By Josh Stein on Jun 25, 2008
There are a lot of things that bug me about Lyoto Machida.
He’s a striker who hasn’t knocked out a UFC opponent. He talks at length about this striking style that doesn’t finish. He fights off of his back foot. He throws combinations almost as rarely as he moves forwards. He gets credit as being the top striker at 205, when there are a half dozen guys who have finished more fights standing up than he has.
Still, while I’m open about the problems I have with the way that Machida fights, there’s one thing I won’t deny: he’s going to get a title shot.
He’s one of the only fighters in the division without a loss on his recent record, and the only one who’s one a substantial winning streak against the opponents that the UFC cares about.
The UFC has used him as a high profile hitman. They brought him in to prove that Sokoudjou wasn’t as destructive as everyone thought. They brought him in to end the UFC career of Tito Ortiz on a note that will make it much harder for the former Champ to get resigned in a major organization.
However maliciously he might be used, though, it’s clear that the UFC likes him, and they’ve been giving him premium placement and the most substantial opponents that they are willing to let him bash by decision. It won’t be long until he gets a shot at the belt, and I think it’s fair to say that if he beats his next opponent decisively (even by decision) the UFC will see him billed as a top contender.
What’s really problematic is that none of the top guys in the division have the tools to beat Machida. All of them are going to try and do exactly what every other one of Machida’s opponents has done: chase him.
The fighter that chases Machida will loose every time, because of Machida’s counterstriking style. We saw it with Ortiz. We saw it with Heath. We saw it with Nakamura.
As painful as it may be for me to acknowledge the man who will kick your ass by decision as the next top contender for the championship when I would much rather see Thiago Silva, it’s inevitable. Thiago is hard to market. His style is exciting for me, but for the fans who like to see the fancy kicks and displays of karate-kid style combat, Machida is the easy pick with the highlight reel and the names on his hitlist.
Machida will get one more fight, probably against either Thiago or Wanderlei Silva, and as long as he keeps his record squeaky clean, he will be stepping in for a five round fight around the end of the year.
About the Author: Joshua Stein is a writer and editor for MMA Opinion. He has worked as a photographer and journalist and has a number of print journalism credits. He also works as a moderator for MMAForum.com and a grappling columnist (covering judo, collegiate wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling) for profighting-fans.com.