Going into Saturday's fight with Quinton Jackson, aka "Rampage", Lyoto Machida is at a cross-roads. Less than a year ago he was seen as the most successful technical innovator to hit MMA in years. As the undefeated champion of the UFC's marquee light heavyweight division he made a strong case for Shotokan karate as a style that could revolutionize the sport when blended with Muay Thai, Sumo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to create the style he calls Machida Karate-Do.
We certainly spent more than our fair share of time and space trying to figure out what made Machida tick. We studied his book. We watched his DVD set. We asked if he was the second coming of Royce Gracie. We looked at the statistics. We discussed the difficulty of following his Shotokan path. We wondered how he could be beaten. In the end we nearly convinced ourselves that Joe Rogan was right, this was "the Machida era".
Two fights with Mauricio Rua, aka "Shogun", later and we're all wondering if Machida Karate-do is for real or was a flash in the pan.
We'll find out Saturday, but in the meantime we can look back at our previous break downs of Machida's unique and innovative style:
- The Karate Wizardry of Lyoto Machida
- The Karate Kuzushi Waza Foot Sweeps of Lyoto Machida
- Lyoto Machida Blends Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu
And don't miss the head to head stylistic comparison of Rampage vs Lyoto Brent Brookhouse did earlier this week. In the full entry we'll look at some of Machida's finest moments that we haven't covered and we'll hear from Lyoto himself as he discusses applying those techniques in MMA.
He's capitalizing on what he calls the "kyo" -- the moment when an opponent has no defense because his attention is totally focused on launching his attack.
Here's Machida talking about Kyo after UFC 98, "In my karate, it's a time called the "kyo", which basically means when your opponent has no defense. I always make sure when I attack it's at the right kyo. I timed his properly."
In his book "Machida Karate-Do: Mixed Martial Arts Techniques" Machida discusses his philosophy of intercepting his opponents' attacks (p. 82):
"Although intercepting attacks involves some risk, it has many advantages. Most fighters are used to throwing a strike, hitting or missing their target, and then dealing with your counter to that strike. When you land your strike while he is in the middle of throwing his strike, you often disrupt his striking rhythm, which creates an opportunity for you to immediately follow up with a combination. In addition to this, hitting your opponent while he is moving forward drastically increases the power of your shot."
On the left we see Machida scoring a take down on Tito Ortiz. He discusses this move in his book "Machida Karate-Do: Mixed Martial Arts Techniques" (p. 150):
The outside leg trip is one of my favorite wrestling takedowns to execute when tied up in the neutral over-under clinch. The option here works the best when your opponent moves backward or tries to pull away from the clinch.
Once I have secured the bodylock, I step my left leg deep behind (Tito's) right leg, closing off all space between our bodies. This step is very important. If you take a shallow step or give up space, your opponent will most likely defend against the attack.
I plant my left foot on the mat directly behind (Tito's) heel. Notice how all space has been closed off between our bodies. Next, I start corkscrewing my body in a counterclockwise direction and pull his upper body toward my left side. It's important to note how I clamp down on his right arm with my left arm, trapping it to my side.
Still corkscrewing my body in a counter clockwise direction, I pull (Tito) over my left leg. Because my leg is serving as a barrier, he sits over my left thigh and collapses to the mat.
With this technique it is imperative that you stay tight to your opponent's body and execute all the steps in one fluid motion. If you allow space or hesitate between steps, your opponent will likely defend against your attack.
This is a great example of Machida's blended style and the fruits of his extended study of Sumo wrestling as a young man.