Because Muay Thai also involves so many weapons (punches, kicks, knees and elbows), knockouts can often happen without warning. But the most successful fighters set up their knockouts by purposely establishing a narrative that sets traps for their opponents. The higher the level of the fighter, the more complex these traps can become.
Photo credit: This is Muay Thai
However perhaps the most basic (but effective) example of this is by changing levels, as shown in the first round head-kick knockout by Chinnarach Muay Thai fighter Krikthong against Sornsuek from Kiatpaison on 1 March 2023.
Krikthong throws the first leg-kick 25 seconds into the fight. He then waits patiently before throwing the next one 20 seconds later. Seeing that the leg-kicks now have Sorsuek's attention, he delivers another outside leg-kick. Waits a few seconds. Then goes for an inside leg-kick, quickly followed by another outside leg-kick. Sornsuek, now entirely focused on the leg-kicks, drops his guard leaving him open to the head-kick knockout.
Normally you would not be able to land such a clean head-kick knockout in just over a minute. But Krikthong managed to do that because he had already managed to convince Sornsuek (an experienced fighter) within the first 45 seconds that the fight was going to be all about leg-kicks. This is a great example of how selling a story to your opponent can be a highly effective strategy for either gaining the advantage or getting a knockout.
Video credit: This is Muay Thai