UFC 129: Has Lyoto Machida Been Figured Out?

After his utter deconstruction of Rashad Evans to take the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 98, Joe Rogan infamously announced the "Machida Era". 

Here at Bloody Elbow we wallowed in his innovative style with a series of Judo Chops and reviews of his training materials and other assorted analysis pieces:

But then along came Mauricio Rua at UFC 104 to show us how to frustrate Machida and take him out of his game. It wasn't enough to get the decision, but most who saw that fight felt Shogun won. Here's our post-fight analysis of how he did it:

Here's the key excerpt from my break down of Shogun's game plan:
  • Machida's Shotokan Karate style emphasizes evading strikes above all else;
  • Machida fights outside the kickboxing range of most fighters, he lunges in to land punches then retreats and throws kicks from the far outside -- aiming to land with his feet rather than his shins as Muay Thai-based fighters do;
  • Machida looks to strike at the very instant when his opponent has committed to a strike and is therefore helpless to react;
  • Machida is also a double threat from the clinch: Machida has incorporated a fair bit of Muay Thai into his clinch game, especially knees from the plum, he also has an arsenal of trips and sweeps from the most common wrestling tie ups;
  • Machida loves to trip and sweep opponents while also landing punches and kicks from range;
  • Machida uses a bewildering array of feints and misdirections to keep opponents guessing.
Shogun essentially took almost all of Machida's tools away by doing a few simple things:
  • Constantly walking down Machida and cutting off the cage while maintaining a tight defensive posture with his hands up;
  • Ignoring the movement of Machida's limbs and focusing entirely on his trunk;
  • Refusing to strike first but immediately countering with kicks to the legs and body anytime Machida lunged in to strike.
By doing all this Shogun turned Machida's wearing game of evasive maneuver and hit-and-run tactics into a grinding war of attrition. By the championship rounds of the fight it was clear that Shogun's kicks to the legs and body had worn down Machida far more than the punches to the head that Shogun ate in exchange.

Rampage Jackson was able to apply at least part of Shogun's template to his UFC 123 bout with Machida. He constantly came forward while waiting for Machida to throw the first strike. Although Machida had the only dominant round of the fight, the judges gave it to Rampage. Here's our breakdown of that round:

The question going into UFC 129 is whether or not Randy Couture -- universally acknowledged as one of the best game-planners in MMA history -- can apply these lessons and beat Machida. 

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