UFC: Is Lyoto Machida a Champ-In-Waiting or Chump-Is-Boring?

Steve GojkovCorrespondent IJune 24, 2008

MMA isn’t exactly starving for polarizing figures at the moment: Tito Ortiz, Dana White, Nick Diaz, Kimbo Slice, Paul Varelans…I could go on for possibly another three to four minutes of empty thought. 

Lyoto Machida is now on that list, not for being “unprofessional” (emphasis on the quotes), “unseasoned,” or “the name that didn’t belong in that sentence,” but for being “boring.”  Like all the other controversial gentlemen, everybody has an opinion on this one. 

Nobody’s really “puzzled” as to what they think: he’s an obnoxiously tedious fighter or a genius who has to aim if he is to do any wrong. Even then, he aims successfully, so he wins.

My analysis of these extremes will help tell you understand where you fall.


“The guy sucks and bores me to tears.  There’s nothing exciting about his style. He doesn’t finish people, doesn’t hit hard, and I can’t wait ‘til this CRUSHING BORE runs into a ‘real striker’ so he finally gets exposed and the Machida hype train disintegratesnot only itself but all the fans inside it.”

Saying he sucks is too subjective to do anything with, except for the fact he’s undefeated and has beaten tougher guys in his 13 fights than most guys in MMA have even FOUGHT.  Most people who make an argument like this in the first place will make a point of first discrediting his wins. 

"B.J. Penn was at a 94-pound deficit."  What’s the point of fighting B.J. Penn at all if simply fighting somebody heavier means a real, MORAL victory regardless of the outcome?  Isn’t that a lose-lose? 

"Rich Franklin was fighting out of his natural weight."  Rich Franklin is bigger than Lyoto Machida.  If one wanted to claim that he was INTIMIDATED into moving down a weight class, one could do so with the evidence that nobody but Machida had beaten him.

"Sokoudjou was overrated and has no ground game."  Somebody had to get the world-class Judoka to the ground to do anything confusable with winning a fight.  And now that said Judoka has knocked out his third-ranked 205 lb. fighter, is he still overrated?  At what point does it stop being an accident?

Can anybody even remember the guy being in trouble?  After he got out of Tito’s triangle armbar will you take something like that seriously again until he taps or falls asleep?

Saying he’s boring is obviously easier to “substantiate” than saying he sucks.  He doesn’t chase you down and try to bulldoze you like Wanderlei, nor does he look exclusively for the knockout at the earliest possible time like Chuck. 

He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry, and the fact that he hasn’t shown the UFC audience he can knock somebody cold yet is reason enough to think his punching power is inadequate. 

Even on the ground, he seems to look less for submissions, and more for simply scoring.  When you define “exciting,” in no dictionary will you find “adj. - guy who doesn't go for the finish.” 

Though being 5-for-5 in his UFC career, he’s finished only one of them, albeit the best:  Sokoudjou with an arm triangle.  That also happens to be the only “real striker” of the five.

Sam Hoger, David Heath, Kaz Nakamura, and Tito Ortiz are not going to be releasing any striking instructionals in the near future, if so they would go unpurchased. 

The rest of the top guys for him to fight happen to be good enough strikers to have the word “top” at least loosely attached.  His next opponent will almost certainly be either Wanderlei or Thiago Silva. 

The champ is tied up, Chuck is tied up, Shogun’s out until November or December, and the other two who would be most apt to be confused for guys worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as the aforementioned (Forrest and Rashad) are tied up.

Wanderlei has said he’s been told his next opponent is Machida or Thiago, and the very nature of the structure implies he’ll either be waiting a while to fight, or be fighting one of those two.

One is considered a “top striker”; the other isn’t going to change the minds of those who think “a top striker would kill him.”

Realistically, a Wanderlei/Machida match has only three ways to end.  Wanderlei knocks him out, Machida knocks him out, or Machida wins a decision.

Fans of either would probably hate for this fight to happen next, because it’s looking like the only thing coming between Machida and glory is a KO shot to the face, and the worst possible opponent for Wanderlei is a more technical and polished striker than Chuck Liddell. 

I’m a fan of both so allow me to tell you that I HOPE THIS FIGHT DOESN’T HAPPEN because it’s very possible that ONE OF THE TWO WILL LOSE THE FIGHT.


“The guy is a genius and he’s only about two wins from adding the 3,249th belt to the collection down at the new Miami gym.  He not only neutralizes everything you do well, but takes that strength of yours as his own and proceeds to embarrass you with it. 

There’s nothing he doesn’t absolutely excel in.  The term “impose your will” is executed more effectively by nobody, as 100 percent of the fight is dictated by what he chooses to do.  If he wanted to put on a fireworks display he’d do it – and he'd made Oct. 13 look like July 4

If he wanted to take down Tito Ortiz, put him in a crucifix and pound on him to the point only the bell was going to save him, he would, and in case you missed it, he did.

Nobody wants to fight him because he’s the worst possible matchup for everybody in the division.  If you think he’s boring, it’s because you don’t know what you’re watching and anything short of a 15-minute slugfest is 'too heavy for you to appreciate, maaaaaannnn!'  I see Anderson Silva losing before Lyoto Machida.”

To the above gentleman, Lyoto is God.  Is he a genius?  Does it even look like anybody devises a better game plan than Machida?  Think about the number of fighters who can show little to no regard for their opponent or how good they’re supposed to be, go in and play their game, and make it look effortless. 

Three come to mind: Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, and Fedor Emelianenko.  B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre are as close as can be to being in this sentence but when evaluating overall track records, the former three haven’t a history of mental lapses in any capacity.

On any given night, BJ or Georges can be a cyborg; on most of them, they are.  But to me, you know what you’re going to get from certain guys, every time, without fail, and those two don’t fit in the same sentence for my money. 

Examine only the Tito Ortiz fight.  Ortiz succeeds in taking everybody down at some point.  Did anybody ever think they’d see the guy pull guard?  Not only did Machida control 14:50 of that fight, but he took the one consensus thing Tito is great at and made him look like Sam Hogar or David Heath.

After seeing the guy pull off a pair of double-kicks, is there really any doubt this guy could turn on the gas whenever he wants and be the highlight-reel striker everybody wants him to be? 

Furthermore, have any of you heard anything resembling hesitation and unease before from John Hackleman, concerning a potential Liddell opponent?  If anybody looks to be a bad stylistic matchup for Machida, surely it would be him, no?  The fight getting to the ground is improbable. 

Liddell’s reach would likely have the best chance of pre-empting those carefully chosen occasions where Machida closes the distance and scores with a couple quick strikes.  When combined with the fact the guy has KO power, if there’s any possible “bad matchup,” that would be it.

THAT guy’s trainer is concerned, the same unshakable one that had no doubts leading into the second Rampage fight.  Everybody else, he’s proven big enough and strong enough to be able to hang with in any such exchange. 

As I pointed out, the chances of him picking Wanderlei apart with his “boring point-scoring” are more likely than those of Silva holding the guy’s throat and punching him into the hospital.

He’s the consummate counter-striker and Silva is the consummate raging bull.  That brings us to the champ.  Briefly characterizing his style: big and versatile hitter, brutally strong wrestler, brilliant submission defense, chin of granite.

As big a fan as I am of Jackson, I can’t help but picture him walking the guy down, throwing a couple of bombs, chasing him around the cage, and getting frustrated by the fact his opponent isn’t making any mistakes.  While he may not be getting hurt, he’s being picked apart and scored upon, becoming pissed off into making a critical error of his own. 

I could be completely wrong about this, mind you; although Machida’s proven to have a pretty decent chin, they’re bound to trade at some point, and a big punch from the New Rampage is something that makes ‘pretty decent’ chins break.

All of this being said, his neutralization powers alone can bring the fight to a dead halt.  When you take away the exciting things your opponent does and turn him into a fish out of water, you’re entitled to all the credit or all the blame, depending on what the fight becomes.

The fact that none of his five UFC fights have been back-and-forth, yet only one has he stopped, gives people good reason to believe that he’s content with what he’s doing right now and doesn’t even WANT to step on the gas. 

The fact that even WORKS tells you that his skill and ability are brilliant, but until he starts leaving every bit of that IN the cage and leaving his mark ON it, I think fans are justified in their boredom.

All five champions can lay claim to being exciting fighters; if there’s any doubt about Nogueira, at least he won his belt by submission.  It all comes down to this:  for the dude not to be hated, he’s got to put people away.

Otherwise, his detractors will continue to have an excuse as to why “he sucks.”  Personally, I find the guy so impressive that he’s nearly so far into ‘great’ he’s about to lap it and start ‘sucking’.  He doesn’t bore me because when I watch him fight, my perception is that I’m watching a martial arts clinic.

It’s not for everybody and when people tell me they don’t find him entertaining I don’t become animated and proclaim, “WHY, HOW COME?”  I just don’t see his current contemporaries (however many GREAT ones there are) being able to solve this riddle. 

The pride of Belem, Brazil happens to be the piss in the 205 lb. corn flakes.  Could it be that the toughest possible fight for Lyoto Machida is his own training partner and best friend, Anderson Silva?


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