Evaluating the Champs: Lyoto Machida
Continuing our look at the champions of the UFC this week, today we’ll look at current light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida.
Between UFC 64 and UFC 83, a period of less than two years, there were a total of eight title changes across each weight class. Compare that to the UFC of today, where you will find the combined length of title reign for the five champions is well over 3000 days.
What a difference a few years makes.
Right now, the UFC finds itself on uncommon ground. All five of their champions are the best in the world in their weight class (a guy who defeats recycled UFC champions for lesser promotions is not the top heavyweight in the world anymore…sorry), and honestly, there are very few guys out there that will challenge any of these champs.
Simply put, the UFC is in the midst of a historical era in mixed martial arts. Breaking it down:
- Of the five champions, three are a lock for the UFC Hall of Fame (arbitrary I know, but BJ Penn, Anderson Silva, and Georges St. Pierre would make any MMA Hall of Fame)
- Taking it one step further, you’d have a hard time arguing these three are not the greatest fighters of all-time in their weight classes
- The other two (Lyoto Machida and Brock Lesnar) are both very early on in their career, yet already look like they could some day be HOF worthy
- Three guys are a fight away from completely cleaning out their division (Silva and GSP are probably already there)
- None of the above 5 have lost a fight in the last two years, except for BJ, but his lone loss came from fellow champ GSP
Impressive to say the least.
Nonetheless, as good as these guys are, they will all taste defeat at some point. It’s the nature of the sport, and everyone is one punch or one bad decision away from being beaten. So while it will happen, who knows when or by who? Hopefully this primer will help figure that out.
Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida – 16-0
How He Got Here – def. Rashad Evans via KO on May 23, 2009
Title Defenses – 1 (Mauricio Rua)
What Makes Him So Good?
One of the most disciplined fighters in the world, Lyoto Machida brings something completely unique to the octagon: an extensive background in Shotokan karate. His uncanny ability to strike with precision and speed coupled with his ability to stay elusive inside the cage has provided fits for opponents. While his stock took a hit after the Shogun fight, many forget how dominant Machida can be. Most considered 2009 to be the beginning of “The Dragon Era”, as few saw anyone who could match up favorably with the champ in the near future.
What It Will Take To Beat Him
Seeing how he barely survived his only title defense, Lyoto Machida may be the most vulnerable of the five champions. The Dragon barely survived his first and only title defense, winning a controversial decision over Mauricio Rua last October. Nonetheless, a win is a win, and “The Dragon Era” continues.
Shogun laid down a blueprint for stopping Machida by taking away what makes ‘The Dragon’ so good: his speed and agility. The champ was peppered with leg kicks and body blows that took away his ability to elude his foe and it significantly slowed Machida down once the fight reached the championship rounds. If Shogun is going to approach Machida the same way this go around, he needs to close out the fight and try to be more aggressive in the final two rounds…he cannot leave the fight in the hands of the judges again.
So Who’s Next?
As mentioned, Shogun will get his much deserved rematch in May at UFC 113. Machida is sure to adjust his gameplan this time around to be ready for what Shogun brings to the table. Nonetheless, the best way to take down a fast opponent is to slow him down, and Shogun has proven he can do this.
Including Rua, Lyoto Machida remains a tough matchup for anyone. He has defeated top level strikers in Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans and he has staved off solid wrestlers such as Tito Ortiz. A cerebral fighter with a good all around fight game will be the best matchup against Machida. Fighters such as Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Gegard Mousasi out of Strikeforce/DREAM would both provide interesting matchups for the champ, as well as the aforementioned ‘Shogun.’
Check back tomorrow, where we will take a look at current heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar.
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