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Muay Thai Vs Wrestling: A Head-To-Head Comparison

muay thai vs wrestling comparison
muay thai vs wrestling

Many fans believe there’s not much philosophy when comparing striking and grappling martial art. Strikers are better from long and mid-range, while the grappler gets the advantage in the clinch and on the ground. Yet, Muay Thai vs wrestling comparison is kinda different.

A good Thai fighter might give a wrestler a hard time in the clinch, especially when he initiates contact with the Thai warriors’ waist or hips. Yeah, the ancient Siamese martial art is not the greatest choice for ground fighting, but Muay Thai vs wrestling is a bit of tricky analysis.

A skillful Thai fighter with good defensive abilities might keep the bout standing all the time and piece his foe up with devastating low kicks, knees, and elbows. Please read on and get to know which one works better in a specific situation!

Which Types Of Wrestling Exist?

There are Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. In Greco-Roman, you are not allowed to grab the opponent under the level of his waist. The scoring system is explained here, and it’s a good option for an MMA bout.

In freestyle wrestling, you are allowed to grab your opponent under the level of his waist, almost all kinds of trips and throws are legal. It gives you more options, and definitively works better inside the Octagon. A good example of this discipline is Khamzat Chimaev. Getting back to the feet is almost impossible when a mauling monster like Khamzat drags you to the canvas.

Which Stance Gives You More Options?

I will try to focus on an advanced wrestler with at least basic punching skills. The wrestling stance is wide, with open palms and a very low center of gravity, which leads to numerous takedown options. Yet, the Muay Thai stanza might help you defend aggressive wrestling attempts with violent knees and strong kicks to the legs.

The master of the ancient Siamese martial art needs less time to move to the side and counter thanks to the higher center of gravity. Muay Thai guard is better for defense and combinations, while wrestling stance works better for pressure, angle change, and dragging the bout to the ground.

The result of Muay Thai vs wrestling comparison is tied here, as both have advantages and downsides.

Muay Thai Vs Wrestling – Which One Is Better For Clinching?

This one is so tricky. The first-ever UFC fight between Muay Thai fighter and a wrestler happened at UFC 4 when Dan Severn choked out Anthony Macias in less than two minutes. It led to tons of wrong impressions, as Dan weighed 260 pounds, while Macias’ weight was around 190 lbs.

For example, Jose Aldo is an example of a great Muay Thai fighter with superb takedown defense skills. On many occasions, great wrestlers tried to takedown Aldo, but he exploded with his hips and stuffed the takedown attempt. Even when the opponents were able to wrap their hands around Jose’s waist, the former UFC featherweight king was finding various ways to set himself free.

First of all, Muay Thai knees and uppercuts prevent clinching attempts. Secondary, wrestling works better when you have one or both under-hooks in. But what about single-collar and double-collar clinch? Well, Thai boxing wins, no doubt!

I will show you another Muay Thai vs wrestling collision – Shogun Rua vs Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Rampage was constantly trying to grab Rua and slam him to the canvas but the Brazilian fighter is a master of a Muay Thai plum for a reason. Look how he controlled Jackson and finished the fight via a barrage of violent knees inside the clinch and finished him with soccer kicks.

Wanderlei Silva is another example of a high-level Muay Thai clincher that proves my theory. Whenever Silva controlled his foe with a single or double collar tie, he scored stoppages or at least knockdowns. The inserts from his fight against Rampage Jackson are a high-level example.

Finally, let’s focus on the prohibited strikes. An elbow to the back of the head is illegal at the moment, but believe me, this strike led to so many stoppages in the early stages of the UFC. It hits the cerebellum or the neck, so it dazes the opponent and leaves him open vulnerable to the incoming attacks.

I am pretty sure that Muay Thai clinch is very dangerous, but you must use it properly. Unfortunately, UFC rules favor wrestlers, but a good Muay Thai fighter might give a wrestler a hard time in the street with a barrage of dangerous elbows too.

Can You Combine Muay Thai And Wrestling On The Ground?

Oh, yeah, you can! Yes, wrestling is better for ground battle as this area of fighting is not covered by basic Muay Thai rules. Yet, modifications might put this to a whole new level. I am telling you, wrestlers love some Thai boxing techniques from the top position!

I’ve seen many wrestlers using hammer-fists and elbows on the ground. Elbows are pure Muay Thai technique, and it is a lovely way to cut your opponent open. But now let me discuss Brock Lesnar, the former UFC heavyweight champion known for unloading violent hammer-fists on the grounded opponents.

Well, guess what? Hammer-fist is a Muay Thai technique, perfectly legal in a Thai boxing bout. Israel Adesanya uses it in the stand-up effectively, but fighters stay away from it because it mostly targets the opponent’s forehead and leads to fewer chances for a cold KO or a knockdown.

Now let me get back to Brock Lesnar. Brock was unloading violent flurries of hammer-fists from the full and half-guard many times. I even saw him doing that from the mount.

The angles change on the bottom. A hammer-fist turns into one of the most powerful tools against your foe as it targets eyes, nose, mouth, or even chin. These are some of the most sensitive areas of the human body. Muay Thai and wrestling depend on each other on the canvas.

I will give you another perfect example. Mirko Cro Cop used to be in his prime when he met Kevin Randleman. As soon as Randleman dropped him with a hook, he chose to finish the fight via a violent barrage of hammer-fists.

But there are a few more examples. Pride rules were allowing knees to the head of the grounded opponent (ONE FC and Rizin allow nowadays). It means modified Muay Thai strikes work well for wrestling experts on the ground, especially from north-south and side control.

Another example, you’ll hardly unload punches in a cage-seated position, but slashing and horizontal elbows will work. Spear elbow is tricky, but you can try it out if you’re a master. I think Muay Thai vs wrestling comparison on the ground doesn’t make much sense because these two martial arts are interdependent.

Can A Skillful Muay Thai Fighter Counter Wrestler’s Takedown Attempts?

Well, that is one of the greatest advantages of Muay Thai over wrestling. There are so many lovely ways to stuff a takedown attempt when you’re dealing with a beginner. When your opponent is skillful in chain wrestling, that’s a massive problem because he’ll faint before closing in the distance and dragging the fight to the ground.

But I will mention to you some options – straight and flying knee, uppercut, sprawl, lateral movement… you have tons of potential ways to stop wrestlers from dragging you to the canvas when you fight mid or long-range.

A higher center of gravity leads to quicker reaction, better explosiveness, and more chances for a Muay Thai fighter to keep the fight standing. In clinch fighting, I’d say it’s 50-50 because Muay Thai fighters who compete at MMA learn the basics of wrestling.

Which One Works Better In A Street Fight?

Wrestlers got used to fighting without clothes, so they might have a hard time against the opponent in the jacket. I believe a freestyle wrestler would have better chances thanks to more trip and takedown options, while a Greco-Roman fighter has to lift his opponent and slam him in the style of Matt Hughes.

Muay Thai is undoubtedly better for dealing with multiple opponents. Keeping the fight on the feet means it is harder to sucker punch you. For example, when a wrestler slams the opponent and starts weathering the storm, he might get kicked or punched to the head from behind. It is less likely to happen to a Thai warrior thanks to more movement.


I hope you enjoyed my Muay Thai vs wrestling comparison. Overall, wrestling is better for ground fighting, but a good wrestler must learn Thai techniques if he plans to succeed in MMA. Thai clinching is a difficult challenge for wrestling specialists, and there are so many options for Thai fighters when it comes to defending takedown attempts.

As long as the fight remains on the feet, Muay Thai gets the advantage, but I believe these two martial arts are interdependent. What are your thoughts on this?

Last Updated on May 21, 2022 by Deni

Picture of Deni


Hi, I started training Muay Thai back in 2016 and fell in love with it. So I decided to create this blog in the pursuit of this passion and share my experience with you.

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