UFC 104 Preview: How Mauricio "Shogun" Rua Could Beat Lyoto Machida

At least this is how UFC.com says it can be done:

...Machida has a very awkward style, as far as MMA is concerned. He stands almost sideways, in a traditional Karate stance, with his weight well past his center point and his upper body noticeably leaning back. That is all designed to make him difficult to hit, not so much to place him in the proper position from which to attack.

Machida, who has explosive quickness, uses quick jab steps and sudden shoulder movements to feint an attack, and he does it early and often in the first round. Those feints put his opponent on the defensive because he is thinking about defending an incoming strike, rather than attacking. From there, he will throw the occasional lead high kick on the end of one of those jab steps or he may sprint in briefly with piston-like punches. Neither is overly dangerous-neither is meant to be, either.

All of that is designed to accomplish two goals: set up his bread and butter attack, which is leading with a kick to the body followed immediately by a short straight left, and force his opponent into tentative one-strike attacks that he can counter. Machida caught Evans with that kick-punch combination and dropped him. It wasn't the force of the blow that led to the knockdown, rather the fact that Evans' attention was wholly focused on defending the kick to the body.

The best way to avoid eating into that left hand is to be prepared to step in, though outside of Machida's right foot, with a right hand down the middle as soon as Machida lifts his back leg to throw a kick off of his jab step. By stepping in with a right hand, Shogun will close the distance, effectively neutralizing the body kick or high kick, if the champion is mixing it up. Evans did that once late in the first round and it led to a tie-up, something Shogun, with his savage Muay Thai skills, would welcome with open arms.

More importantly, though, Shogun must not sit back and allow Machida to set the pace of the fight. He cannot allow the champion to dictate his action with feints. Instead, Shogun needs to fly out of his corner like he did against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in their PRIDE bout and attack with something crazy-a flying knee, a blitz of punches, whatever.

We've been discussing this quite a bit already and I must say this is as good a case as I've seen made for the challenger.

Shogun spoke to MMA Weekly and gave a hint that he understands at least theoretically that he is going to be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to breaking down Machida's timing:

"Most of the guys that fought Lyoto... found a problem with patience, with finding the right moment to attack, or to counter-strike him. Some guys try to rush it too much; some guys try to stay too patient, (and) they start to get nervous because of that. ...I think the key is the timing of the fight, to get the feeling of when to engage and when to counter-strike him. This is likely the key, to find the pace and the rhythm, mostly the timing of the strikes to be able to connect and to make it a fight. For sure, I'm going to concentrate on that and develop a good strategy."

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