UFC 104 ushers in the first title defense of the “Machida Era” of UFC. Lyoto Machida will put his UFC light heavyweight title on the line against fellow Brazilian fighter Mauricio Shogun Rua. This will be the first meeting of two of the most dominant Brazilian light heavyweights of this generation.
The match is intriguing, yet not nearly as sexy as a Rampage Jackson or Forrest Griffin vs. Lyoto Machida would be. Machida (15-0) is still just as big a mystery to casual MMA fans as he is to his opponents. Rua (18-3) has had mixed success in UFC as fans are still waiting to see the explosive Shogun from Pride FC. Saturday’s match has the potential to turn one of these mysterious stars into a mainstream MMA sensation.
[adinserter block=”1″]Personally, this is one of those matches that I really don’t understand. The match reminds me a lot of the circumstances of Brock Lesnar’s first UFC title match. Lesnar was 2-1 in UFC, like Shogun Rua. Lesnar got the title shot after beating an aging fighter in Randy Couture (Shogun beat Chuck Liddell in his last fight). Finally, most MMA fans didn’t feel that either fighter was truly deserving of their title opportunities. In this case, I am still far from sold on Rua.
At one time, Shogun Rua was one of the most feared men in MMA. Rua went on a tear in Pride FC in 2004-05 beating guys like Rampage Jackson, Alistair Overeem, and Antônio Rogério Nogueira. In Rua’s last 13 fights before joining UFC, he went 12-1 with only two fights going past the first round. Rua’s UFC career has been a big disappointment. Rua has looked tentative and hasn’t shown any of the explosiveness that made him a household MMA star.
I think the biggest reason is the adjustment to the cage and the rules of the UFC. Stomps and soccer kicks are a huge part of Shogun’s game, yet he is not allowed to use either in the UFC. MMAFanhouse.com did a great job recently breaking this down and indicating how important these strikes were to Rua’s success in Pride FC. The website points out that 5 of Rua’s 18 wins came on TKOs from soccer kicks. Rua also used these kicks to wear down opponents like Overeem for eventual wins. In 2005, he won the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. Putting Rua into the UFC and not allowing him to use these weapons would be like putting Mike Tyson in an MMA fight and telling him that he couldn’t punch.
It has now been over two years since Rua has come over to the UFC. It is now or never for Rua to work past this and come up with a game plan that he can use under the UFC rule book. He finally showed his explosiveness in the Chuck Liddell fight, at the same time Machida is younger, faster, and has better reflexes than Liddell. Rua has been training in BJJ since he was six, so he can hang with Machida on the ground. Rua’s best bet is to turn this into a slugfest and catch Machida with a punch or a kick for the win.
For Machida, the guy just looks simply unbeatable. Rashad Evans looked like a rookie when he fought Machida. Machida is just so fast and quick, that it seems like your only chance is to time a strike perfectly to beat him. After not winning a fight since 2003 with his strikes, Machida has won his last two fights via knockout. Prior to that, Machida won decisions in 6 of 8 fights. The thing with Machida is he either finishes early or he goes the distance. The closest fighter he has fought to Shogun’s skill set was Thiago Silva at UFC 94 and be knocked him out in exciting fashion at the 4:59 mark of Round 1.
[adinserter block=”2″]I look at this fight as the BJJ and ground game and call it even. Neither man is a deadly submission artist, as the two of them only have three submission wins between them. On their feet, you would have to give this one also to Machida. Knocking out Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell are one thing, connecting with Machida is another. Machida easily wins the conditioning battle between these two, yet neither fighter has ever gone five rounds. In the end I just think Shogun Rua is way overmatched and in his over his head with this one. I predict a Machida win, third round, and we await Machida vs. Evans II.
BetUs.com has Lyoto Machida at a -450 favorite while BoDog.com has Machida at -500.
The entire scheduled UFC 103 fight card is…
Lyoto Machida (c) vs. Mauricio Rua
Cain Velasquez vs. Ben Rothwell
Gleison Tibau vs. Josh Neer
Joe Stevenson vs. Spencer Fisher
Anthony Johnson vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida
Ryan Bader vs. Eric Schafer
Antoni Hardonk vs. Patrick Barry
Yushin Okami vs. Chael Sonnen
Jorge Rivera vs. Rob Kimmons
Kyle Kingsbury vs. Razak Al-Hassan
Stefan Struve vs. Chase Gormley
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