Last week the UFC released an official video called "The Signature Moves of Lyoto Machida", which consisted of Machida talking through some of his memorable techniques inside the UFC. Unfortunately, most of this was clearly Lyoto reading off of a card, through a list of random moments compiled by a clueless producer. Everyone remembers Lyoto Machida's diving knockout of Thiago Silva and his Mae-Tobi-Geri knockout of Randy Couture - but these aren't signature moves. Machida's crane kick was phenomenal yes, but it was a one off technique and to a degree it was a gamble, not something he uses routinely. His diving knockout of Thiago Silva was anything but a signature move because it would be almost impossible for Lyoto to replicate it.
Flashy techniques are not normally the ones that make a fighter great. It is the subtle, annoying techniques that off-balance opponents and allow Machida to obtain dominant position that make the difference in his fights.
In today's Judo Chop we will examine some of the REAL signature techniques of Lyoto Machida. While I will not pretend that I am a karate master, I have trained Shotokan Karate (Machida's style) since I was 6 years old, and have trained with many of the all time greats in this discipline such as Koji Ogata (famously beat Chinzo Machida in the finals of the world championships), Yukko Takahashi and the legendary Masahiko Tanaka. These two movements are techniques which Lyoto uses in almost every fight to fluster his opponents, not one off tactics used to create a hype video.
There are a great many subtleties to Lyoto's game, but we'll look at two of his more unique techniques today. Both techniques will be easily visible in more than a handful of his fights.
Outside Calf Kick
This technique has been used in almost every single one of Lyoto Machida's matches but goes largely un-noticed. As a southpaw, Lyoto will always want to get his lead foot outside of an orthodox opponent's lead foot, to give him a better chance of landing his left straight, left knee or left roundhouse kick. The way Machida often accomplishes this is to kick the opponent's calf with his lead leg. This acts to check the opponent from stepping outward, but may also off-balance them for his strike. In order to avoid being off-balanced the opponent must set their weight, keeping them in position as Machida throws his follow up attack.
Notice in this storyboard from his bout with Randy Couture, Lyoto uses his lead leg to kick the calf of Couture. This kick is far too low for Randy to catch and is used frequently by Lyoto and Anderson Silva to avoid takedowns. Notice in the third still (bottom left) that Lyoto's foot returns to the ground outside of Couture's and Lyoto immediately lands his left straight before circling out to his right (bottom right still). Couture is by no means a bad boxer, and embarrassed Vitor Belfort by keeping his lead leg outside of Vitor's in their bouts, so he knows the importance of not conceding dominant foot position. Yet Machida took a dominant angle with ease using this technique. Notice how in the last Frame Machida's dominant angle makes it easy for his right hand to come across and parry Couture's counter punch.
Here are two instances of Lyoto using this technique against Rashad Evans. He used the low calf kick several times on it's own in this match, but he also used it to set up a nice middle kick which was muffled by Rashad charging in (top two stills). In the bottom two stills you can see what happens when the opponent does not set his weight against the seemingly weak kick that I'm sure most have barely noticed in Lyoto's fights. Lyoto kicks Rashad's lead leg across Rashad's rear leg, making it impossible for Evans to strike back as Lyoto dives in with a left straight. These fast two part combinations done in one motion are part of Lyoto's largely under-rated and effective offense. Notice that in both instances, Lyoto's lead foot lands outside of Rashad's - giving him a dominant angle.
This is a slightly more obvious technique which most readers will have picked up on, but is one of Machida's most effective offensive techniques. Curiously, Lyoto's knee is not thrown by stepping forward and with the hands in good position to block, but with his hands stretched out in front of him. This is quite simple to explain. When Lyoto slaps down his opponent's lead hand and attacks with his left straight, both hands are forward at once (G). Opponents are conditioned to seeing both his hands coming forward and to expect the left straight. Consequently most opponents duck the left straight or attempt a takedown underneath it - resulting in them ducking their sternum onto Machida's knee. Few men have so much success with knees to the chest as Lyoto Machida and Jose Aldo have had when they bait takedown attempts. (G) (G) (G)
Notice that against Randy Couture - a wrestler, and Thiago Silva - a striker, both men take the bait and react in different ways. Couture ducks and looks for the shot, amplifying the force of the knee into his sternum, while Silva covers up againstthe perceived left straight and takes the knee under his guard in his abdomen (just as Tito Ortiz did). From here Lyoto followed up by shoving Silva away and hitting him with a left hook. The knee strike or hiza-geri is under-practiced in Shotokan karate, but Machida's application of it is masterful.