By Brandt DeLorenzo on May 27, 2008
Or is he really that good? I’m certainly assuming it’s the former as I was not impressed with the Brazilian once again during UFC 84. As Machida pulled off a 30-27 decision win over Tito Ortiz, I wondered if UFC judges were really listening to Mike Goldberg when he told us (once again) that each five minute round would by decided by effective striking, grappling, aggression, and octagon control by the judges.
For the record, I have nothing against Machida. Sure, he was boring at UFC 84, but I didn’t think BJ Penn was exciting as he jabbed his way through nearly three full rounds either. I’m also not a Tito Ortiz fan more than any MMA junkie. Ortiz has been around long enough that I’m aware of his abilities and I respect him as a ground and pound fighter.
It’s not that Machida is a bad fighter, he is just able to exploit the flaw in the judging system to win 8 out of 13 fights via decision. So more than 60% of his fights are left to the judges as he dances away from the fight and he continues to move on up in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Two TKO’s in 2003, a guillotine in 2004, a rare technical knockout in 2005, and an arm triangle choke against Rameau Sokoudjou in 2007 make up his decisive wins as a fighter. The rest of his fights, the eight he didn’t end, were left to three judges to decide and only once did a split decision nearly cost him his undefeated status. That was in 2003, quite a while back if we are talking about current MMA standards, against an unknown Sam Greco.
I didn’t really think my thoughts on Machida were worthy of an article until I spotted two quick clips of him battling Tito Ortiz on BloodyElbow from MMA-Core. In both clips, you see Machida attack and then immediately fall back even after he lands successful blows. While I can see his double kick could have forced him to momentarily step backwards, his explosive knee into Ortiz’s liver deserved more than a side-step into safety and out of range. Whatever happened to the fighters instinct to move in for the kill? There’s no aggression in moving backwards after every offensive attack.
As for octagon control, Ortiz moved the pace throughout the fight as Machida continued to circle the cage. You could see Ortiz step back and drop his hands as a sign as frustration when Machida refused to engage. Octagon control went to Ortiz, why was no credit given? A fight scored 30-27 means one fighter was able to dominate the four aspects of judging criteria for three rounds in this non-title fighter. But did Machida really do more than avoid confrontation to set up the seldow offensive attack? I don’t think he did.
And as a side note, will Machida ever get a shot at the light heavyweight title by dodging the competition? While the UFC has continued to trim its roster of habitual losers and boring fighters, Lyoto Machida continues to move forward. Other fighters, like Andre Arlovski, who have engaged in a less than stellar performances and came away with the win, had been showing signs of frustration with the organization. We know that Machida would be a terrible candidate as a UFC champion with his defensive fight style and inability to gain mainstream acceptance by only speaking Portuguese. Is he doomed to fighting the gatekeepers to the the belt until he finally comes away with another decisive victory (if you count his submission over Sokoudjou, a Judo fighter) in the UFC or loses? He’s potentially up against Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell (imagine a counter-puncher verses Machida), Muaricio “Shogun” Rua, Rameau Sokoudjou, and the loser of Rampage/Griffin. There’s a long way to go for someone who has escaped the wrath of many. Tito Ortiz almost had the triangle choke – a couple of judges, if UFC judging rules are properly upheld, may finally sink in an unescpable choke of their own.
About the Author: Brandt DeLorenzo started MMA Opinion in June of 2007 and began working as a MMA photographer shortly thereafter. He enjoys being cageside at regional events or just watching the fights. His favorite fighters are Frankie Edgar and Gegard Mousasi.