There are many words that have been used to describe Lyoto Machida over the course of the thirty year old Brazilians mixed martial arts career. Words like elusive, evasive, unorthodox, slippery and I have even heard him being described as an artist of sorts. A master technician, a professor in the cage. He just may be all of those things.
On the flip side of that coin there are others that would be quick to describe Machida as overly defensive, boring, excessively conservative and downright hard to watch. Quite frankly there are many that would compare watching Machida fight to watching paint dry. I will freely admit that I stand firmly on this side of the coin for now.
Machida is the kind of fighter that just forces you to love or hate the guy. His countering style of fighting has worked wonders for him up until this point in his career, enabling him to compile an extremely impressive record of 13-0 against some very tough opposition. I guess that’s my main problem with Machida. His opposition. His elusive, awkward style has given everyone that has stepped up to Machida absolute fits but as the saying goes and has gone, styles make fights. I anticipate that Silva’s style will make this fight and finally force the crafty karate master to really, truly dig down and fight.
I was blown away by the critical acclaim that Machida received upon his decision victory over a long unimpressive Tito Ortiz. Does beating Tito Ortiz prove that you are among the top dogs in the UFC’s light heavyweight division? I should hope not. Of course the win over Ortiz wasn’t Machida’s first barbecue, he had beaten big names before, but how relevant were those wins? Lets take a really quick look at some of the key wins over the course of the career of the man they call “The Dragon” through the eyes of a skeptic.
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
In September of 2003 Machida faced off with Stephan Bonnar at the very first Jungle Fight event in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The bout was Bonnar’s fifth fight but it was only Machida’s second. I’ll give it to Machida in this one. He controlled the fight with his counter strikes and managed to stop Bonnar due to cuts in the very first round. An impressive win over a dangerous fighter but both men were inexperienced at the time in the grand scheme of things and so much can change over the course of five or six years.
Just three months later Machida secured one of the biggest and most referenced wins of his career when he stopped Rich Franklin in Japan. I’ve got nothing here. Big win for Machida considering that he convincingly stopped Franklin with a flurry of strikes early in the first round of this bout. At the time, Franklin was riding a thirteen fight win streak with a pair of UFC victories to his credit and it was just Machida’s third professional fight. All I’ve got here is that Machida had fought in Japan once before and Franklin had not. The Ace was just suffering from those nasty pre Japan fight jitters and it was over five years ago! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Seriously though, big win for Machida but it really was a long time ago and it has been a long time since Machida has looked as impressive as he did against Franklin. Actually, I don’t think Machida has ever looked as impressive as he did that night in Japan.
Of course in March of 2005 Machida was able to edge out B.J. Penn in a decision victory. Let’s be real, B.J. Penn is amazing. The man’s an absolute phenom but he is currently UFC’s lightweight champion. That’s a natural difference of about 50 pounds. Additionally, Penn was at the lowest point of his career and went on to lose two of his next three bouts. Moving on.
Now on to Machida’s more recent and to me, most relevant fight history. In July of 2006 Machida was able to defeat Vernon White in an extremely uneventful unanimous decision. Vernon White is truly on of the pioneers of the sport and has been around for what seems like forever but the man has a record of 26-32-2. White went on to lose four of his next five fights and was TKO’d in his last two losses.
UFC debut time. Machida stepped in against Sam Hoger at UFC 67 and came away with yet another decision victory. Machida met Hoger smack dab in the middle of a three fight skid. In Hoger’s next fight he was actually choked out by the previously noted Vernon White but Machida, for whatever reason, could not seal the deal when he met up with Hoger who has never been at the top of the food chain at 205 by any standards.
April 2007, UFC 70, Machida comes away with yet another lackluster decision victory, this time over David Heath. Including the loss to Machida, Heath has lost four of his last five fights. He was finished in every one of those losses, outside of his decision loss to Machida of course.
Machida was able to obtain his next decision win in against the seasoned Kazuhiro Nakamura. Again, the loss to Machida was sandwiched between two other losses for Nakamura. Nakamura has been finished in six of his nine losses.
Next we have a semi impressive victory over Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. Sokoudjou had two enormous wins in Pride FC over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona but has since fizzled out. Sporting a record of 5-4, Sokudjou has been exposed as a one, or should I say two hit wonder, most recently being submitted by Renato “Babalu” Sobral at the Affliction: day of Reckoning event. I’ll give Machida his props in this one, he finished Sokoudjou off with a nasty arm triangle choke but it’s that finishing ability that has been so far in between for the ultra strategic Machida.
Finally we have the big kahuna tuna of Machida’s victories,. the prized gem of his supporters argument that he deserves to be considered among the best at 205. I ask why. When was the last time that Tito Ortiz scored a relevant impressive victory in his career? In my estimate, Tito hasn’t beaten a top ten fighter since his win over Vladimir Matyushenko way back in 2001. I’ll say that again to get my point across. Tito hasn’t beaten a top ten fighter in close to eight years so how could he be considered among the top in his division? My answer, he couldn’t and the excruciatingly boring win over Ortiz answered absolutely none of the questions that I had about Machida and his unorthodox fighting style.
Fortunately for myself, Silva possesses the exact style in the cage that is sure to answer all of the questions that there are to ask about Machida. Silva will provide the relentless aggressiveness that it will take to force a master strategist like Machida to sink his feet down in the sand at some point and actually fight. Really, truly fight. Silva will leave him no option in the matter.
Machida has the unique ability to force his opponents to fight at his pace. His southpaw stance and unusual fighting style keeps his opponent guessing and takes away his opponents’ abilities to implement their game plans. Silva will not afford him the same luxury.
Silva possesses the kind of tenacity and killer instinct that fighters that get their start at the notorious Chute Boxe Academy are known for. The twenty six year old Curitiba, Brazil native comes out like a whirlwind in all of his fights and is like a shark once he smells blood. On top of his capacity to swarm with precision, Silva holds a black belt in jiu-jitsu. A tool that he rarely opts to use in the cage but an extremely relevant tool to possess, without question. The unique blend of strengths make him a threat to anyone he faces and Machida is no exception to the rule.
There are many that expect Machida to frustrate Silva like he typically does to those on the opposite side of the octagon with him en route to another decision victory but I don’t feel like that will be a possibility. Whoever wins this fight will win decisively. Silva will leave no other option. I expect Silva to fly at Machida from the opening bell and all questions that need to be answered about both fighters will be answered in a hurry. One way or another Machida will engage in an entertainig fight this Saturday night. There is no way around it.