UFC 104 Odds & Betting Analysis, Loyto”The Dragon” Machida vs Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Lyoto Machida (-405, BetCRIS) vs Mauricio Rua (+345, 5Dimes)
Few title fights, especially in a marquee division like light heavyweight, have such high lines as those being seen right now with this fight. This is mainly due to a matchmaking problem Joe Silva is having with the 205lb division. Since Rashad and Rampage were taken out of the mix for TUF 10, and Forrest Griffen was tapped to fight Anderson Silva at UFC 101, the whole title picture has been in disarray. So, they take Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and throw him into the top contender position. This is a man who was once considered the #1 205lber in the world while he was over in PRIDE (2 years ago), but has since gone 2-1 in the UFC with less than stellar performances against Griffen and Coleman, and a KO victory over an obviously past his prime Chuck Liddell. Three fights, two extremely unimpressive, and one only slightly so; which do not produce very good odds for the underdog.
On the other hand, there is Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, a champion who has remained undefeated in his MMA career and has looked completely dominating the whole way. He has wins over such notables as B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin, Tito Ortiz, Thiago Silva, Stephan Bonnar, and former champion Rashad Evans. He has won 7 straight fights since coming to the UFC and the only complaint people have had is that he is not exciting enough. However, that complaint is beginning to fade due to Machida finishing his last two opponents via devastating KO. Since he is the champ, the analysis will begin with him.
Lyoto Machida is best known for one of the first modern MMA fighters to effectively base himself in Karate. He has been studying his father’s full contact Karate since he was a small child and that fact is immediately made clear when one looks at his fighting stance. Unlike most modern fighters who take either a closed-up tight boxing stance or a straight-up Muay Thai stance, Machide has a wide stance that is centered on a lean in the opposite direction of his opponent. Most boxing and Muay Thai stances use blocking or lateral movements to defect against strikes. Machidas Karate stance uses a backwards lean and foot movement to move backwards to defend against strikes. He doesn’t bring his hands up over his face to block shots like in boxing, but instead stretches his torso and moves his head backwards. This has given Machida an air of “elusiveness”. Fighters are already thrown off by a change in range with Machida leaning his head back in comparison to his feet, but then he is also happy to move backwards when shots are thrown and let those fists pass harmlessly in front of his face. MMA fighters are simply not use to fighting someone who puts their weight on their back leg, leans back on that leg, stretches their head away from the opponent, and is willing to move backwards to then counter forward after the opponents commitment. This is his major strength. Oh yeah, he is also a southpaw, which makes the whole thing even more queer.
In addition to a strange stance, Machida has two other very dangerous weapons in his standup arsenal. First, he is very fast. Rashad Evans was considered fast and explosive and he could do nothing to Machida. Lyoto beat him to the punch in nearly every exchange. This is due to both a lack of telegraphing with his strikes, but also just good genetics and training. He is good friends and training partners with Anderson Silva, who uses specific training techniques to increase his speed (like having tennis balls winged at his head). Therefore, it is a good bet that Machida does the same thing.
Secondly, Lyoto has excellent trips, which he mixes into his combinations to throw off opponents. They are much more economically efficient than normal takedowns, since there are no changes in level, plus they rely more on an off-balance opponent then sheer force. If Machida wasn’t already difficult enough to stand up against, his opponents also have to worry about him tripping them while they are throwing their strikes. Since Machida is already leaning back and causing his opponents to start over extending in order to hit his head, his trips and counters are just that more potent and successful.
From a grappling standpoint, Machida is no slouch. He is a black belt in BJJ and trains with the Nogueira brothers at Black House. He has shown to have very heavy hips, most likely from his training in Sumo from a young age. This gives him the ability to control positioning while on the ground after he gets his trips or knock downs. He only has two submission victories, but that has more to with his style of fighting, which is centered on GnP when he is in top position. Lyoto is very comfortable staying in guard and landing precision strikes, or moving to side control or the mount to continue his barrage. He doesn’t change positions to work submission attempts, but to get better punches in. Therefore, he isn’t exposing himself to sweeps or reversals. All of this being said, Machida has never been matched up against an elite level grappler (except maybe Thiago Silva…maybe). He has great submission defense, heavy hips, and a team filled with grappling superstars, so it is doubtful that a high-level grappler would present much of a problem.
This is a great movement into Machida potential threats. It is doubtful that the style of fighter that will give him fits will be a grappler, instead, his problems will come standing up. One major area of attack is his unique stance. It is great for keeping his head from getting hit, but doesn’t protect his body very well. Silva and Evans both hit him with hard body kicks, and he was unable to defend against them. His lead leg is also in constant danger. Since he puts his weight on his back leg and leans back, his front leg is just out there and in perfect range for short leg kicks. Thus far, everyone has tried to stand and bang with Machida, which is what his style is designed to defend against. No one has attempted to attack his legs and body and just forget the head hunting all together. More simply, he cannot counter punch if no punches are being thrown.
So now the question is, can the challenger follow such a game plan to victory? Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was at the top of the heap in 2007. He won the PRIDE Middleweight GP in 2005 and seemed pretty much unstoppable while in Japan. He comes from the Chute Box academy alongside such beasts in the ring as Wanderlei Silva and in the cage as Anderson Silva. He has the traditional MMA background of Muay Thai and Jujitsu, and has since added wrestling and boxing.
Stylistically, Shogun is the epitome of the vicious Vale Tudo fighter. While in Japan, he dominated with soccer kicks and stomps, with 5 of his 15 T(KO)s coming via such stoppages. He was a master of tying up his opponents in the ropes of the PRIDE ring and stopping them into submission. However, here in the US, Shogun has lost his best weapons. Wanderlei Silva has had the exact same problem.
Standing wise, Shogun is well rounded with a great mix of low kicks and punching combinations. He does have KO power in his hands, as evident by his left hand KO of Chuck Liddell. Whether he can deal with Machida’s style and focus on the legs and body is still up in the air. He did a great job kicking Liddell in the legs, but eventually won by beating him to the punch. So, that may have given him the confidence to go box with Machida, which then has the makings for a bad night for him.
On the ground, Shogun has a good mix of submission skills; however, he has been outclassed in the past. Forrest Griffen dominated him on the floor, and he was unable to do anything to a gassed Mark Coleman. He did have knee problems in both those fights, but that shouldn’t have affected his hip movements on the ground, which were practically non-existent. In addition, he has only one submission victory in his MMA career, so it isn’t one of his more utilized skill sets. Besides, Lyoto’s excellent hips and takedown defense will most likely prevent this fight from going to the ground.
In all seriousness, this fight will be decided on the feet. Shogun has the Muay Thai skills to batter Machida’s legs and body, but he’ll most likely head-hunt and attempt to out-counter the ultimate counter-striker. This could lead to a very long fight with Machida out-pointing Shogun. Either that, or Machida will eventually get the fight to the ground, use his hips to keep his position, and get the TKO. Either way, Shogun has little chance of winning, besides a freak accident or lucky punch.
Final Prediction: Machida should take this fight with no problems. Shogun is not fast enough or strategic enough to be worth an underdog bet at this price and since I stay away from lines over -400 (and get very uncomfortable with lines above -300); Machida is currently not worth a bet. If this universe accidentally collapses with another one and Machida gets down below -330, I would entertain a bet, but that is very unlikely. As such, stay away.