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Home MMA Is Shogun Rua's style setting him up for defeat at UFC 104?
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Is Shogun Rua's style setting him up for defeat at UFC 104?

ufc_104Time and time again, we hear the age old addendum, styles make fights. You put two elite fighters in the same ring or cage with similar physical and technical traits and it would seem as if everything were even. You factor in the fighter’s styles and you gain the right insight as to which fighter you going to put your money on. History has taught us that those fighters who adapt to a slick, defensive style usually overcome their opponents advantages over them. Case in point, a much smaller Floyd Mayweather was able to use his defensive counter punching style to beat a much bigger De la Hoya. This is MMA though and we would like to think that those rules don’t apply, but we are on the verge of seeing mma’s first great defensive fighter going head to head with a all offensive striker, with the outcome being very predictable. 

Lyoto Machida, the undefeated 15-0 Brazilian has yet to meet a formidable match inside the octagon. In his UFC stint he has never lost a round and he has been hit less than any other fighter in UFC history. Impressive credentials when you take into account that in mixed martial arts everyone gets beat sooner or later. The last two fights Machida has had have ended in brutal KO fashion, both of which were against aggressive strikers. It seems that the formula on how to lose to Machida would be to press him and show controlled aggressiveness, but another Brazilian has that exact ploy in mind, hoping to re-write an already tested battle plan that has failed. His name is Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

Shogun Rua in every word exemplifies the term striker. Out of his 18 wins, 15 of them have come by way of KO. Though he is very adept on the ground, it is obvious to most that his strong suit comes from this area of discipline. His most impressive victories have come by opponents that were overly aggressive or whose style matched that of his own. He has countered this by being aggressive himself with well timed strikes and overwhelming those he faced. In his Pride win over Quinton Jackson in 2005, he was able to pick apart a charging Jackson with knees and strikes every time his opponent pressed forward. His recent victories over Chuck Liddell and Mark Coleman give testament to this. Though both fighters can be seen as past their primes, Shogun initiated his KO victory over Liddell by moving forward and landing a left hook. Through out the fight he also allowed Liddell to move to him. In his Lackluster fight with Coleman, the UFC pitted him against a wrestler who presses his attack forward which allowed Shogun to once more pick his shots and close the distance with his opponent for the KO win. It seems as if the outcome is already written, is Shogun doomed?

For the most part I believe so and we will start with the most obvious. Machida in his last four fights has faced an impressive list of whose who in mma. From his first notable opponent in Rameau Sokoudjou to Tito Ortiz, Thiago Silva and most recently Rashad Evans he has faced a variable crop of top talent and has gained invaluable cage knowledge and confidence coming into his upcoming bout. It is a major boost knowing that you have faced better opposition than your opponent has in the last three years, opponents of which could beat Rua. This of course will translate well in the mental preparation of that fight. Fighters sometimes question themselves the night before a fight asking themselves if they have sparred with the right people or maybe trained that bit harder. Machida can get a good night’s rest and tell himself that he has faced opponents just as highly skilled as Rua and either knocked them out or beat them convincingly. One interesting thing to note that out of those four I just mentioned three of them had the same style of fighting that Machida has become well suited to.

Aggressive in your face strikers.

Machida’s defensive counter attacking style has perplexed and confounded all of his opponents. Their only answer has been to keep pressing forward, which works perfectly into Machida’s game plan. Tito Ortiz fell into this trap as he ate a hard knee that buckled him late in the third round of his fight with Machida. Thiago Silva was the next victim as his constant moving forward was rewarded with straight rights as Machida moved back to counter. Let the guy come in and make the first mistake, strike and move out and repeat, a simple recipe that has racked up wins for the Karate master. If you take a look back at Rua’s career retrospective it will become clearly obvious that he falls into this category of “aggressive striker” from the list of fighters I just mentioned. Come the night of October 24th he will execute what he has done and known in his career and push the fight forward with his aggressive muay thai technique. I’m pretty sure you can formulate what will happen by the end of the fight.

Brushing this aside, even in the event that Rua changes up his tactic and becomes the counter attacker which is unlikely, he still confronts Machida’s underrated strength. Ever seen anyone keep Sokoudjou on the ground so easily? Well maybe a few can and will with decent jiu-jitsu game, but you can’t deny the fact that in his fight with Ortiz, Machida threw him like a rag doll at the end of round one. It’s not known by many but Machida studied sumo as a youth. It was instilled in him by his Japanese born father, and the many years of training in the ancient Japanese discipline helped him develop powerful and explosive hip strength. To add to that is Machida’s bread and butter, his precision striking that comes from his mastery of Shotokan Karate. Much of Machida’s elusive style derives from sport Shotokan Karate. It is a common site at Shotokan tournaments to see two fighters on the balls of their feet bouncing back and forth with not much offense being landed. There is an explanation to this though, as the art emphasizes one hit disabling attacks to encroaching opponents. When you put everything together a considerable amount of time is taken into precision striking training. What’s the point of throwing punches in bunches when your two pin point strikes is enough to knock someone down?  It’s as if Machida has heat seeking missiles as fists. When you take this concept and adapt it to mma, you see a clear parallel between Machida and the art he mastered.            

     There is one ace in the hole for Shogun though. In Machida’s fight with Ortiz we did see two weaknesses. Weakness from inside the clinch and from the ground was made very apparent if you were observing the fight closely. Ortiz landed some good flush shots that visibly changed the expression on Machida’s face while in the body clinch. Meanwhile at the end of the third round Ortiz was able to lock in a triangle choke before releasing it. Shogun needs to capitalize on this and go back to working the clinch, something he has abandoned since making his octagon debut. If he can land some good knees and work into getting Machida on his back then he may be able to etch out a win, thought it’s a long shot. Unless of course he makes Machida fight his fight; which would be not giving his opponent room to bounce around and create openings and in turn making Machida become the attacker. You may want to ask yourself though, when have you seen Rua not press the action and attack? It seems the cards are stacked against Rua’s favor, giving up the obvious strength and skill advantages as well to add that his style fits perfectly with Machida’s.  It’s safe to say that Machida will be the victor on the 24th as the legend of the dragon will continue to grow after that night.

Written by Marcos Villegas

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