A year ago former UFC light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida was viewed as being close to unbeatable based on his polished approach to MMA and a unique style of stand-up allowing him to dish out damage while receiving little in return. However, after losing his belt by way of first-round knockout to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua last May, questions began to surface about whether or not his reputation had been built more on hype than actual ability.
Machida will have a chance to answer his critics in a little more than two weeks when he faces another former 205-pound champion, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, at UFC 123 just outside of Detroit, Michigan. “The Dragon” recently spoke to Tatame about his upcoming bout with Jackson, as well as his experience recently training at a well-known American gym and a number of other subjects relating to his future.
“I always think for a MMA fight, despite the specialties of each fighter, you have to be prepared for anything, because we can never know what the guy is up to,” Machida responded when asked about how he is approaching the headlining affair. “A guy who doesn’t know how to kick may be kicking on the following fight – you can’t tell for sure. The need leads the frog to a jump.”
“We have many examples of people who are good on areas that aren’t their specialties,” he continued. “Georges St. Pierre has improved his wrestling a lot – people that didn’t kick are now kicking and so it goes…I don’t underestimate any fighter. I think that, just as I’m prepared for anything during the fight, so are they: the stand-up game, the takedowns and the ground game. Of course we have our game plan set…our strong point is karate and the exchanges, but if we need to use the other skills, we will do the takedowns and the ground game…”
When questioned on whether or not he anticipates to stand more than defend Jackson’s takedowns, Machida stated, “I think that Jackson always comes for the striking, independently of his opponent…He always tries to impose his game, so it’ll be up to me because he’ll try to use his boxing and I have to try to block his game and impose mine.”
However, while Machida’s immediate attention is on Jackson, he acknowledged not only his interest in eventually breaking the 1-1 tie between himself and Rua but the possibility of eventually mixing it up with relative youngsters Jon Jones and/or Ryan Bader.
“Of course,” he replied on the subject of the twenty-somethings. “I believe that this new generation is a really conditioned generation, (and) has begun to build the pillars for being a great fighter…they’re great athletes that are popular and now me, Rashad Evans, Rampage and Shogun will have to face those guys.”
On the subject of a rubber-match between himself and Rua, the 32-year old made it clear his current focus is only on “Rampage”, saying, “I think one step at a time. People talk about Shogun and I don’t keep thinking about Shogun – he’s long gone now. Now I have to think about my next challenge because sometimes we keep thinking about the future, but we can’t even make the next step, so I think I have to be prepared and I can’t underestimate anyone. Now I’ll have to face Jackson and there are many factors to consider before I have a title shot. I think it’s best for me to focus on this fight and I’ll welcome whatever comes to me in the future.”
Machida also spoke about having recently spent some time at American Kickboxing Academy – home to a number of respected UFC competitors – and how it was to work alongside UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez.
“It’s not the first time I’ve trained (at) AKA – it’s the second time I went to train there. I’ve spent three weeks training there and I think it’s really important that you train along with guys who are fighting on the same level as you…Velasquez was a nice guy to me from the start – he’s shown me his game and (when) I left there I knew he had a great chance of becoming the champion.”
Machida is 16-1 with victories in the first sixteen fights of his career including notable wins over Tito Ortiz, the afore-mentioned Evans, and Thiago Silva, as well as a somewhat controversial unanimous decision over “Shogun” at UFC 104 a little more than a year ago.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC