At today's press conference for UFC 104 in Los Angeles, both UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida and his challenger Mauricio "Shogun" Rua declined to make their upcoming bout personal but they did promise to make it a clash of styles.
Shogun said he is an aggressive fighter and Machida is a counter-fighter. Also, Shogun said it was an opportunity to test his Muay Thai style and prove that it can beat Machida's karate style.
For old school fans this has a disorienting back to the future quality. When MMA first burst upon the scene in the US and Japan in the early 1990s it was seen as first and foremost a test of styles.
Coincidentally the UFC was part-owned by the Gracie family who had a very effective style of their own in Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Initially it seemed that only grapplers like Gracie or wrestlers like Ken Shamrock had effective styles for the Octagon, but with the emergence of Muay Thai striker Marco Ruas in UFC 7 it seemed that a style of striking that worked in MMA had been found.
Even with the emergence of boxer/wrestlers like Tank Abbott and Don Frye and kickboxers like Maurice Smith and Igor Vovchanchyn, Muay Thai still dominated as the preeminent striking style for MMA. The emergence of Brazil's fearsome Chute Boxe camp seemed to cement Muay Thai as the most versatile and effective standup style for MMA.
Ironically, before he trained in Muay Thai at Chute Boxe, Shogun trained in Brazil's traditional capoeira style -- a style whose exponents had fought against jiu jitsu fighters in Brazil for many years, even picking up a huge win over jiu jitsu at the dawn of the modern MMA era. But although Shogun has shown off some crazy spinning kicks from his capoeira roots a time or two, he's predominantly a Muay Thai fighter no doubt.
For most of the past decade the conventional wisdom had been set. Certain styles worked in different phases of MMA: for takedowns wrestling and judo, for submission grappling jiu jitsu and catch wrestling, and for striking it was boxing, kickboxing or Muay Thai.
Other styles -- TKD, Karate, Kung Fu -- didn't work, we "knew" this.
The rise of Lyoto Machida and his strong case for the effectiveness of Shotokan Karate techniques in MMA (as part of a well-rounded fighter's arsenal, etc etc) has turned that conventional wisdom on its head.
Machida showed in his win over Thiago Silva that he can handle a graduate of the Chute Boxe academy, now we'll get to see if he can handle the man many believe is the best to ever come out of Chute Boxe in Shogun Rua.-- image via Sherdog.com