by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
For the first time on Saturday night, two undefeated fighters will meet inside the Octagon with a title on the line, as UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans defends his title against Brazilian karate stylist Lyoto Machida. Neither fighter has tasted defeat and someone will have a blemish on his record once the night is over.
This is one of the more evenly matched aspects of the fight, as each is considered one of the top strikers in the light heavyweight division. The interesting part about both is that their striking mostly relies on the aggression of their opponents, using a counter attacking style to make their opponents miss and then fire back with effective strikes.
Machida has never been tagged with any serious strikes in his UFC career and will look to continue that in his fight with Evans. The thing that makes Machida so elusive is that his opponents seem to have a great deal of trouble dealing with his awkward Karate stance, which also gives him a great eye to see incoming strikes. He can throw strikes from any angle and his opponents have had a hard time guessing what’s coming at them.
Evans has vastly improved from being a rather one-dimensional wrestler from when he entered the UFC after winning the Ultimate Fighter 2 to becoming one of the best strikers in the UFC. Like Machida, Evans is a counter striker that has found success with his one shot power. The one thing that Evans should be careful about is the amount of shots he takes in order to land one strike, as he seemed to be bothered by some of the strikes that Forrest Griffin landed in his last fight.
GRAPPLING AND SUBMISSIONS
This is an area that separates these two, if only by style. Machida likes to utilize submissions and sweeps, while Evans plays a control game with his solid base of wrestling. Both seem to have an affinity to fight on the feet lately, so don’t be too surprised if the fight doesn’t see too much action on the ground.
Machida is a solid Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, but he doesn’t seem to use it much lately, as he has been finding success with his striking. If the fight were to go to the ground, expect Machida to be constantly working for a submission or a reversal to either get on top or back to his feet.
In the early part of his UFC career, Evans used his solid wrestling base to win his fights by controlling his opponents and frustrating them to the point that they make mistakes. Recently, Evans has been keeping his fights on the feet and not taking them on the ground. When he has taken them to the ground, he has finished with his devastating punching power from the top position.
This is one of the more interesting aspects of the fight because neither usually takes control of the fight in the early stages, so the opening round could be a tedious one to say the least. Both fighters wait for their opponents to make the first move and work off their aggression to capitalize on any mistakes.
Machida has always been very patient to start his fights. As the fight wears on, he starts to take over and controls the pace, dictating where the fight will play out. It will be interesting to see if Machida stays in character or breaks out and starts to be the aggressor from the start.
As Machida, Evans has used the same kind strategy, being the counter striker from the onset and then turning it up later in the fight. A perfect example would be his last fight against Forrest Griffin; he took some punishment the first two rounds and made an adjustment in the third, finishing the fight and winning the title. Whoever can take control from the onset will have a huge advantage, as their opponent will have to be the one who makes adjustments.
Outside of striking, this is the other aspect of the fight that both fighters are evenly matched. Neither fighter has ever shown any signs of tiring in the Octagon and it shouldn’t be any different on Saturday night.
Machida has gone the distance on many occasions and has never looked remotely close to being gassed out. Although this will be a five-round fight, he should have no issue with conditioning as he has shown in past fights that he is in top shape.
Evans has also gone the distance on several occasions and hasn’t shown any signs of losing juice in the tank. He has already prepared for a five-round fight in his previous bout, so conditioning shouldn’t be much of a factor for him either, as he should be in shape like always.
Something that could be a factor for Evans is the looming possibility of a fight with former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. They have an immense dislike for one another and Evans could possibly be overlooking Machida, as he looks forward to a showdown with Jackson.
Machida seems to be one of the most focused fighters to grace the Octagon. Another thing that can play into his favor is his newfound power that he put on display against Thiago Silva, something he hasn’t shown much of in his prior fights in the UFC.
This could end up being one of the more evenly matched title fights in UFC history, so don’t be surprised to see it go to a decision, as this should be a razor close fight.