UFC on FOX: Lyoto Machida wins shot at the belt
The eagerly anticipated co-headliners on The UFC on FOX were intended to reboot the contender status of the 205 pound division, and that they did. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua v. Brandon ‘The Truth’ Vera and Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida v. Ryan ‘Darth’ Bader did not disappoint.
Machida v. Bader
“Walking into Lyoto Machida is like walking into a wood chipper,” said UFC commentator Mike Goldberg. He’s right.
Machida’s root is shotokan karate, and so rarely does Machida not look leaps and bounds ahead of his opponents in the stand-up. In fact, he was the first fighter in the UFC to win a round off of current light heavyweight champion Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, largely due to counter striking and mastery of distance.
Bader was an All-American NCAA wrestler at Arizona State, and although he has dynamite in his hands, a fighter has to be able to find his opponent---and the button---in order to put the fight to sleep. From the get-go, Bader looked entirely out of his element. Within a minute and a half, Machida looked loose, switched stances often, and threw kicks to the body that Bader never saw coming.
Perhaps the key to Machida’s stand-up prowess in the UFC is the inability of even high level wrestlers to take him down or for that matter clinch. Randy Couture and Rashad Evans were unsuccessful. Jon Jones choked out Machida standing against the fence---easier than trying to take him to the mat. Bader tried getting close, tried clinching, but he was never able to get the fight where he wanted.
The end came in classic fashion, as Bader moved forward with a rudimentary combo that Machida countered. Even in slow motion, Machida’s right looked fast, as if a target had been painted on Bader’s jawbone. The KO set the stage for Rua v. Vera.
Rua v. Vera
Brandon Vera once had a spectacular future, and declared he’d be the first man to have the HW and LHW belt. He fell far short of those predictions. His downward slide began with his management dispute and lawsuit, but perhaps the fall was his propensity for Muay Thai boxing instead of fighting.
In 2010, Shogun KOed a then seemingly unbeatable Machida to win the belt, then last year was brutalized by Jon Jones. A loss like that can’t help but affect confidence. If anyone can bounce back from a loss like that, though, it’s Rua.
Shogun surprised everyone by taking a couple hard body kicks and shooting for a take down. Vera worked his way up off the mat, showing sparks of fighting as opposed to point fighting. The second round was different though, with each taking the fight and at times looking as though they had their opponent knocked out. Both men were exhausted at the end of two, with Vera on top but unable to apply any technique.
Round three continued with the back and forth scrape of round two. Every time Vera looked finished, he started throwing crisp Muay Thai combos, and every time Rua looked like there was no gas in the tank, he reached deep.
Round four began the war of attrition, with colour commentator Rogan yelling, “Oh, an elbow by Vera, and another elbow by Vera, and ohhh, an uppercut by Rua…!” While it looked like both fighters had the biscuit and could go down with a good shot at any moment, it was Rua who put Vera against the fence and dropped him, causing ref Herb Dean to call a stop.
Vera scored a victory by engaging in an actual fight and showing he can hang and bang with the best in the division. Although it was a gutsy win, Rua showed nothing that would indicate he could beat Jon Jones in a rematch. Current champ Jon Jones has already finished all four in this night’s elimination.
“Lyoto Machida seems to have a fire inside him right now,” Dana White said, announcing Machida will get the shot at the winner of the Jon Jones v. Dan Henderson fight. The UFC president is right, and you can see that fire's light in the Dragon’s eyes.
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