Striking Styles: Muay Thai breakdown part 2 – The Dutch Style

Nearly two years ago, I had this idea of a new series called Striking Styles that would look at the different stand-up styles. Along…

By: Fraser Coffeen | 7 years ago
Striking Styles: Muay Thai breakdown part 2 – The Dutch Style
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Nearly two years ago, I had this idea of a new series called Striking Styles that would look at the different stand-up styles. Along with Connor, I wrote part 1 on Muay Thai and then… well, then I got distracted. Sorry. But many have asked for it to return, and so now, we’re back! I encourage you to check out part 1, and join me here for part 2. Part 3 will come, oh, soon…

Welcome to the latest edition of “Striking Styles”, our attempt to break down the unique aspects of the various striking arts that make up the sport of MMA. Today, the long-delayed part two of our three part series on Muay Thai. Already, we took a look at the strictly traditional, Thai-style Muay Thai. Now, we look at the Dutch variation, with a trip down to Brazil for part three.

What makes this style unique? Read on to find out.

Before we move on, there’s an important note on nomenclature that really must be made. To many Muay Thai purists (and, I will admit it, I am one of them), there really is no such thing as “Dutch style Muay Thai”. For the real Muay Thai aficionado, the Thai style we already examined IS Muay Thai. What we are looking at today is what they would call “kickboxing”. Personally, I think that’s correct. What we are looking at here is essentially the style of kickboxing made famous by Dutch fighters in K-1 in the past 20 years and today most commonly seen in Glory. That said, you will frequently hear this referred to as Muay Thai or Dutch style on MMA broadcasts, which is why it’s worth a look at what that name entails.

With that out of the way, let’s see what we can figure out.




Right away, when looking at offense, you see a big difference between the Thai style and the Dutch style. Some of this is due to rules variations, some due to stylistic choices. As we saw in part 1, the Thais use elbows, knees, kicks, and punches, with punches being far less prominent than the other techniques and elbows and knees scoring higher. In the Dutch system, that order is reversed. Many of the organizations that chiefly employ this style (K-1 and Glory most famously) do not allow elbows at all, and knees from the clinch are somewhat limited. The result is, understandably, far less emphasis on these techniques. Elbows are basically a non-factor for Dutch fighters, and knees are more commonly seen as a jumping outside weapon instead of the inside knees from the clinch you see in Thailand. Here’s a great example of the kind of knees you are most likely to see from Dutch fighters, demonstrated by one of the best at this technique today – Glory top contender Murthel Groenhart:

Probably the biggest change you will see in Dutch offense is a heavy use of punches. Since punches do not score as well in Thailand, few Thai fighters use them with regularity (Glory’s Sittichai is an exception, which is part of the reason he has had more success in the Glory ruleset). But Dutch fighters put a heavy reliance on punches, often using them to begin their offensive bursts. You’ll see many of these fighters launching a series of punches in combination to get their game going. Because of this, they also use a wide range of punches, including some who have added a nice body shot game (Nieky Holzken is the best at this today). Here’s Glory Lightweight champion Robin van Roosmalen with a good example of a more typical Dutch punching combo (pay particular attention to the “Round 3” combo here – not so much the silliness Kiria is throwing):

That combo is really the epitome of Dutch kickboxing offense – a series of punches used to set up a leg kick. This is how many, many Dutch fighters look to end their combos. Ending with a leg kick is a good technique for a number of reasons. First and foremost, leg kicks hurt and take away an opponent’s mobility. If you land just a few really good ones, you can greatly impact the fight in your favor. Second, you really need to use a combo to set up a leg kick. If you don’t, your opponent can see it coming, give you a hard check, and then, THIS. Finally, it is a longer range weapon than your punches, so ending with the kick can get you out of range for a counter. Note how in the above sequence, Kiria starts to move back so that when van Roosmalen lands the kick, he is out of punching range and does not have to worry about the counter.

In the history of the sport, no man has ever been better at using these punch to leg kick combos than the all time great Ernesto Hoost. Hoost had tons of set ups for his leg kicks. Here’s just one example that is sure to make you wince:

Hoost also had a great head kick that he would throw once he got you too focused on the leg kick, drawing your attention and your defenses down low just as he went high – another common Dutch move.


This is an area where you can see a lot of variation in Dutch fighters. In part 1, we saw that Thai fighters tend to use pretty limited footwork, instead planting themselves inside and throwing shots. Defense there is more achieved through checks and slips than footwork. In the Dutch style, that’s not always the case. Many Dutch fighters use a more Western boxing style of defense, utilizing a lot of footwork to get in and out and to create angles. Here’s Andy Souwer using small hops to get in and out of range, allowing him to only be at a range to be struck when he himself is ready to initiate the action. Note how light he is on his feet here – a far remove from the more planted Thai fighters:

In Thailand, movement like this would be looked down upon – an indication that a fighter was nervous or unwilling to engage. This lightness on the feet and use of movement frequently creates a faster pace to Dutch fights than you often see in Thailand (that fast pace is exacerbated by both the trend towards 3 round fights rather than the Thai 5 rounders, and the fact that Thai fights often start slow to allow gambling to occur during the opening rounds).

For many Dutch fighters, this is the preferred method of defense: get out and avoid the shot altogether instead of check it. Glory Heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven frequently employs a teep or front kick for this same reason – pushing an opponent outside of range to keep himself out of danger. Note here how the push kick combined with a slight lean of the head puts Verhoeven just outside the range of his opponent:

As I mentioned above, while this is a common style of movement for Dutch fighters, it is not the only style. Some lean towards that more Thai style and prefer to stand and trade. We’ve already looked at Robin van Roosmalen above, and he is a good example of this, as shown in particular in his series of fights with Davit Kiria. The result of that style is that van Roosmalen is more likely to take shots in an exchange so that he can land his own offense, as opposed to someone like Verhoeven, who will do his best to avoid them.


There are so, so many great names that could be mentioned here, and we’ve already touched on a lot of them, but here are a few specific fights and fighters worth an extra look:

Ernesto Hoost – I touched on him above, but Hoost truly is one of the masters of this style, and is arguably the greatest Heavyweight in the history of kickboxing. Here is Hoost using the Dutch style beautifully to win the K-1 Grand Prix crown in 1999 over Mirko Cro Cop:

Ramon Dekkers – Any discussion of Dutch kickboxing and Muay Thai would be remiss without a mention of The Diamond. Born in The Netherlands, Dekkers started his career in his home country, but soon challenged himself by fighting the best in Thailand. He became a massively popular fighter due to his exciting style and his never say die attitude, as he worked out how to use his European/Dutch style in Thailand (not always effectively, it must be said). Dekkers died in 2013, and his shadow looms large over all Dutch fighters today.

Andy Souwer vs. Buakaw Por. Pramuk – Here’s an example of the differences between the two styles we have discussed so far, as epitomized by one of the greatest rivalries in K-1 MAX history. Here is Dutch fighter Andy Souwer vs. Thai fighter Buakaw Por. Pramuk. For four years these two men traded the K-1 MAX Grand Prix crown between them in a series of tremendous fights that showcased how these two styles work against each other. Here’s their classic encounter from 2006:

Thanks for reading! All feedback is welcome, and join us next time for part 3 – Brazilian Muay Thai.

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Fraser Coffeen
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