Signature Strikes: The keys to lightweight champion Sitthichai’s dominance of his division

Signature Strikes: The keys to Lightweight champion Sitthichai’s dominance of his division

Tuesday, May 07 2019 by John O'Regan

Statistically one of the most dominant champions in GLORY history, Sitthichai’s 11-1 record in the organization and current run of six consecutive title defenses speak for themselves. 
It is also often forgotten that he won two Lightweight Contender Tournaments during the first half of his GLORY run.
Like many Thai fighters, he started his training young. By the age of eight he was part of a camp and he had his first professional fight at 11. 
Now aged 27, he has spent more than half of his life competing at the professional level - and it shows. Sitthichai’s years of training have given him incredible reflexes and timing. His southpaw stance also adds a layer of difficulty for opponents.
Sitthichai’s Southpaw Stance 

Southpaws are naturally left-handed and so they stand in an opposite stance to right-handed (orthodox) fighters. Both styles keep their power-hand to the rear, so a right-handed fighter will keep his left foot forward and a left-handed fighter will keep his right foot forward. 
This is known as “opposite leads” and is traditionally trickier for orthodox fighters to handle, simply because southpaw fighters are a rare breed (around 10% or less of the talent pool) and thus there aren’t many to practice against. 
Winning a battle of opposite leads is about keeping your lead foot on the outside of the opponent’s lead foot. Doing so means your rearward power side is directly lined up with the opponent, while you are off-center from his and thus out of harm’s way.
Above is a good example of Sitthichai getting his lead foot to the outside edge of Josh Jauncey’s at GLORY 61. He opens up a line for the left cross and then when that lands, flows into a combination to capitalize.
Sitthichai’s Sixth Sense
Having nearly two decades of top-level, full-time training under his belt means that Sitthichai has seen and felt everything any kind of opponent has to offer. That experience has allowed him to develop a sixth sense for what an opponent is about to do. 
Marat Grigorian has had several frustrating encounters with Sitthichai over the years, typified by this clip from GLORY 28 PARIS. Behind on the scorecards, Grigorian swung for the fences in the final ten seconds of the fight, but Sitthichai simply wasn’t allowing himself to be hit.

He is also able to make instant pinpoint calculations of distance. By moving out of the way just a fraction enough, he does not break his stance nor pull himself out of reach. 
Sitthichai will often simply lean back to let a head kick pass harmlessly by, then immediately punish the opponent with a counter-attack, as in his GLORY 53 encounter with Tyjani Beztati.
’Make ‘em miss, make ‘em pay’, as the old boxing maxim goes.


Sitthichai’s Signature Strike

Sitthichai’s left kick is a highly effective weapon for him, but it is his left knee which opponents really learn to fear. 
It has been estimated that the knee strike of a professional Muay Thai fighter, when landed cleanly, is akin to being hit by a small car traveling around 30 miles per hour.
Former lightweight champion Davit Kiria certainly felt the impact when Sitthichai stopped him at GLORY 22 (above).
Against Josh Jauncey at GLORY 61, there was a moment where Sitthichai correctly read Jauncey’s intention to slip into position for a heavy left hook. The Thai champion countered with a perfectly-timed left knee which knocked Jauncey over (although the ten-count Jauncey subsequently received was unwarranted).


Sitthichai Seizes Opportunities

When watching Muay Thai fights in Thailand, it’s common to see prolonged exchanges where fighters go one-for-one in strikes exchanged. 
With their defensive skills being as high level as their offense, reckless attack will rarely meet with success and in fact will often have the opposite effect of opening the attacker up to be countered heavily.
The flipside of this learned cautiousness is an understanding that openings need to be exploited fully the moment they present themselves. A fighter brought out of position by misdirection or a landed blow will quickly find himself on the receiving end of several more powerful strikes. 
Above is a good example of Sitthichai seizing the moment. Here we see Sitthichai slipping Marat Grigorian’s jab so that it passes harmlessly over his shoulder. 
Sitthichai’s left cross lands as a counter-attack and the clean connection prompts ‘The Killer Kid’ to flow immediately into a multi-strike combination which Grigorian feels the full force of.
Sitthichai and Marat Grigorian are due to square off again at GLORY 65 UTRECHT later this month, with Sitthichai’s lightweight title on the line. 
Also on the GLORY 65 card is middleweight champion Alex ‘Po Atan’ Pereira. The Brazilian faces former middleweight champion Jason ‘Psycho’ Wilnis in the evening’s headline fight.