Three years after Lyoto Machida hijacked the 205 strap from Rashad Evans, both men still swim near the top of the light-heavyweight division.
Given their eminence, Evans and Machida are on course to clash again sometime.
Their first match saw Machida dispose of Evans with ease. The karate master blasted the wrestler from a multitude of odd angles, throwing an onslaught of kicks and punches.
Evans had no rebuttal, other than to talk smack to Machida during the assault, and his belt was surrendered.
Whatever plan Evans and renowned tactician Greg Jackson brewed up to negate Machida’s flurries didn’t work. For their rematch, Evans figures to conjure a fresh, less stagnant approach.
Stagnancy was Evan’s issue: He didn’t really do anything against Machida. He hardly threw a punch, and he certainly didn’t utilize his strong takedowns.
Perhaps he was entangled by Machida’s offbeat style - a mouse in a mouse trap. Or perhaps he was just hesitant to instigate. Regardless, Evans can’t approach Machida with the same aloofness.
One thing we learned from Evans-Machida 1 is that Evans’s speed can’t match Machida’s. The wrestler waited for Machida to strike, but “The Dragon” flew away before Evan’s punches, rendered snaillike, could reach anything except air.
Lesson learned by Evans: trying to counterpunch Machida isn’t wise. Machida has been polishing his counterpunching skills since he was in utero. Evans will have to explore alternate routes to victory.
If Machida and Evans rematch, who will win?
His blood astir with vengeance, perhaps Evans will use his strengths against Machida: his takedowns. Takedowns were fruitful for Jon Jones in his fight with the Brazilian eluder.
Sure, Evans isn’t Jones, but Rashad’s wrestling still sparkles. If he fails to pressure Machida and instead allows Lyoto to gauge distance and get comfy, expect another meme-worthy outcome in favor of the Brazilian.
Indeed, Evans’s wrestling acumen may aid in revenging his loss to Machida. Evans’s wrestling prowess precedes him: he’s succeeded with 58 takedowns against being matted only 14 times, as per UFC.com (http://www.ufc.com/fighter/Rashad-Evans).
Evans has proven his double-leg is strong, and that his ability to mix strikes and takedown is clever.
Conversely, Machida has shown his ability to deny takedowns. His sumo background might be responsible: UFC.com (http://www.ufc.com/fighter/Lyoto-Machida) says Machida has avoided 83% of impending takedowns.
So grounding Machida won’t be simple. He’s considered a wrestlers’ kryptonite, with the way he creates distance and shows strength in the clinch. But if any man can force Machida to the mat, surmount his guard, and maintain heavy top control, it’s Evans.
To employ his takedowns, Evans must find ways to breach Machida’s range - keep Machida from “getting loose”.
Waddling outside of Machida’s range is to be at the mercy of a firing squad. Evans was already executed once. Perhaps now he knows his away around the bullets.
Neither man scathed Jon Jones, so comparing their performances against “Bones” is almost moot. Machida, however, mounted some offense against the champion, unlike Evans who politely stood in front of Jones without much resistance.
We can’t really know how each man’s game has evolved since their first match. It seems as if their skills are unchanged–Machida is still a wizardly karateka and Evans is still a beastly wrestler. Gameplanning might dictate whether or not the outcome is different.