As a sequel to Monday's Breaking Down the Chessmatch That Is Lyoto Machida vs Mauricio "Shogun" Rua 2, here's more on the most intriguing fight to me in years. I've chosen to draw on two of my favorite resources for fight analysis -- UFC.com and Sherdog.
First off, this Michael DiSanto piece from UFC.com has some interesting notions. He dissects Shogun and Machida brilliantly then gives this prescription for Shogun to win the rematch:
The best way to avoid eating that left hand is to put Machida on the defensive with lead kicks to the body. Machida's southpaw stance leaves him very vulnerable to kicks to the body. His elusiveness may make him difficult to punch in the chops, but moving his entire body out of the way of an incoming shin is a whole different problem, one that he couldn't solve against Shogun in their first fight.
Another way to avoid eating the lead left is to step in, though outside of Machida's right foot, with a right hand down the middle as soon as Machida lifts his back leg to throw a kick off of his jab step. By stepping in with a right hand, Shogun will close the distance, effectively neutralizing the body kick or high kick, if the champion is mixing it up. Evans did that once late in the first round and it led to a tie-up, something Shogun, with his savage Muay Thai skills, would welcome with open arms.
Heading into the first fight, I wrote that Shogun must not sit back and allow Machida to set the pace of the fight. He cannot allow the champion to dictate his action with feints. That obviously isn't the case. He allowed Machida to attack early on and brilliantly countered those attacks, often countering at the first movement of an attack, which left the champion dumbfounded and unable to actually launch the intended attack.
Nonetheless, I still believe that Shogun needs to fly out of his corner like he did against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in their PRIDE bout and attack with something crazy-a flying knee, a blitz of punches, whatever. Machida will be ready for Shogun to counter and may sit back and force the challenger to push the pace this time around. He has undoubtedly trained extensively to defend Shogun's kicks, so the former PRIDE star needs to do something different this time around. Reverting back to his berserker ways is the answer.
Tomas Rios of Sherdog for his part paints and equally vivid and very different projection of how the rematch may go down:
Putting the contentious judging aside, what made the first fight so entertaining was Rua showing off a level of tactical brilliance previously unseen from him. He used kicks to dictate distance and eliminate counterpunching opportunities, which was a strategic masterstroke by a fighter once known for the MMA-on-PCP style he picked up during his time with the Chute Boxe team. Considering Rua and almost everyone with Internet access staunchly believe he won the first fight, odds are he's going to come out with the same strategy and force Machida to do something he has never had to do -- find a different way to win.
Looking back on the first fight, Machida did get the better of Rua in close quarters and that is where this fight will likely be won or lost. Machida isn't going to stand at range and roll the dice on a judges' decision all over again. While the common belief is that he relies entirely on darting in and out to confuse his opponents, the fact is that Machida is one of the best clinch fighters in the sport. Adept at digging punches to the body from the Greco-Roman clinch and quickly switching to the Thai plum for knee strikes, Machida can take away the one effective weapon Rua has against him and turn this into an entirely different fight. Of course Rua is hardly a soft touch in the clinch, as no one with a Chute Boxe pedigree is to be taken lightly when knees are involved.
The stalemate between these two seems to continue anywhere this fight goes. That includes the one place it never went to the first time around -- the floor. While neither fighter typically goes for takedowns, Machida has flashed serious wrestling ability before, most notably when he tossed Tito Ortiz to the floor like he was controlling gravity. From top control Machida has proven adept with both submissions and ground-and-pound while Rua's guard is undoubtedly the most underappreciated part of his nearly unparalleled offensive arsenal.
A mat battle between these two would be the most interesting display of grappling the division has seen in some time. Whether it happens depends largely on Machida. Keeping in mind that the backbone of Machida's game is disrupting his opponent's timing, something he failed to do against Rua, it seems likely that he'll at least test the clinch waters rather than let Rua implode his guts for another 25 minutes. Should Machida make the mistake of trying to beat Rua from afar again, I just can't see him finding the rhythm that eluded him in the first fight.
There are so many possibilities for this fight. I'm just hoping for a war.