"It's called Ultimate Fighting, not Ultimate Elusive Guy"
These were the words Quinton "Rampage" Jackson had reserved for Lyoto Machida before their recent encounter back in November at UFC 123.
Machida quickly achieved an almost Pai Mei-like status after his arrival in the UFC due to his ability to dole out punishment with astonishing accuracy, while never seeming to be there when opponents attempted to return the favor.
Much like Anderson Silva, opponents often end up punching thin air when coming after Machida.
"The Dragon" doesn't rush into situations. Like fellow UFC star Georges St-Pierre, he's a thinking man's fighter, not a brawler...and some fans say, to a fault.
So what do I expect his game plan shaking out against Couture at UFC 129?
While neither fighter is by any means one-dimensional, I expect them to fight as if they are. It should look like a traditional UFC fight, a grappler vs a striker.
Although Couture has decent boxing skills, especially in the clinch, it is highly unlikely that he'll be able to trade with Machida at this stage in his career. Nor should he want to.
Couture's plan will be to close the distance and grab hold of Machida. That's where his absolute best chance to win is.
Look to see Couture attempting to grab hold and neutralize Machida's ability to strike freely, hopefully grinding for 15 minutes, and possibly riding out a decision and then riding into the sunset on a huge victory against a very relevant opponent.
Machida, on the other hand, while not a bad grappler, will definitely want to do his Pai Mei routine and use his quickness and elusiveness to pepper Couture from the outside.
I think the most interesting aspect will be how much Machida attempts to use his kicks. They can come through like haymakers, and that left leg can cause a lot of damage when crashing into knees or livers.
But will Machida risk getting a leg caught and possibly getting dumped on the ground to land them when he can much more safely use his speed to just pepper Couture's head with his quick hands, scoring points and ensuring a decision?
That'd be the safe route, and Machida usually does take the safe route. The smart route.
So the fight fan wants me to see Machida come out super-aggressive and really bring the fight to Randy. But the last time he did that against Shogun, it did not end well for him. It looked forced and uneven.
Machida has even admitted he was a little trigger-shy against Rampage after being TKO'd by Shogun.
How will the fight go?
This will be a real opportunity to prove he still has some killer instinct in the tank, as well as an opportunity to win over some fans who might put him in the ever growing 'boring' fighter category.
But at the end of the day, I expect Machida to react to Randy's pace. If Randy does not push forward relentlessly, I see Machida peppering him on the way to a decision.
On the other hand, Randy knows this will likely be his last fight, and its possible he decides to fall on his sword pressing forward come hell or high water, giving the fans something to remember.
If I had to predict, which can be a tough thing to do once haymakers start flying in the Octagon, I would say I see Machida counter-striking with ferocity and ultimately knocking him to the ground and finishing him.
So at the end of the day, I think Machida will respond to Randy's pace and motion. If Randy presses hard, I expect him to be finished.
And if not, Lyoto will coast to a decision and retain his title of Ultimate Elusive Guy. And the guy who wakes up and drinks his own piss.