When Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida meet at UFC 123 it will represent one of the most interesting style clashes in years. In some ways that is a statement that can be routinely applied to Machida fights given his unique application of karate techniques in the MMA arena. But in "Rampage" he faces a foe who uses an almost equally unique style for MMA.
While it is easy to paint Jackson as your standard "wrestle boxer" his boxing techniques are applied in an interesting way, especially in his defense. Quinton uses a very old school style of "earmuff" defense, where his hands are kept very high and tight to the side of his face and as punches come in he uses both his hands and his elbows to deflect strikes while using some degree of side to side head movement.
Warning: Things get .gif heavy after the jump.
This defensive style was probably at its most obvious in Jackson's third fight with Wanderlei Silva. Silva's punches were coming in as somewhat wide hooks which really allowed the elbows to pick off the majority of incoming strikes and then allowed Jackson to time his counter shot which was all he needed to knock out Silva.
This was particularly effective against Wanderlei because Silva has always been an attacking fighter. He's not hard to find, he'll be in front of you and he'll be letting his hands go. All Jackson needed to do was stay tight with his hands, keep his head moving and allow for the opening to present itself.
Of course, Machida has rarely been the guy who is right there in front of you throwing wild hooks. He's known as an elusive fighter because he makes you come to him, makes you miss and makes you pay.
Machida's punches are also very different from most in MMA. Most fighters rely on wide hooking shots to generate power but Machida's karate background leads to him throwing a lot of straight counter punches at the point of the chin rather than the side of the jaw. In this exchange with Mauricio Rua he does come in slightly wide with his right hand but it's still much more "down the pipe" than most punches, also note that he reaches out with the left first, raising his opponent's guard, grabs Shogun's right arm pulling it down and then throws the right to the now exposed chin.
This next gif shows Machida using the straight punches to split the hands of Thiago Silva and drop him.
The other place where Jackson leaves himself open with his defensive style (aside from the point of his chin) is to the body. While a more "standard" style of defense would see your hands close to your chin with your elbows tight to your side he swings his elbows upward to deflect incoming blows leaving the ribs exposed. Machida will go to the body at times with kicks and knees and can be effective in hurting his opponent or forcing him to drop his hands. Again from the Thiago Silva fight:
Aside from being worried about Machida splitting the hands of Rampage with his straight punching, the threat of him throwing to the body can lead to him being able to catch Rampage guessing one thing and being open to another (think play-action pass). Against Rashad Evans we saw a feint from Evans of a takedown attempt that resulted in Jackson dropping his hands to defend and getting caught hard.
It's actually very interesting to go into a Machida fight wondering how his opponent's defensive style will play into the results rather than wondering if his opponent can deal with his elusiveness. Of course, Jackson's ability to find Machida's chin remains an interesting storyline. As does seeing how Machida deals with the effects of the devastating loss to Rua. There have been very few fights in the last years where I found myself so unsure of how things would play out.