Mauricio "Shogun" Rua has his work cut out for him at UFC 104. He'll have to do something no other fighter has been able to do with any regularity: land strikes on Lyoto Machida. According to FightMetric, opponents have only landed 0.64 strikes per minute against the Brazilian (as of January '09). The only man better? Fedor Emelianenko.
The best example of Machida's ability to avoid damage came during the first round of his fight with Tito Ortiz at UFC 84. Ortiz threw his entire arsenal at Machida - right hooks, head kicks, double legs - only to find himself staring at an empty section of fence.
By the end of the round, Ortiz could no longer hide the frustration from his face. Machida completely shut him down, and added insult to injury when he put Ortiz on his back with ten seconds left before the bell. While Ortiz began to land with some consistency as the contest wore on (Machida reportedly entered the cage with the flu) and locked on a surprise armbar in the fight's final moments, he never looked comfortable at any stage.
The numbers from the first round highlight the dominance. Machida landed 23 of 34 strikes (8 power shots) and was successful on his only takedown attempt. Ortiz, meanwhile, couldn't find a target for all 18 of his strikes and got stuffed in both of his takedown attempts.
This is the problem Shogun inherits on October 24th. How do you hit what isn't there?