Lyoto Machida was, at one time, considered to be the human definition of the word “elusive.” Up until his last fight against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, nobody managed to catch Machida in a position that left “The Dragon” vulnerable to an onslaught.
Before suffering his first loss back in May of this year, Machida’s quick feet and rapid head movement made for a great defensive game plan through 15 fights. Unfortunately, the defensive strategy drew a great deal of criticism for “The Dragon.”
Unmarketable and boring were just two descriptions echoed by naysayers when talking about what Machida brought to the table. Even his pending opponent, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, has gone on record to say Machida causes him to fall asleep when watching film on the Japanese-Brazilian fighter.
What does this all mean to Machida? Nothing much, apparently.
“Everyone has their own opinion,” Machida said recently. “But my style made me a champion. Everybody (has) to keep to the style that makes them feel comfortable in the ring.”
It’s a fact you can’t argue against. For all the talk about Lyoto Machida and the snoozefest brought on by one of his fights, it doesn’t change the fact that this man walked through 15 opponents without losing a round. Not… one… round.
Not all fighters can claim to have scored a perfect card in a fight, let alone for a majority of their career.
Though it may not be the most appealing way to get a “w,” fighting smart is exactly what it sounds like. The fight game is just as cerebral as it is physical, and fighting without strategy is a quick way of filling up the loss column.
Before meeting Rua, Machida’s track record was as close to perfection as one can get in mixed martial arts. Perfection, however, can come with a price. Pressure can mount to the point where it can become too difficult to burden. The former light heavyweight champion says that he felt this burden leading into his second showdown with, now champion, “Shogun” Rua.
“I felt that there was a lot of pressure on my back because many of the fans had this aura of me being the undefeated champion,” explained Machida.
That aura was purely from the aspect of the fans. For Machida, the reality of being mortal rather than superhuman was something he realized and still understands to this day.
“I knew one day I could lose like everyone else,” he said. “Now, I feel like I’ve learned a lot from that loss and it’s taken a lot of pressure off my back.”
With one loss on his record, the former 205-pound champ now sees the ways of the game he remains a larger player in. It’s not as though Machida needed to lose a fight to understand this, but he put it very simply when he said, “part of this game is that you win some and you lose some.”
Nothing is perfect, and neither is Lyoto Machida. Perfection is nothing more than a family game developed by Milton Bradley in the 1970s.
UFC 123, however, is more than a game – it’s the event that will showcase a main event between Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson on Nov. 20 live on pay-per-view.