UFC 104 Preview: Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: Lyoto Machida Uses Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu to Beat David Heath at UFC 70

Getting ready for UFC 104: Machida vs. Shogun, I'm going to do some Judo Chops on the main eventers, Lyoto Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. We'll start with a discussion of the champ, Lyoto Machida.

If you take a brief survey of the Bloody Elbow Technique section, you'll see we've spent a lot of time discussing Machida. We've talked about his elusiveness, his karate wizardry, and the difficulty of mastering Shotokan Karate. We've reviewed his DVD set. But one thing we haven't done is discussed the more traditional aspects of his MMA game.

Machida is an incredibly well-rounded martial artist. Like Georges St. Pierre he is of the generation of modern champions who first saw the UFC in their early teens and began training with an eye to competing in MMA. Here's a good summary of his training background from World of Combat:

Lyoto Machia began training in Karate at the young age of three. He later trained in Sumo, when he was around 12. At 15 he learned the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He won a couple of amateur karate tournaments while he was a youth. For example, in 2001 he won the Pan American Karate Tournament. In 2000, at the the Brazilian Sumo Championship, he was runner up in the 115 kg divison.

Hi education and degree have helped in his career. Lyoto Machida's has a college degree in Physical Education. He was introduced to a Japanese professional wrestling champion, namely Antonio Inoki, while he was in college. Antonio Inoki took Lyoto under his wing and groomed him as a protege. Much later Lyoto took up training at the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo in Tokyo, he trained in wrestling here. He also did his training at Muay Thai in Thailand.

His second UFC fight, a three round decision over David Heath at UFC 70, didn't get much attention at the time. It was considered such a dud that the UFC elected to not air it on Spike TV when the event debuted for American audiences. But it's worth a look if you want to increase your understanding of Machida's game.

Typically for Machida, he used the increased attacking range of Shotokan Karate to evade Heath's every strike while repeatedly catching Heath with sharp kicks to the body. But in the third round, it was Machida's master of the basics of Muay Thai and jiu jitsu that allowed him to end the fight with a knock down from knees followed by a guard pass to side mount and then mount, allowing him to ice the decision in dominant fashion.

We'll break it down blow by blow in the full entry.

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2f06hc7_mediumOn the right we see the crucial third round exchange that transformed the fight from a tedious exercise in out-pointing Heath to a decisive win for Machida. With 2:40 left in the final round, Machida is setting up to fire another left kick to the body. By this point he's scored repeatedly with that weapon. Heath thinks he sees an opportunity and ducks to fire a right hook to the body.

Unfortunately for David Heath, Machida pounces as soon as he sees that head low and within arm's reach. Watching a lot of Machida's fights, I've noticed that he consistently capitalizes when opponents step in and disrupt his ranged attacks. Often he'll go for a trip, but in this instance he gets his hands on the back of Heath's head in what is called the Thai Plum or in wrestling, a double collar tie.

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Once he's established the plum, he switches his feet and starts firing knees to the head and body in a precise sequence, stepping into the attack as Heath retreats and switching to a knee to the body when Heath lifts his head.

On the left, the barrage of knees continues. Note how Machida fires a knee with each step, left-right-left-right-left until he manages to drop Heath. The momentum of the attack is enough to off-set the fact that he never really establishes a tight grip with his hands around the back of Heath's neck. Contrast this with the Thai Plum as applied by Anderson Silva against Rich Franklin. Silva established the grip and attained utter control of Franklin's posture before throwing knees. Here Machida uses the momentum of the strikes to compensate for his less than perfect control of his opponent.

97k849_mediumNow we switch to the grappling phase of the game. We're at 1:33, Machida has been in Heath's guard since dropping him about a minute earlier. He's gotten side control once, but Heath worked back to full guard. There's nothing really novel about the technique Machida uses to pass guard here, but damn it's smooth! Machida is standing up and has planted his left leg well outside Heath's right. From there he grabs Heath's right ankle with his left hand, turns his hip and slides Heath's foot to his right. Sliiiip.

From there he drops into side guard having transitioned from a stalemated position into a dominant one. It's jiu jitsu 101, but done very well.

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Here on the left we're about one minute later. Machida has been working elbows to Heath's face and the side of his head. He's also worked for the crucifix position by attempting to pin Heath's right arm under his left leg. Notice the elbow feint at the beginning of the sequence. Machida has trained Heath to close his eyes and brace for impact when he sees Machida's elbow rise to strike. 

But this time, the master of deception instead posts up on his right elbow and spins his right leg past Heath's blocking right knee and presto! mount position is attained. Again, nothing earth shattering, but a very technically sound application of jiu jitsu techniques to MMA.

In another installment I'll talk about Machida's robust arsenal of trip takedowns from the clinch, another staple of wrestling and jiu jitsu that he applies very well.

Lyoto Machida is a harbinger of fighters successfully applying exotic martial arts techniques to MMA and I would argue that the key is his mastery of disciplines like jiu jitsu, Muay Thai and wrestling -- the traditional base of MMA fighters.

GIFs by Chris Nelson.

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