I was pretty excited to watch UFC 104 this weekend to see the throwdown between Shogun and Lyoto Machida. I have to tell you up front: I really went into this hoping and expecting to see Machida lay the smack down on Shogun.
Why? Well, I would say the biggest reason is that I feel that Machida tends to be a dynamic fighter. He brings what he needs to to a fight depending on who he fights. His game plan normally seems very good at nullifying the strengths of an opponent.
So what the crap happened Saturday?
Let me tell you what happened: First, Shogun turn this into a long range kicking match. Exactly what I didn’t expect him to do. Second: He was better at it that Lyoto. And third: Lyoto didn’t adapt.
Now, Lyoto is one hell of a kicker, so when I say that I feel that Shogun was “better” at it, I should clarify. Karate tends to train in kicking for the zones that “score”. In competition that’s the head, chest, mid-section. Muay Thai on the other hand has a lot of leg kicks. This whole fight was like a seminar on what happens if one person really wants to kick the head/body and the other is happy to pick apart the legs.
Now I know, many of you will point out that Shogun was landing brutal body kicks as well. But that was mainly in the beginning of the fight. It was less so later on. Why? Because at the beginning Lyoto was closing the distance to try for body kicks as well. As Shogun gave as good as he took, and also did leg kicks, Lyoto was weakened, scared, and kept his distance.
At the break in every round Lyoto’s corner told him he was doing great. It wasn’t until the end of the third round that they mentioned that he should attack Shogun’s lead leg (which he never did very well or very much.) Why didn’t they give him real advice? Why not hammer on him to attack that leg? Why not change up the strategy?
Some might read this and reply that there is no need to change what clearly won the fight. My response is: the decision was wrong. Of course no one should let it get to a decision (just ask Nick Diaz.)
So my take away was this:
1- Never, never, never count on the judges. They have their favorites, and I truly believe that they also work with Dana to determine the most “marketable” outcome of fights.
2- Lyoto is human. Not only that, he also isn’t the perfect planner when it comes to morphing his game plan. (and his corner sucks.)
3- Makes me question the style of Karate in general. We know that Muay Thai gives the elbows and knees. We know that Muay Thai has the clinch. But the leg kicks are an area of Muay Thai vs. Karate that have not been so closely discussed.