First of all, this is not a fan post to bash either Jon Jones or Lyoto Machida. I didn't really want to mention this but there seems to be a heated debate between Jones' fans and Jones' casuals. This is just a fan's perspective and analysis on what went down on the night of December 10, 2011 at UFC 140 in Toronto.
The main event of UFC 140 was one of the most anticipated Light Heavyweight match-ups in a while. Jon Jones had started to settle in as the kingpin of the division coming off a masterful performance against a plodding Quinton "Rampage" Jackson eventually notching a submission (Rear Naked Joke) win in the 4th round. On the other hand, Lyoto Machida was coming off a spectacular 2nd round knockout victory over former Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight UFC champ and all time fan-favorite, Randy Coutoure.
So why were so many anxious to see these two men go at it? Styles make fights. And that it did.
Earlier this year, I (poorly) made a quick list of things a fighter should do to legitimately challenge Jones' in a fight. It can be found here. I still firmly believe in that, despite the crudeness of it and I believe Machida covered many areas that many other fighters didn't in the past.
Many expected (Myself included) Machida to give Jones some serious challenges, especially in the stand-up portion of the fight. His well-known elusiveness, his ability to dart in and out while taking minimal to no damage while dealing some serious damage of his own were perceived to be an effective arsenal to counter Jones' vast advantage in reach and still somewhat raw Muay Thai game. For one round, this train of thought held true.
These early exchanges just showed how prepared Machida was for this fight. Jones undoubtedly saw the first and second fights of Machida against Shogun and almost assuredly tried to take something away from that to use in his bout against the Dragon. The leg kick tactic used by Shogun to slow down the former champion was an effective way to keep him at bay but Machida was prepared to counter these kicks hard and swiftly. The minimal effectiveness of this could be due to several things but that doesn't erase the fact that Machida was prepared to face the tools that first made him look beatable.
Soon after, Machida was actually the one who decides to charge in first believing that he needs to find a perfect balance of patience and attack. Though nothing much landed here, Machida, after throwing a series of straight punches knew to pull away when Jones attempted to go into a clinch battle and keep playing the distance game with Bones who is known for his violent clinch prowess.
This is perhaps Lyoto's best moment of the fight and the one that gave viewers a slight ray of hope that if in fact Machida could implement this style of fighting for 5 rounds he could take the belt. In this segment of the fight we first see Machida moving laterally throwing his hands around touching Jones' as a feeler for his range. He accomplished this and as soon as Jones attempts that left leg kick Machida instantly counters with a flurry of his straight punches that managed to wobble Jones' ever so slightly reminding the champ that if he doesn't adjust, this would be a difficult night for him. Again, at the end of the exchange, you clearly see Machida breaking away from the clinch as soon as possible.
Not shown in the gifs were Jones' multiple attempts at executing flashy moves which included several spinning back kicks and a spinning elbow, all of which hit air.
In the second round, Jones did what all great champions do to win fights: adapt. Jones figured out through the first round that his chances of losing would increase significantly if he decides to hang with Lyoto and his rangy Karate game. So Jones did what he does best: taking people down relentlessly and punishing them in devastating fashion.
Many believed that Lyoto's Judo and Sumo experience had given him the edge to at least challenge Jones' grappling but Jones' wrestling pedigree quickly proved them wrong. Once Jones got top control, this was his world and he had sucked Machida into it, quite literally. Machida initially sprawled for the first take-down but Jones pushed through and was able to scoop Machidas legs out from under him to take top position. Machida's Black Belt in BJJ tried to make itself present to no avail. From here you can see that Lyoto briefly tried to isolate Jones' right arm but with no real control. This lack of control allowed Jones to easily pull out that arm and rain down some vicious sharp elbows that opened up the cut that began the end of the Dragon.
After the cage-side doctor checks the cut and declared that Machida can in fact continue, the last striking exchange happened. At this point Machida is all bloodied up and presumably quite rattled by Jone's destructive ground strikes. Machida, instead of trying to move laterally first to get away from the cage and strike to minimize the chances of getting pushed up and getting trapped, decided to attempt a fast left straight. Unfortunately for him, he got caught by a solid left punch almost resembling a superman punch from Jones as he moved in. Given his reach, his fist got to Machida's face first regardless of Machida's speed. Everything after that was history. At that point, after being dropped, out of desperation Lyoto shoots in rather feebly with Jones easily sprawling. Jones then battered him a bit more before going in for the finishing move: The Prayer choke. I would go into it but there's a much better explanation here.
The final moments of the fight was one of an eerie sight and for more than one reason. One reason is the obvious look of morbidity in Machidas face when he falls unconscious to the mat. The other is how eerily similar the punch that dropped Machida was to Shogun's finish.
Both times saw Machida trying to go in for a straight left punch, both moments saw Machida being aggressive and trying to land first and both saw Machida getting dropped.
This battle was truly a spectacle to watch. We saw Machida in top shape and form being very loose and fluid from the get-go giving the champ problems and even hurting him a little in the first round. He frustrated Jones with his elusiveness and sneaking in hard shots while he was at it. Jones realized this and takes advantage of prior fighter's knowledge (Shogun, Rampage) on how to take down the dragon: pressuring and giving him no space to work his mesmerizing footwork and speed. We saw both fighters trying to keep the fight in their territory and while Machida had his moment of success in the fight, it was Jon "Bones" Jones who made the ultimate adjustment and disabled Machida's elusive karate arsenal and choking him unconscious.
Jones is on his way to being an all time great and this victory solidly places him among the top fighters today. As for Machida, he is still a legitimate threat to the higher echelons of the Light Heavyweight division and I suspect that he will bounce back from this loss. He was the first man to ever make Bones' look beatable and has quite possibly laid out an partially completed blueprint to beating Jones. It's up to the Light Heavyweight division to complete the plans and I'm very much looking forward to how it all plays out.