Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida:
Is he a truth serum? A puzzle box? The Wayne Gretzsky of mixed martial arts? Unclear. We know he’s an unbeaten 31-year-old mixed martial artist (as of tomorrow) who cut his teeth on Shotokan karate and dismantled Rashad Evans last Saturday night to take the UFC’s light heavyweight championship. We know he darts in and out of range to punish fighters without taking damage himself [links to video below]. And we know he’s already being spoken of in the same breath as Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva and George St. Pierre.
Here’s Jake Rossen, MMA’s smartest writer:
Lyoto Machida made history Saturday night by becoming the first mixed martial artist to win a major title by wielding an art perceived as primitive and nearing extinction. He didn’t outwrestle Rashad Evans, he didn’t submit him and he didn’t gorilla-press him. He feinted, floated out of the way of hammering strikes and applied the principles of Shotokan karate he established while still in diapers to send Evans down and thinking of his sleep number.
Jordan Breen reviews the tape:
Machida being technically dominant is nothing new, but it was the first time I took note of how glaring he made his opponent’s faults look. Upon opening up the library, I realized this was absolutely nothing new. It took him about two minutes to realize Thiago Silva didn’t tuck his chin or bring his hands back after engaging, which led directly to two brutal knockdowns and set the table for a first-round stoppage. Tito Ortiz’s reaction to Machida’s feints — an incredibly high guard, shielding his own face — made it easy for the karateka to smash up his legs and body, allowing for the brutal knee to the body that nearly ended the bout.
Here’s Machida quoted in ESPN:
“In my karate, there is a time which is called the Kyo, which means the fighter has no defense,” said Machida, 30, who improved to 15-0-0 and still hasn’t lost a round in UFC competition. “I study to make sure I attack right at the correct Kyo, and that’s what I did.”
Bloody Elbow contextualizes:
[A]ll good boxers know there is a time when an opponent can be attacked and they cannot defend, it is a moment when the mind is in reset mode so to speak, and in Shotokan there is a name for that moment. In boxing there is not. I remember training zanshin, and training how to measure and time a strike or counter strike not just based on physical moments, but by your opponent’s breathing, his eyes even would tell you when they are ‘blanked out’ or in ‘reset mode’ and can be attacked.
Maybe I’ll torrent Machida’s 4-DVD set:
First, the footwork translated from his karate background is extremely quick and efficient. Each movement serves a purpose and no energy is wasted. Second, like a good poker player, Machida offers no visual clues to what he will do next. During several techniques, Machida takes great strides in stressing the importance of maintaining and returning to your base stance before, during, and after each technique. By doing so, Machida masks his intent for as long as possible, reducing his opponent’s window to react in time.
But I’d better get started:
The problem with Shotokan Karate in MMA is that it is a style of fighting that takes a lifetime of training to master. The use of fixed stances, kata, 5 step sparring etc… are training techniques designed to develop a fighter over millions of repetitions and decades of time. And, there are no shortcuts.
Hmm, is anybody else thinking brain downloads?
Post script on video:
Here’s Machida taking out Thiago Silva. (Listen for Joe Rogan talking about Machida’s “great package.”)
Here are highlights from Machida’s first 12 fights.
These highlights start off slow — the beginning shows him doing kata on the beach at sunset — but they include his 13th fight, against former l.h.w. champ Tito Ortiz.