Lyoto Machida – In The Blood – Pre-UFC 97
By Thomas Gerbasi
The son never had a chance.
There would be no soccer fields or jiu-jitsu mats for Lyoto Machida, at least not at that point, especially not if his father had a say in the matter. And as the head of the family, Yoshizo Machida did have the last word, so when his son was three, he began training in the family business – not as a banker, a farmer, a storekeeper, or a craftsman, but as a martial artist.
Studying Shotokan Karate under his father, a renowned Master who had left Japan for a new life in Salvador, Brazil, young Lyoto was a quick study in the art of combat, but what he was being taught went far beyond blocks, kicks, and katas.
“My father always taught me to be an honest man with integrity,” said the younger Machida, now 26, through his manager / translator Ed Soares. “He also showed me the path of being a true fighter through Oriental Philosophy.”
And as he grew older, Machida would find time for the usual pursuits of youth, but he never strayed far away from a gym or dojo, whether it was to study and compete in karate, sumo wrestling, or the art usually associated with Brazil, Jiu-Jitsu. There was no doubt – young Machida was going to be a fighter.
“Fighting has been in my blood since I was born,” he admits, and at 15, when he first walked into the gym to start training in Jiu-Jitsu with Master Alexei Cruz, he began putting all the pieces of the mixed martial arts puzzle together, and he was accepted well by his fellow students.
“I was always treated very well everywhere I went to train,” said Machida. “My family was known to be fighters so that made it much easier for me.”
Preparing to fight professionally would be anything but easy though, with long hours in the gym and participation in various tournaments in different disciplines fitting around his studies, where he graduated with a degree in Physical Education.
His true graduation day wouldn’t come until May 2, 2003, though, when the 24-year old Machida would make his professional MMA debut with a decision over Kengo Watanabe at a NJPW show in Tokyo headlined by fights featuring Josh Barnett and Kazuyuki Fujita. Four months later, Machida would take 4:21 to stop a young American fighter who was on the verge of becoming a star in the States, Stephan Bonnar, and suddenly, fight industry insiders started to take notice of the son of the karate master.
Fight fans soon jumped on the bandwagon that New Years Eve in Japan, when unbeaten rising star Rich Franklin – fresh off impressive first round wins over Evan Tanner and Edwin Dewees – stepped into battle with Machida and left with his first loss via a second round TKO.
Now things were going to get interesting.
Machida began fighting for the K-1 organization in 2004, and added two more wins to his ledger as he submitted Michael McDonald and decisioned Sam Greco. 2005 saw another high-profile name fall to defeat at Machida’s hands as BJ Penn rose up in weight to fight the then-heavyweight and lost a three round decision.
Since then, Machida stopped Dimitri Wanderley back home in Brazil, and outpointed Vernon White in his US MMA debut for the now-defunct WFA in 2006, and with the demise of that organization, he will now fight in the States on a more consistent basis as a member of the UFC’s light heavyweight roster. And though he doesn’t come to the Octagon with the fanfare of fellow newcomers Mirko Cro Cop and Quinton Jackson, die-hard fans are eager to see what he will do in the UFC when he makes his debut this Saturday against Sam Hoger.
“These expectations are good because I expect to show all the American fans what I can do inside the Octagon,” said Machida. “I really enjoy fighting in America and hope to have a lot more fans here after February 3rd.”
Machida appeared to be tentative and was less than explosive in his decision win over UFC veteran White last July, but with his US nerves out of the way, don’t expect a repeat when he comes to the Mandalay Bay Events Center this weekend.
“There is always pressure when I’m going to fight,” he admits, “but I never want to let down the fans, my friends, and my trainers. This is what motivates me to train so hard.”
He’ll need every ounce of motivation he can get, especially in a division where there are no gimmes and every night can be hell when you’re facing the likes of Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Babalu Sobral, and Forrest Griffin. Machida is well aware of the mountain he’ll have to climb to get to the top.
“I know this weight class is stacked with a lot of talented fighters that have a lot of experience,” he said. “I believe I have what it takes to compete with the best of them, and I hope to be the champ, but for now I’m going to take one fight at a time, and when the UFC feels that it’s time, I will be ready.”
That’s the best course of action any fighter can take, and a mature approach for a young man of 26. But then again, when you’ve been studying martial arts since you were three years old and have the legacy of a karate master to live up to, maturity comes with the territory.
“My father is very proud of my accomplishments,” said Machida, “and he is very happy that I am able to spread the family name throughout the world.”
Yeah, the son never had a chance; but then again, he’s not complaining either.
“I love what I do,” he said.
The Machida Chronicles – Part I – A Father’s Lessons - Pre-UFC 84
By Thomas Gerbasi
5:30 AM. An ungodly hour for most, even for Lyoto Machida. But without fail he rises, like he has for almost 30 years, and he faces the man who will always be his toughest opponent: his teacher, his hero, his father – Yoshizo.
Lesson number one – Discipline.
“I believe that without discipline there is no result,” said Lyoto. “That's why for an athlete to get results he needs to stop doing certain things. Waking up early to train karate with my father is the most difficult, 5:30 am. My father schedules this time to make it difficult.”
Since the age of three, Machida has been schooled in Shotokan Karate, the art which his father mastered. Young Lyoto was a quick study in Karate, and despite his subsequent success in mixed martial arts, he kept it as a core foundation of his fight game, making him a rarity in a sport where wrestling, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, and western boxing have become the accepted focus areas.
And strangely enough, while hardcore aficionados scoff at using Karate as a base in mixed martial arts, thanks in part to the assumption that the art has launched countless strip mall ‘masters’ and eight-year old Black Belts, Machida’s Karate has led him to 12 wins without a loss in MMA and to a featured slot in May 24th’s UFC 84 show against former light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz. And considering that the names BJ Penn, Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar, and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou dot his record, it’s safe to say that Machida must be doing something right.
Just ask a previous opponent like David Heath, who, before his UFC 70 fight with Machida in 2007, knew that figuring out the southpaw was going to be difficult.
“Machida has a really complex style and that’s gonna take a lot of work to get past some of the stuff that he does and make it the type of fight that I want it to be,” said Heath, who went on to lose a shutout three round decision in a fight that may not have been aesthetically pleasing, but which revealed the type of Rubik’s Cube Machida’s style is to decipher.
“The difficult style of fighting I have was achieved by all the karate training I have done through my whole life, and for all that my father has taught me,” said Machida, whose discipline in the Octagon is aided by the voice of his father.
Another important lesson: never give up on my objectives.
When you watch Machida fight, there in no emotion on his face, no look of panic when in trouble or fire in his eyes when he has an opponent in trouble. This is a competition, a fight to be won, yet whatever it takes to achieve victory, Machida is willing to do. If it means going on the attack immediately, he will do that. If it means sitting back in the pocket and waiting for his foe to make a mistake, he will, no matter how long it takes.
And inevitably he will win, whether by sheer technique or by the blunt force of his left hand counter, a punch that is delivered with the speed and accuracy epitomized by southpaw boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao. Again, it’s Karate at work here, with decades of tedious drilling finally paying off. It was never an option for Machida when he was growing up in Salvador, Brazil, and as he saw his friends doing things every kid and teenager did, Yoshizo had him working.
“I believe that I've gotten to this point in my career because I always wanted this very much,” said Lyoto. “I train and have trained a lot, always. I do many repetitions, many hours of training. While my friends were out playing and at parties, I was training.”
Now, as he and his wife expect their own child, he understands what his father was doing for him as he prepared him for competition and for life, with lessons which have been seared into his mind, body, and soul. Not that it was easy, despite his spotless MMA record and status as one of the sport’s rising stars. First there was the transition from fighting in competitions to fighting for real.
“The main adjustment for me was adapting competition karate to fighting karate,” he said. “There is a big difference. In competition you control the move, you don't use knees, and I competed for a long time. When I first got into MMA it was difficult at first because I wanted to control each move unconsciously.”
Today though, he has adapted his karate into a well-rounded MMA game, and when he competes, he does so with a quiet confidence. He won’t engage in trash-talk with opponents and is not one for outlandish predictions.
My father taught me to respect my opponents, to never think they are weak.
That means every opponent, whether a former champion like Ortiz or a no-name prelim kid, will be trained for with the same unwavering intensity. At this point, losing is not an option for Machida, who has come too far to lose now. But perhaps even more important to him than winning is making his father proud.
“My father respects my career, enjoys watching my fights and always finds flaws in them,” he said. “For him, it's never good enough, which is great for me because I always want to get better.”
So at 5:30 am tomorrow, Lyoto Machida will continue to rise.
The Machida Chronicles – Part II – The Last Samurai
By Thomas Gerbasi
For those who look at Lyoto Machida and see a glossy undefeated record, a prime spot on one of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view shows and figure – using the boxing world’s mentality – that he has been coddled and eased up the ranks to get here, you would be sadly mistaken.
At this level of mixed martial arts, there are no gimmes, no easy fights, and one glance at the names on Machida’s MMA record bears this out: BJ Penn, Rich Franklin, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Kazuhiro Nakamura, Stephan Bonnar, Vernon White, Sam Greco, and Michael McDonald.
That’s a career-long resume that any fighter would be proud of, yet Machida is only five years into his pro MMA journey, and at 29, he may not even be in his prime yet. And if you ask him who has been his biggest challenge thus far, it’s not one of these contenders or champions, it’s been the man in the mirror.
“My biggest challenge is beating the tiredness and body aches everyday, that’s really tough,” Machida told UFC.com. “I try not to think on who was the toughest or easiest opponent, that doesn’t exist, they all train very hard.”
It goes back to his father Yoshizo’s lessons, which taught him to never underestimate anyone, whether it was 7-8-2 Kengo Watanabe, or then 12-0 Rich Franklin. So when he works in the gym and prepares for his UFC 84 bout against former light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, he doesn’t see a fighter who may be on the tail end of a storied career; he sees a viable contender who stands between him and glory.
“I’ve been studying Tito a lot,” said Machida. “I’ve seen his strong points and weaknesses. My training is based on those. Beating Tito would really be great for my career. He is a legend and he once said in an interview that “for you to be a legend you have to beat one”. Maybe this is my opportunity.”
There are no boasts, no outrageous statements, just a grace to his manner, his speech, and his style. It’s gotten him through some tough times in competition and outside of it, when sometimes growing up of Japanese descent in Brazil wasn’t particularly easy.
“In all difficult moments of my life I think like a samurai, I think that's why I never gave up on anything I started,” he said. “To understand how this works I always tell my friends to read about the life of samurai Musashi.”
In the introduction of Musashi’s renowned “A Book of Five Rings”, he speaks of his early journeys.
From youth my heart has been inclined toward the Way of strategy. My first duel was when I was thirteen, I struck down a strategist of the Shinto school, one Arima Kihei. When I was sixteen I struck down an able strategist, Tadashima Akiyama. When I was twenty-one I went up to the capital and met all manner of strategists, never once failing to win in many contests.
After that I went from province to province dueling with strategists of various schools, and not once failed to win even though I had as many as sixty encounters. This was between the ages of thirteen and twenty-eight or twenty-nine.
At the age of 29, Machida has not once failed to win in mixed martial arts competition. In this sport, getting to 12-0 against world-class foes is a feat in itself, but that’s not to say Machida hasn’t been exposed to criticism from those who say his technical acumen and strategic planning doesn’t provide the same thrill as watching someone duck his head down and swing blindly for the fences. The native of Salvador has taken these criticisms to heart though, and with his last two wins over Nakamura and Sokoudjou, he has shown a more aggressive style intended to not just win fights, but to finish them.
“The American fans are demanding, and they’re right, it makes me want to get even better,” he said. “I think that today I am more mature and I think a lot about my fans, winning fights and making them happy. I’ve tried to do a more exciting fight and that has brought many fans.”
Now, four fights into his UFC career, Machida has become a favorite of fans who not only appreciate the intricacies of his style, but who also want to see what he’s going to do next against the top guns in the 205-pound weight class. And as far as ‘The Dragon’ is concerned, he’s here to stay.
“I consider the UFC my home, the place where I feel comfortable and happy, my workplace,” he said. “And I train everyday with my dream in mind: the belt.”
First, he must beat Ortiz though, and to do that, it takes a single-minded approach to the fight that can only be achieved by constant training. As Musashi wrote:
“You must train day and night in order to make quick decisions. In strategy it is necessary to treat training as a part of normal life with your spirit unchanging.”
“Training is the most difficult part (of a fighter’s life); sometimes you are in pain or very tired but you still have to train,” he said.
That’s where 12-0 records truly come from.
The Machida Chronicles – Part III – Destiny
By Thomas Gerbasi
Fight week. For some fighters, the days leading up to their Saturday battle can be the worst part of their entire routine as pro athletes. Weight cutting, nerves, media obligations, waiting. One, some, or all of these can tear at their psyches, making them pray for the moment when the Octagon door closes and the bell rings.
If you’re facing a former UFC light heavyweight champion like Tito Ortiz, the tension can get amped up even more. Love him or hate him, the man has made his bones in mixed martial arts, and if he has taken you down and is raining elbows down on your head, there is probably no worse place to be.
Lyoto Machida doesn’t blink though. He doesn’t show his emotions on his face or let you know what he may be thinking about Saturday’s bout with ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’. Despite his previous wins over the likes of BJ Penn, Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar, and Sokoudjou, this fight will likely be the one to define his career. Win it, and he will move closer to a shot at the light heavyweight title held by Quinton Jackson. Lose, and he may have damaged his chances of getting to the championship anytime soon.
With such high stakes, one would be well advised to fight this fight like it’s his last. That’s precisely the point, says Machida.
“My thoughts don’t change because it’s Tito Ortiz,” he said. “I always train thinking it’s going to be my last fight. That’s why I train hard.”
It’s why, in addition to his usual routines back in Brazil, he has enhanced his training with some early work at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, where he spent plenty of time working with Cain Velasquez, the two-time All-American wrestler and current UFC heavyweight prospect. For Machida, each fight requires not only reinforcement of fundamentals, but opponent-specific training and strategy. So as far as he’s concerned, he trains not only as if it’s his last fight, but as if it’s his first. In other words, his 12-0 record means nothing when the bell rings.
“If I think about invincibility I demand too much of myself, that’s why I don’t think about it much,” said Machida when asked about his perfect MMA slate. “I train for, and think about the fight that’s about to come, not on the ones that have passed.”
That goes both ways as well, so don’t expect Machida to be intimidated by Ortiz’ resume, which includes an organization record five 205-pound title defenses and wins over the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Ken Shamrock (three times), Vladimir Matyushenko, Evan Tanner, and Forrest Griffin.
“Tito is a good fighter,” admits Machida. “He’s made his history through his fights. Now I believe it’s time for other fighters to make history and I want to make my own.”
If he beats Ortiz, he will be on the short list of those in line for a shot at ‘Rampage,’ which ultimately is the goal for the 29-year old from Belem.
“I respect Quinton, but I want the belt that he has today,” said Machida, whose unorthodox style would give fits to any of the top light heavyweights in the game today, including Jackson and Ortiz. He humbly deflects such praise though.
“My style is not the best,” he said. “It’s just different and difficult.”
And it’s made him a favorite among aficionados of the finer points of the game, while he’s kryptonite to those who may have to face him in the Octagon. He doesn’t necessarily agree though.
“I don’t believe there are fighters who don’t want to fight me because of my game,” he said. “Everyone is a professional. If there really are fighters who are afraid of fighting me, I think it’s funny, but I’m not vain about it.”
With no trash talk in his vocabulary and no beating of his chest to tell the world he’s the best, that’s no surprise. It’s the way he’s been raised and the way he will teach his son some day.
“My son needs to know that nothing in life comes easy,” he said. “Everything takes a lot of sacrifice, and discipline, especially if you want to be a fighter.”
That’s what it all boils down to for Lyoto Machida. He lives the life of a samurai, the life of an athlete, the life of a father, son, husband, and brother. All of those elements have combined to make him who he is today, but ask him what he was born to be, and there is no hesitation in his response.
“I was born to be a fighter, and to challenge myself,” he said. “I was born to be a champion.”
The Way of The Dragon - Pre-UFC 94
By Thomas Gerbasi
For 14 minutes and 25 seconds, the UFC 84 bout between Lyoto Machida and Tito Ortiz was your typical Machida master class. Flawless both offensively and defensively, the Brazilian was closing in on a lopsided unanimous decision win when – with just 35 seconds left – Ortiz almost pulled off an improbable comeback with a triangle choke, the last maneuver you would have expected from the former UFC light heavyweight champ.
All of a sudden, Machida’s perfect record was in jeopardy, and he knew it.
“I did get concerned because the triangle was locked on,” Machida told UFC.com through translator Derek Kronig Lee. “I didn’t expect him to do that. I had trained a lot of ground work so I was prepared, but it surprised me.”
For what seemed like an hour long ten seconds, Machida struggled as Ortiz then moved him into an armbar. But Machida would pull loose, and with the crowd roaring, he made it through the round and to a well-deserved. It was Machida’s 13th victory without a loss, and without a doubt his most important one, especially considering that he was caught in right the middle of the pre-fight feud between Ortiz and UFC President Dana White.
“There was a lot more pressure,” admits Machida. “That was the hardest part. There was a fight going on between Dana and Tito, and I didn’t want to get involved, but at the same time, I was in the middle of it. Either way I was able to stay relaxed.”
And with the exception of Ortiz’ late fight submission attempt, Machida was in total control the whole way. He even made it look easy, but rest assured, says “The Dragon”, it wasn’t a walk in the park.
“It was a difficult and strategic fight,” he said. “I had to keep a distance because his takedowns are dangerous; many of his wins came from ground and pound. But I do believe that I was better in both fundamentals – on my feet and on the ground.”
He was, and in scoring his third win over a UFC champion (Ortiz, Rich Franklin, BJ Penn), he continued to build the type of resume most fighters would kill to have. But he’s not about to let up now, especially with a title shot looming in the future if he can get by fellow unbeaten countryman Thiago Silva on Saturday night.
“He is a complete fighter both on his feet and on the ground,” said Machida of his foe. “He has many qualities, but I don’t think he presents difficulties for me.”
Regardless, Machida is preparing for Silva with the same Spartan work ethic that has become his trademark. It’s not just about the victory; it’s how you achieve that victory, and with his father, Shotokan master Yoshizo, by his side, there is no chance that Machida will cut corners in the gym or in the Octagon. The father simply won’t allow it.
“My father is happy (about my success), but he tells me that I need to study harder for each opponent, train harder and always stay focused,” said Machida, who admits that his father is his toughest critic.
“For sure, whenever one of my fights is over, he always writes down everything that I did wrong and what I did right to correct my mistakes.”
There have been few mistakes by Machida in his UFC career thus far, a stint that has encompassed five fights in which the Salvador native has yet to lose a round, let alone a fight. Keeping that streak of perfection has got to be a lot of pressure on the 30-year old.
“I’d rather not think about it,” said Machida when asked about his unbeaten record. “I am very happy about it, but every fight I need to forget about that otherwise there is more pressure.”
In fact, the only criticism that has been leveled at Machida is that he hasn’t come out guns blazing and gotten into a ‘Fight of The Night’ type slugfest thus far in his UFC career. But that’s just not his style, and Machida hopes that the fans will eventually come to appreciate what he does bring to the Octagon on fight night.
“It bothers me a little, and I wish that all would understand my style, but I think that will come with time,” he said. “I fight a true martial art, where you can’t let your opponent touch you, as if he was carrying a knife or baton.”
He’s not kidding either. According to Rami Genauer of FightMetric, Machida has absorbed fewer strikes than any fighter in UFC history, taking only 41 strikes in 70 minutes in the Octagon (0.6 strikes per minute, which is less than half of what an average fighter takes). That’s technique and discipline at its highest level, and it’s not something that comes without hard work.
“I keep my discipline by training every day, I never stop,” he said. “Our strategy is created depending on my opponent, and that keeps me always well trained.”
And it’s kept him unbeatable thus far. Does Thiago Silva have the tools to beat him? Does UFC light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans? Does anyone at 205 pounds? Machida’s not speculating. All that matters is Saturday night.
“I focus on the next fight, because it’s important to fight well now to be the champion in the future,” said Machida. “My fans can expect a great fight, and I hope to have a more open game and show my techniques.”
With the Work Done and the Lessons Learned, Machida’s Destiny Awaits - Pre-UFC 98
By Thomas Gerbasi
Yoshizo Machida is not one to dole out praise lightly, not a teacher who tells you everything’s going to be all right when it’s not. His son, Lyoto, calls him his toughest critic. But when the results of his discipline and tough love are 14 wins, no losses, and a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title this Saturday night, you don’t argue.
But just getting the title shot is not enough. You have to close the deal and take the belt. So when Lyoto Machida broke the news to his father that he would be facing Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC 98, the response was what you would expect from the karate master.
“Congratulations,” which was quickly followed by the words “now we have to train harder than ever to win this fight.”
Ever since that day, Machida has practically lived in the gym back home in Brazil, preparing more intensely than ever for the fight that will change his life.
“My training got tougher,” he told UFC.com through translator Derek Lee. “My strength and physical training was especially more intense. My technical training remained the same.”
If he beats Evans and straps the light heavyweight championship belt around his waist, the change in his life is obvious – he will now be an international star and ambassador for mixed martial arts and the undisputed best 205-pound fighter on the planet. If he loses, it will be the first time he has ever tasted defeat as a pro fighter, and you never know how such a setback can affect you in or out of the Octagon. In fact, Machida has to go back years and years to remember the last time he lost any competition. “I have lost a karate championship, but that was a long time ago,” he said. “Losing made me train harder, and I won the next time.”
It’s as if being Lyoto Machida is a heavy burden to bear – it’s almost written on his face, which is serious, always focused. We’re not getting the whole picture, he insists, as he says “I really enjoy spending time with my family, my wife, and my son. I am just very calm, I like to relax and read.”
But when it comes to fighting, there is nothing more serious for him. This is no joking matter, no “I’ll just try my best and put on a good show” from Machida. Displaying his techniques and winning is paramount, and while his opponent on Saturday, Rashad Evans, is unbeaten as well, the champion has a draw with Tito Ortiz on his record as well as a series of close calls on the judges’ scorecards. He knows what it’s like to be in a tough fight where you have to dig deep into your bag of tricks to find a way to win. Machida, with the exception of a late triangle choke attempt by Ortiz in their May 2008 bout, has never been close to losing a fight. He’s never even lost a round in his UFC career. And if you think he fought stiffs before coming to the organization, the names Stephan Bonnar, Rich Franklin, and BJ Penn dot his victims list. Bottom line, Machida has yet to face a fighter that can push him to the brink or over it, but every night, the man across the Octagon from him may very well be the first one to do it.
“The pressure is always there,” he admits, “but I have put in my mind that this is my moment and I have to take advantage of it, so I don’t think too much about all the pressure.”
He’s also stuck to his guns by continuing to respect his father’s style of karate when he fights. It hasn’t been easy, as he’s heard the boos from fans who want to see him employ a more reckless attack, but as his career in the UFC has progressed, he has won over the cynics, especially with his wins over Rameau Sokoudjou, Ortiz, and most recently, Thiago Silva, who he halted in the first round.
“I have been working hard to satisfy my fans and I feel that my hard work paid off in that fight,” said Machida, who is to be respected for not only going against the grain and keeping his integrity as a martial artist, but for being successful at it.
“It was difficult in the beginning because there were no other fighters as a reference,” said Machida. “Many people would tell me to train boxing or Muay Thai, but my father would tell me that our Karate had all the aspects that I would need, and I always had faith in what he said and in our family’s tradition. I have trained other martial arts to learn how to defend myself against different opponents, but I never trained to learn how to use them.”
So far, no one has been able to come up with a strategy to beat him either. But if anyone has the know-how and execution to get it done, it’s Evans and his trainer, Greg Jackson. Strangely enough, Evans’ formerly one-dimensional, but now counter-based style has become a bit of a quandary for opponents as well, leading the champ to remark recently that he sees Machida and himself as very similar fighters, almost clones.
“I believe that he means we are similar in the aspect that we are patient and wait for the right time to attack, which I agree with,” said Machida, who, when asked what difficulties a fighter like Evans presents, was non-committal. “I will have to feel him out to find out what difficulties I will be facing. But he has great hands and great takedowns.”
In terms of picking a winner for this bout, most pundits are stumped, and when pressed, the lines are usually drawn down the middle. For that reason alone, this is one of the most highly anticipated title fights in recent memory and certainly the hardest to handicap. Not for Lyoto Machida though. He knows what he has done in the gym, what his techniques have brought him so far, and what he can do when the bell rings. For him, this isn’t just a fight; this is his destiny, and it’s a lot bigger than just strapping on a belt.
“If I win the belt, I will be standing up for my family, my country and my state,” he said. “There are no other fighters from my state of Para that have reached the point that I have. About 200 people from my home town are travelling to Las Vegas to support me, and there is going to be a lot of good positive energy. With this decision from the UFC (to give him a title shot), I have the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream, and I want to show everyone that it is possible to accomplish your dreams.”
Brazil’s Lyoto Machida made a low-key UFC debut with a three round unanimous decision win over Sam Hoger in a light heavyweight preliminary bout.
In an interesting first round, Machida – who owns wins over Rich Franklin, BJ Penn, and Stephan Bonnar - scored the big shot of the frame as he dropped Hoger with a left hand, but ‘The Alaskan Assassin’ shook off the cobwebs and made a fight of it as he tried to control matters on the mat. Machida’s leg kicks started to take a toll in the second as he scored repeatedly and then put his opponent on the mat with a couple of well-placed knees while in the clinch. With under a minute to go in the second stanza, Machida opened up on his foe while on the ground, but again, Hoger was able to weather the storm and make it to the bell. The third was fairly uneventful, with Machida continuing to control the action both standing and on the mat as he pounded out the lopsided decision win.
“It was a satisfying victory and I hope that the American fans liked what they saw,” said Machida, now 9-0. “Sam was very predictable. I spent a lot of time watching tape and that definitely paid off tonight.”
Light heavyweight contender Lyoto Machida kept his unbeaten (10-0) record intact by outpointing David Heath (9-1), but the fans were less than thrilled with the bout, which was serenaded with boos for the majority of its 15 minutes due to a lack of action.
The Belem, Brazil native’s unanimous decision read 30-27 (twice) and 30-26.
The first round could be politely described as tactical, as both fighters circled each other with only sporadic action coming from Machida and Heath, with Machida holding an edge due to his more frequent and accurate leg kicks.
Round two was a near carbon copy of the first with the exception of the booing getting louder and Heath attempting a couple of unorthodox maneuvers in an effort to either catch Machida napping or force him into a mistake. Neither scenario played out.
Finally, midway through the third round, Machida erupted with a series of unanswered knees to the head that eventually sent Heath to the mat. By that time though, the Oklahoman’s head had cleared and he was able to ride out the follow up barrage and a rear naked choke attempt from Machida and make it to the final bell.
Light heavyweight contender Lyoto Machida improved to 11-0 with a shutout unanimous decision win over PRIDE veteran and UFC newcomer Kazuhiro Nakamura.
Scores for Machida were 30-27 across the board.
Showing more fire than in his previous two UFC performances, Machida took the fight to the Octagon newcomer and scored well with strikes from long and close range, as well as on the ground, in the opening round, and he also defended well against Nakamura’s takedowns.
The second round mimicked the first, with Machida again pushing the pace. Early in the frame, he worked his way to Nakamura’s back and briefly locked in a rear naked choke that the Tokyo resident battled his way out of. Machida kept working though, getting into the mount position and opening fire before Nakamura (11-7) got back to his feet. While standing, Machida was a step ahead speedwise, leaving few options for Nakamura, who was able to score a takedown but only with seconds left in the round.
Down two rounds, Nakamura pressed forward in the final stanza, still trying to score with one of his judo throws. Machida defended well, eventually getting the fight back to the mat, where he got the mount for a moment before Nakamura got back to his feet and landed with a couple of hard rights. At close range, Machida continued to hold the upper hand as he fired away with body punches and knees until the bell ended the bout.
Maybe it was the new nickname, or maybe it was the aggressive style UFC newcomer Rameau
Thierry Sokoudjou brought to the Octagon that brought out the best in light heavyweight contender Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida, but whatever it was, that’s what fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center got tonight, as the Brazilian scored the biggest and most impressive win of his UFC career by submitting the highly touted Cameroon native in the second round of their UFC 79 undercard bout.
“I’m ready for the belt,” said Machida, 12-0. “I’ve beat the Alaskan Assassin (Sam Hoger), the African Assassin (Sokoudjou); what other assassin is there?”
Sokoudjou (4-2) – who had scored knockout wins over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona earlier this year in PRIDE - started the fight fast, getting Machida’s attention immediately with a hard punch to the face followed by a takedown. Once on the mat, Machida worked effectively, trying to secure his opponent’s arm. With under three minutes left, Sokoudjou pulled his arm loose, but Machida remained in control from the top position before referee Mario Yamasaki stood the fighters up with under 1:30 left. After some standup, Sokoudjou tripped his foe to the canvas briefly, but neither man was able to sprint into the lead before the bell sounded.
Machida opened up the second with solid kicks downstairs and up, but Sokoudjou took the blows well and kept moving forward. What he didn’t respond to well was a counter left to the jaw by Machida that dropped him to the canvas. Machida immediately pounced and after a few ground strikes, he looked to submit his foe twice. The second time Sokoudjou escaped the full mount but was still the recipient of flush forearms to the head. After a few of those Machida went for the arm triangle a third time, and this time it took, with Sokoudjou tapping out at 4:20 of the round.
It was an emotional night for former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz in the final fight of his current contract with the organization, but it was equally so for unbeaten Lyoto Machida, who scored the biggest win of his career with an almost technically flawless three round decision that was only spoiled by a late fight submission attempt by Ortiz that almost pulled things out for ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’.
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Machida, who improves to 13-0. Ortiz falls to 16-6-1.
“I’m very happy with this fight,” said Machida. “Tito is a tough guy and a legend of fighting for the UFC.”
“He’s very elusive and it was tough to chase him down,” said Ortiz. “He’s a great fighter.”
With flashbulbs lighting up the arena, Machida and Ortiz circled tentatively, trading range finding kicks. Ortiz looked to close the gap for a takedown, but Machida kept him at bay and worked his kicks to the legs. Ortiz kept stalking, trying to put his foe on the mat, but Machida fought off the takedown attempts at the round entered its second half. With under 1:30 to go, Machida continued to score with sporadic kicks, while Ortiz’ advances continued to be rebuffed, drawing a frustrated drop of the hands by Ortiz, who was then thrown to the canvas and pounded by ‘The Dragon’ late in the round until the bell sounded.
Ortiz was undeterred in his forward march to begin round two, but there was little significant action in the opening minute of the stanza. Ortiz’ first takedown attempt was turned away, punctuated by a quick flurry from Machida. With two minutes gone, Machida started to loosen up with his hands and feet, and Ortiz’ inability to cut off the Octagon was beginning to become a major issue. The fight finally hit the mat with a little over a minute left, but Machida quickly turned the position to an advantage before standing and resuming his stick and move strategy. As the round neared to a close, Ortiz dropped his hands and challenged Machida. Machida answered with a quick flurry just before the bell, cutting the former UFC light heavyweight champion over the eye.
An angered Ortiz came out aggressively to start the final round, but just as he would get set to attack, Machida would be gone. Ortiz did get close with a little over a minute gone, landing some strikes in the clinch before Machida broke free. It was Ortiz’ best moment of the fight thus far, and with under three minutes remaining, he was able to push Machida to the fence and score more consistently. Machida escaped danger though, and as the two minute mark approached, Machida had Ortiz against the fence, drawing a restart from referee Yves Lavigne. That restart was all Machida needed, as he knocked Ortiz down with a perfectly placed left knee to the body. Machida roared into action on the mat, trying to finish Ortiz, but the Californian almost pulled off a miracle finish with a triangle choke attempt followed by an armbar attempt.
“I thought I had him for a second,” said Ortiz, who is mainly known for his ground and pound, not his jiu-jitsu game. “I have submissions but I never used them before.”
“It was a big surprise for me,” admitted Machida, “I was thinking, I’m gonna die, but I’m not gonna tap.”
He didn’t tap, and as the bell rang, the two combatants knelt in the middle of the Octagon and faced each other respectfully, with Ortiz thanking Machida for the bout, and the fans thanking both for their efforts with a thunderous ovation.
Criticized in the past for his unorthodox countering style, Lyoto Machida silenced the critics in the co-main event of UFC 94 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, walking through previously unbeaten Thiago Silva en route to a first round knockout win that solidified his case for a light heavyweight title shot.
“People, do I deserve a title shot,” asked Machida of the packed house that roared in the affirmative. “I’m ready - whenever, wherever, whoever.”
Machida peppered Silva with kicks early on, not getting touched in the process. With a little over a minute gone, the action was halted after Machida landed a low knee, but after the fight resumed, he went right back to work, taking his opponent down, and then after the two stood, dropping Silva with a knee followed by a punch to the jaw. On the mat, Machida remained in control, and when he stood, he continued to score with kicks to the legs of the still prone Silva. Despite the frustration showing on his face, the bruised up Silva kept moving forward, eventually running into another combination that put him down a second time. After rising, Silva and Machida grappled against the fence, but after Machida tripped his foe to the canvas, a right hand to the jaw put Silva out at 4:59 of the opening round.
With the win, Machida improves to 14-0; Silva falls to 13-1.
“Karate’s back,” shouted Lyoto Machida, and it’s hard to argue with him now that the words “UFC Light Heavyweight Champion” precede his name after a spectacular second round knockout of Rashad Evans in the main event of UFC 98 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night.
“I tried all my life to be champion and I am very, very happy,” said the new title holder. “Now I want to keep this belt for a long time.”
“It was a good fight,” said a gracious Evans. “He was very difficult to solve, very fast and explosive.”
As expected, the two 205-pound stalwarts searched for openings from a distance as the bout started, feinting to see the reaction coming back from each other. With 90 seconds gone, the two got within striking range, and with two minutes gone, it was Machida who landed the first strike, a kick to the head that knocked Evans off balance. The champion fired back a flurry but missed, and the two calmly went back to their tactical chess match. As the round entered it’s final stages, Machida’s kicks were finding a home, and with under a minute left, one landed, and a follow up left hand dropped Evans. Machida moved in for the finish, but Evans quickly recovered, got back to his feet, and made it to the bell.
The first offense of the second round came from Machida’s feet again, but the Brazilian was rebuffed on his takedown attempt. Moments later, Machida landed a hard punch, but Evans responded with a flurry that put the challenger on the defensive for the first time in the fight. And though they were blocked, Evans started throwing back his kicks in the second half of the stanza. With 1:30 left, Machida hurt Evans with a straight left to the head and dropped him. Evans got up and courageously fired back, trying to get back into the fight, but Machida’s pinpoint accuracy was too much for the New York native to handle, and after a ferocious overhand right followed by a left hook, Evans was sent to the canvas for good, prompting referee Mario Yamasaki to halt the bout at the 3:57 mark and begin a new era in light heavyweight mixed martial arts.
“If you have a dream, go hard, it’s possible,” said Belem, Brazil’s Machida, now 15-0.
Evans falls to 18-1-1
“This is my first time on the other side,” said Evans. “You got to take it how you give it. Maybe next time I’ll do better.”
The Complete Machida
Thomas Gerbasi May 26, 2009
Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - He's the talk of the fighting world after his second round knockout of Rashad Evans last Saturday. But who is Lyoto Machida? If you're new to mixed martial arts or just want to know a little bit more about the new UFC light heavyweight champion, click below for a compilation of stories and fight reports chronicling the UFC rise of "The Dragon".