Last night, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Lyoto Machida tested light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in a way that we have never seen before.
Machida brought exceptional striking defense and the superb use of range coupled with pinpoint accuracy to a contest many thought would be lopsided. In the process of teaching us a great deal about Jon Jones, Machida also taught us something of himself and his use of range.
Lyoto Machida may have uncovered a hole in Jones' game. Jones has never fought anyone who fights as well as he does at long range. Jones likes to fight at long range because of his reach, Machida, because of his style.
Machida outperformed Jones fighting at the edge of his range by stepping away from Jones’ leg kicks, while staying just outside the range of his hands–Jones is very dangerous at long range with his reach and long legs. He is difficult at mid-range from hooks and elbows and at close range from takedowns.
But in the twilight range just outside of Jones’ punches and just inside his kicks, for a man like Machida, who is explosive enough to close the distance, there is an opening. And if you can beat Jones fighting from a distance, you can probably pull it off against anyone.
Fighting at edge of range is usually ideal for stand-up strikers. It allows them to get into striking range and out of it with the least possible movement, which allows them to deliver their shots and retreat to safety in the fastest and least resource-sapping way possible. The longer your opponents reach, however, the further fighters must travel to get into their own striking range. Lyoto’s first round against Jones demonstrated that he can get in and out of any reach in the light heavyweight division.
Finally, we learned that Machida, who has never submitted in his career, would rather go to sleep than tap. It takes heart to bear the pain of a choke and wait for the darkness to take you.
It wasn’t like Machida’s hands weren’t free. He could have tapped anytime he wanted. Instead Machida chose being dropped to the floor in a crumpling heap, where he lay as Jones turned and walked away.
Over the course of his career, Jones has forced both Quinton Jackson and Ryan Bader to tap. At the time, Jackson had not submitted in just under a decade and Bader has a strong wrestling background.
Today, Machida still has no voluntary submissions on his record.