The main event of UFC 123 is intriguing for a couple reasons. Many probably wonder what this fight means. Surely these two fighters are not in a contender fight, considering the participants in the next Light-Heavyweight bout have beaten these two exact fighters in their last respective fights. This is assuming that Joe Silva (UFC matchmaker) does what most expect, and matches up Shogun and Rashad Evans. It is the logical thing to do. So, if Machida wins, and Shogun defeats Evans, do we see a trilogy fight so soon? If both Evans and Rampage win, do they fight each other again, only one match removed from their fight in UFC 114? If Evans wins and Machida wins, do you force Evans to fight Machida? After all, he was the man Rashad last fought while previously holding the title and took it from him. Given these scenarios, the only way this should be a contender fight is if one specific outcome arises out both fights. If Shogun and Rampage win, that should be the next title fight. Maybe Silva won’t match up Evans at all and this is a contender fight for Rampage, alone.
Enough with the speculating, no matter what is on the line the fight is happening, and when you bring two competitors like this into the octagon they would fight just as hard for a moldy bologna sandwich.
Age 32 32
Record 16-1 30-8
Striking Offense 60% 47%
Striking Defense 61% 49%
Takedowns 73% 40%
Takedown Def. 86% 76%
*Items in bold signify an advantage.
Stand up – Statistically speaking Machida comes away with the advantage in the stand-up phase of the fight. If we look at intangibles we should also conclude that Machida has the advantage. Nobody circles out of pressure and counters quite like Machida. He is a master of creating angles and he does so in very unorthodox ways and means that are hard for fighters to prepare to face. His unusual karate based striking/countering/defense makes his stand-up game one of the most unique, therefore, difficult styles to find sparring partners to mimic.
Machida holds every advantage in the stand-up, except one: power. So, it is hard to count Rampage out in the stand-up game. He has one-punch-KO power, and if Lyoto comes into this match shell-shocked from his last two bouts with Shogun, there is potential for him to get caught. This was his first loss. There is no telling how that has affected him.
Clinch – This phase also favors Machida. He is the better clinch fighter technically speaking. He utilizes knees very efficiently. This is also where most of Machida’s takedowns have come from. Jackson may enjoy an advantage, once again, in power from this phase of the fight, and also in dirty boxing; however, if he tries to dirty box from here he is going to leave himself open for one of Machida’s takedowns from the clinch, or allow him to assume the Thai clinch and deliver those technically sound knees. Stats aren’t everything though. Rampage’s takedowns from here are worthy of mention. Even with Machida’s incredible takedown defense, and Rampage’s low percentage on finishing takedowns, fighting is a game of inches, and position. If Machida loses focus for a second he could be in for one of Jackson’s patented slams.
Ground – Both fighters have the advantage on the ground when they are the one who instigate the action, and end up on top. If they end up on bottom then the advantage from there goes to Machida. His sweeps and submissions are much better than Jackson’s. Don’t look for this fight to go to the ground intentionally though. This will not be the game plan of either fighter. The ground game plan is similar for both guys. They will go there under two conditions; they put the fighter on the ground with their fists or feet, and look to finish them, or they are taking a beating on their feet and are looking to get out of trouble.
Prediction – As with any fight containing two high caliber fighters, this fight can go either way. There are just too many variables for it to be a “sure thing”.
For Rampage to win he has to take one of two approaches, and I think the latter will serve him better. He comes out right off the rip and pressures, pressures, pressures, or he can take a page out of Machida Vs. Shogun I, and be patient, utilizing leg kicks to suck the stamina out of Machida. He can attempt to pick him apart, instead of going on a “rampage”. This allows him to defend better against Machida’s countering. This methodical style will serve him better, but this is not Rampage’s style. So, I look for Machida to do what he does best, circling out of danger and countering while Rampage attacks aggressively. He wants Rampage to be bring the fight to him. He is willing to let the opponent initiate the action. Lyoto is a patient fighter who wants to catch you out of position. Rampage will most likely play into Machida’s hand. Barring a one punch KO, or The Dragon getting rocked with a punch, and unable to recover and weather the storm, I see no other way for Jackson to win this fight.
Winner: Lyoto Machida, 3rd round TKO.
Chad Barrows, MMA News 247