One of the most common reasons people get into martial arts is because they watched UFC 1, in which a skinny Brazilian guy in pajamas dominated people much bigger, taller, and stronger than him.
What an inspiration!
Another is because they watched a movie where the little guy kicked the bigger guy’s ass. Bottom line is that we love watching the underdogs beat the giants.
Royce Gracie (the aforementioned "skinny guy") did it through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and, more specifically, grappling, which allows you to more easily shut down and overpower a bigger man.
Can the same be done in a striking art like Muay Thai?
It ain’t easy...
Range Finding: A Case Study
As Sean and Paul covered above, an important key to beating an opponent bigger, taller and stronger than you is to be extremely disciplined and diligent when exiting combinations.
One of the clearest examples of this behavior is Kaoklai Kaennorsing when he fought and subsequently knocked out Mighty Mo.
Kaoklai weighed in at 172 lbs. while Mo tipped the scales at a staggering 280 lbs. Mo also had just won his past three fights by knockout.
Despite the 108-lbs. weight advantage and the winning momentum behind Mo, Kaoklai was still able to send him to the canvas with a jumping right roundhouse kick.
Like in BJJ, it is possible to shut down your opponent's power. The trick is to be either too far or too close.
Kaoklai constantly maintained a far distance from Mo and, if Kaoklai was unable to get away in time, he would instead clinch up and smother Mo’s power before exiting immediately when an opportunity presented itself. Kaoklai knows the truth: any moment you stay in your opponent’s range is an extra opportunity for them to knock you out.
Two points to make here. Let’s start with picking the right shot.
Larger fighters can obviously take a bigger shot than lighter fighters. However, even a lightweight opponent has, in his arsenal, a powerful enough strike that smoke even the heaviest of heavyweights: kicks. It is extremely, extremely rare to find a fighter who can eat a head kick and not get knocked out cold.
The second reason Kaoklai was able to knock Mighty Mo out was because he understood how to bait his opponent. Whenever Kaoklai would circle to Mo’s left, Mo would answer with a left hook. Whenever Kaoklai would circle to Mo’s right, Mo would answer with a right hook. (We can already see where this is going, right?)
In the finishing sequence, Kaoklai takes a step to Mo’s right and, the moment he sees Mo load up, he immediately launches himself into the air with a flying roundhouse kick, sending Mo crashing to the canvas.
Another David vs Goliath story of striking, you ask for? Look for a brilliant story from none other than... Kaoklai!
In fact, he has more than a few stories to tell of times when he was greatly out-sized.
...and that's not even a complete list!!!
In summation, if you want to learn how to fight giants, follow the principles outlined by Sean and Paul (himself a big man)... and study the hell out of Kaoklai's career!
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