintain this control is to keep your left foot (assuming your are orthodox with your left foot forward) to the OUTSIDE of your Southpaw’s opponent’s right foot (which is his lead foot). By maintaining your left foot to the outside of your Southpaw opponents right foot, you control the distance and the angle and force your opponent into an awkward position that makes it harder to throw strikes.
#2 – More Exposed Area to Your Techniques (Better Angles)
Whether you are fighting an orthodox or a southpaw opponent you always want to attack the back side of the guard. The back side of your opponents guard has the most exposed surface area for you to land clean kicks, knees, elbows and punches. IF you land a clean kick across the back side of your opponents guard it will have more impact than the front side of your opponents guard.
Another reason for attacking the back side of an opponent is it is more difficult to catch a kick with the open side of their guard. If you kick a southpaw opponent with your left lead leg, there is a very high percentage chance they will catch the kick and sweep you on your ass.
In Thailand a clean body kick that lands on the back side of an opponent is one of the highest scoring techniques in the ring. If you land 1 clean body kick and your opponent hits you with 10 hard punches, you will still be winning on points.
Effective Techniques Against the Southpaw
Right Straight Punch
The right straight punch is an excellent punch that should be utilized against southpaw opponents. This is especially effective if you can use footwork to get a good angle on the punch. The punch will land straight between your opponents open guard with power. If you are able to land an effective right straight on your opponent it can have very devastating effects in a fight.
Right Punch-Right High Kick
The right punch-right high kick is a great move to throw when you land the right punch and your opponent is in high kick range. By landing the punch on your opponent you will have a split second to throw a right high kick that he doesn’t see coming.
Right Kick-Right Punch
The right kick is a great way to distract the Southpaw opponent and allow you to land a right punch on his face. This is a technique that is utilized by all the top guys in the game. Add this move to your arsenal and you will benefit greatly.
Right Body Kick
The right body kick is a weapon that should be your bread and butter attack against a Southpaw fighter. Not only does this technique score the most points if you land it cleanly in a Muay Thai fight, it is also a weapon that can neutralize your opponent’s strengths.
The right body kick is another effective tool that can be utilized to counter a Southpaw fighter coming forward with a straight left punch. The moment the fighter steps in with the punch you can fire the right kick at the same time.
Tip: Dealing with a heavy-handed opponent? Powerful right kicks to his left side power arm can help wear him down later in the fight. Whenever you kick his arm, he won’t be able to utilize that technique against you in the fight.
The following clips both demonstrate effective right body kicks. The first clip showcases beautiful speed and timing as Nong-O lands a clean kick on Saenchai. The second clip showcases how the right kicks can be an effective counter to the left straight punch.
Right Forward Knee
When your opponent is facing you in southpaw position, it is a perfect opportunity to work on your right knees. With the angle of your opponent and the amount of exposed surface area in his mid-section, the right knee can take advantage of this.
Tip: Wait for an opponent to come forward with a right jab and quickly top his hand down with your left and come forward with a right knee. He won’t be able to block the knee and it will land if you have good distance.
The right elbow is an extremely effective counter to someone who is a heavy-handed southpaw fighter. In order to land a clean right elbow on your opponent, you have to be patient and look for openings. If you just come forward with an elbow, there is a good chance it will be blocked.
Tip: If an opponent throws a lead right hook try and immediately come forward with an elbow. IF your elbow can beat your opponents punch it will land cleanly on him.
Right Inside Low Kick to Lead Leg
This is a low kick that can only be utilized against a southpaw opponent. Given the fact that the Southpaw’s lead leg is directly in front of your lead, the inside of his leg is exposed for a right low kick. This can have devastating effects if you are able to land a clean shot. The right inside low kick is a great attack to counter someone who is coming forward with punches.
Ask any Southpaw fighter what their most feared attack is and they will probably say the left hook. If you are able to get a good angle and step on the outside of your opponents lead leg the left hook can land nicely on their chin. This is a great weapon that you can use to set up nice right kicks, knees or punches.
Please Note* This is not an exhaustive list of every possible effective technique or combo that you can use against Southpaw Fighters, but it’s a good start
2 Common Mistakes
Here are two mistakes that a lot of people make when facing a Southpaw.
1) Becoming Too Predictable
The most common mistake people make when sparring any opponent is they become predictable in their attacks. It’s one thing to understand what techniques work great against a Southpaw opponent, but it’s another thing to implement those attacks in sparring situations when someone is not letting you hit them. This is one reason I try not to repeat the same combos against the same opponent. If you are constantly doing the same jab-left hook-right kick combo against your Southpaw, he will learn your game.
Be unpredictable and switch things up. So your opponent knows you want to land a clean right body kick on him? Make him think your going to throw a right body kick and then switch to a left kick. Fake a right kick then come in and throw a left low kick to his lead leg.
Most Southpaw’s have a lot more experience facing orthodox fighters than orthodox fighters have facing Southpaw fighters. If the Southpaw fighter has any experience at all, he knows that you (assuming you have some experience and know how when facing Southpaw) will come in RIGHT hand heavy and RIGHT leg heavy. As such, a good southpaw fighter will anticipate this.
To counter this, you need to be unpredictable and to set up fakes. Don’t always lead with right-hand punches. Don’t always lead with right kicks.
The only way you can consistently do well against any opponent is if you make your attacks unpredictable and change your attacks. Don’t only throw right kicks, right punches, and right knees or he will easily block his left side. Use your other weapons to try and create openings to land those techniques that are most effective against Southpaw opponents.
2) Becoming Impatient
So you just finished reading this guide and whats the first thing you try doing? Right kick, right kick, right punch, right knee, right everything. You want to start throwing every technique plus the kitchen sink at your opponent. SLOW DOWN!
Learning to become patient when you are sparring and look for openings. Don’t simply try to throw a body kick for sake of throwing a kick. Look for an opening in your opponents guard. Throw a right kick and see how he reacts. Did he block your kick or did he respond with a counter? Learning patience will help you relax and let the fight come to you.
If you can’t find an opening in your opponents guard then wait for him to attack and counter those attacks. Sometimes the easiest way to land a shot on your opponent is to block/dodge their attack and hit them with something right away. A quick counter is difficult to block if the opponent is off balance.
Here is an example of Nong-O being patient and countering Saenchai’s attack.
If you haven’t noticed by now when fighting a Southpaw you want to utilize your right sided techniques. Does this mean you shouldn’t throw any left sided techniques? Absolutely not. Of course, you should still use all of your techniques when fighting any opponent, but these are the specific techniques that will land you the cleanest shots and take away some of your opponents strengths. Don’t make it predictable and only punch right and kick right. You have to utilize feints and techniques that will allow your opponent to lower his guard, allowing you to land clean strikes.
If you enjoy reading this breakdown you will definitely want to check out my latest book: Muay Thai Strategy and Muay Thai Counters. These books are designed to help you find strategies that work for your game. I highly recommend you check out these books if you want to learn more about Countering your next opponent. Click here to learn more information about Muay Thai Strategy
Now all you have to do is find a Southpaw to spar with – Good Luck!