The battle of Brazil!
Preview by Brady Crytzer
The world’s best light heavyweight defends his title for the first time Saturday, October 24th at UFC 104: Machida vs. Shogun. Since his April destruction of Rashad Evans, 15-0 Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida has made a name for himself as one of the best technical strikers in the history of the sport.
Challenging the unbeaten champion is former number one ranked light heavyweight Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Riddled with injuries and unanswered questions, “Shogun” has made it his mission to be the first man to defeat Machida and walk away from Staples Center as the light heavyweight champion of the world.
Striking: While their qualifications for grappling are hardy, these two Brazilian warriors will decide this fight on the feet. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua made waves early in his career as a high volume, modified muay thai striker that threw caution to the wind with reckless abandon. On the contrary, light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida has redefined stand up in mixed martial arts by dedicating himself to a patient and disciplined karate attack highlighted by straight, counter punching. The battle should be a cat and mouse game as “Shogun” will be forced with the impossible (so far) task of solving the Machida puzzle. Although he has a wealth of experience, if he doesn’t crack the code he will be faced with an unsuccessful title challenge
Being the natural counter puncher, the Shogun burden of scoring punches favors Machida. If Shogun cannot land on the champion, he will open himself up to receive a KO counter shot in the process.
Grappling: We haven’t seen a lot of grappling from Machida thus far, but from his 2007 bout with Tito Ortiz he comes with a full arsenal. Though he is not a large light heavyweight, he took the much bigger Ortiz to the mat with slick tripping takedowns. On the mat however there exists a significant advantage for Rua. Throughout his long career we have seen “Shogun” go to the mat with some of the best in the world and come out smelling like a white mushroom. Aside from submission prowess, Rua has a history of landing some of the fiercest punches from the top position in history including a flying KO of Alistair Overeem in 2007.
While he lacks in takedowns, Rua possesses a high level grappling pedigree and has very effective ground n’ pound. If Machida finds himself on his back he will need to be more magician than technician to get out unscathed.
How They Match Up: This fight is make or break for Lyoto Machida. He has a lot to prove holding the belt of the sport’s most glamorous division. But first, let’s look at facts.
The truth of the matter is that no fighter has successfully defended the 205 lb. title since Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in 2007. Both Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans failed in their first title defense. These numbers are hard to swallow considering that three of the four champions prior to them were rock solid when it came to defenses. Those men were Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz.
Many people question whether “Shogun” should be receiving this title shot because of his atrocious showing against Griffin in 2007 and his lackluster performance against Mark Coleman in 2009. We saw shades of the old Rua against an older Liddell in April and that’s why he’s here.
Let it be said, despite the variance of his latest appearances, “Shogun” Rua is a world class fighter that will come in the best shape of his life against “The Dragon.” His dream is at his fingertips and he is deadly serious.
With that in mind, this fight will be contested on the feet barring an unforeseen circumstance. Rua has made a career out of aggression, but that’s not the way to a man of Machida’s abilities. Look for a competitive chess match on the feet early with Machida scoring the KO in round three.