UFC Fight Night 36 Ex Post Facto: Machida, Mousasi, and the Brutal Chess Match

February 17, 2014
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Machida vs MousasiIn watching UFC Fight Night 36, one can’t help but notice the staggering disparity between the number of finishes versus the decision tally. There were two finishes – a submission by Charles Oliveira and a knockout by Erick Silva – compared to 10 decisions.

If you don’t have UFC Fight Pass, this probably wasn’t all too bad for you because the two finishes came on the televised main card, after a preliminary card that had all of its fights go the distance. And if you were on Twitter at all during the prelims, you probably saw the #NoFinishFebruary hashtag floating around out there.

Social media slammed UFC Fight Night 36. This fight card, combined with the previous card, UFC 169, totaled 24 fights where 20 of those bouts went to the judges to decide the fates of the fighters. You never want to leave in their hands, right? But the reason for not wanting to go to the judges in today’s MMA era extends beyond preventing the sense of being robbed by a judge; nowadays it’s about avoiding a public shaming.

Today’s MMA fan base eats up the sport for their enjoyment, and the word “decision” is like a garnish no one wants on their plate. Yet, without said garnish, the recipe has no balance.

It started with Georges St-Pierre and his consistent habit of fighting for 25 minutes towards decision wins from 2007 to when he stepped away from fighting (retirement?) in 2013. GSP was hammered and criticized in that run, which included, much like UFC Fight Night 36, two finishes to 10 decisions.

Out came the pitchforks.

GSP, however, built a reputation of putting the fight exactly where he wanted and not giving in to his opponent’s game plan, a trait few know how to accomplish and even fewer have mastered. It’s basically a technique like any other in martial arts, only it’s more cerebral than brutal.

Another guy who’s been on the receiving end of criticism for his strategy is Saturday night’s main-event winner, Lyoto Machida. He, in typical Machida fashion, worked to stay around the outside and move laterally to avoid strikes. The stat sheet might show that Mousasi landed more significant and total strikes, according to FightMetric, but the tempo of the fight was solely controlled by Machida.

For Mousasi, it’s safe to say that he put up a fairly competitive offense against a guy that moves far better than a majority of the UFC middleweights. Machida is a fencer, jumping in and out of striking range, lunging forward when the moment is right. Nearly every moment that happened, Mousasi made sure to hit him where it counted. His only problem was that Machida dealt it out just as much, while at the same time dictating the tempo.

Statistics like strikes, knockouts and TKOs don’t tell the entire tale of a fight. Although they can surely assist with determining who was the better man or woman in the cage during the fight in question, they can’t be the absolute metric.

The two implemented their strategies like generals on the battlefield, cautiously observing their opposition in an effort to find the weak spot and opportune time to strike. No field general with any sense would throw his entire arsenal all at one time, as is the case with Machida and Mousasi. Those who consistently throw all their resources in at once, always looking for a first-round finish through taking their opponent’s head off don’t last long in this game.

But let’s not give the impression that Machida and Mousasi don’t go for finishes. It’s not that they didn’t try to knock each other out on Saturday night; it’s that their opponents are good enough not to get caught.

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, like Machida, applied a game plan that worked for him during Saturday’s co-main event. Despite being outstruck in the second round, Souza controlled a majority of the fight and continued his process of establishing himself as one of the UFC’s upper-tier middleweights.

Shocker: Jacare won a decision.

With the dust settling, both Machida and Souza are calling for title shots in their next fights. But with middleweight champion Chris Weidman gearing up for a defense of his title against Vitor Belfort in May, Machida and Souza might have to wait in the wings for an opportunity at the gold.

While Weidman and Belfort settle their differences and recover from the war they’ll engage in this May, the better opportunity for Machida and Souza would be in fighting each other. That fight’s result would present the MMA world with a clear No. 1 contender, and the timing would land the winner a title fight some time in the late summer or early fall.

Since technique is so vital to their in-cage approaches, it’s likely that the Machida-Souza match may play out the same way Machida and Mousasi did: two chess players looking to king the other. If that’s the case, expect another 25 minutes of strategy mistaken for a snooze fest.

Another decision, another chess match, and that’s just fine.

(Follow @Erik_Fontanez on Twitter)

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  • TheCerealKiller

    Don’t tell me what to like! This fight sucked, just like most Machida fights. At least GSP used to move forward.

  • Alex

    Chess match LOL.
    You losers don’t know what you’re talking about. Chess match has checks and mates, and the aim is to destroy an opponent, to make him lose everything.

    Real fighters, technical or not, should take risks and go for broke in order to finish their opponent.

    • Assmonkey

      Alex, are you 12 years old or something? “LOL”? Really?
      And who do you think you are trying to tell us what UFC is and isn’t? It’s ok to not like a tactical fight like Moose and Machida had but why try and piss on everybody who actually enjoyed it?
      You know what they say about opinions right? And yours isn’t any better than anyone else’s.

    • Jeimuzujohnson

      You couch warriors all think you know it all. I bet you if you were in there against Gegard, you wouldn’t even be able to land one of the techniques Machida did. Machida, who by the way is a world class athlete and knows a lot more about how to become a champion than some loser who wants to see a brawl. Fans like you are the reason that I’m getting sick of MMA, a sport I’ve loved since the beginning. You complain about a fight like this, and it shows your lack of understanding of the sport and of martial arts. If you want to see a brawl, go to the bar and start one (when you’re old enough). Also, for the record – Machida has had 9 decision fights in the UFC and 8 that didn’t go the distance. You do understand that he’s fighting WORLD CLASS opponents? Again – I wish “fans” like you would just find something else and not even comment or watch MMA. You don’t understand it and you have no respect for fighters and martial artists. The sport is better off without you.

      • MuayThaiFood

        Couldn’t agree more. I’m not a Nascar fan myself (bores me to tears) but I liken fans like Alex to Nascar fans that are only there to see crashes.

    • gnodeb

      I think they should fight like their life and life of their families depends on it. Not like they popularity depends on it.

      I don’t think MMA is some kind of fashion. It’s a brutal sport where every mistake is paid with “life”. Just imagine. One loss and you are out.

      I’m not interested in overaggressive fighters with negative record. They look like they are not serious. They are not trying. They are just collecting paychecks and getting hurt in the process. That make me sad. I’m not entertained with it…

      So, YES, this fight was intense. They were both dead serious… They were going for kill but they didn’t risk they lives in the process.

  • james j

    Watching Machida for 5 rounds is a remedy for a sleeping disorder. He is like a classic politician (he avoids conflict).

  • Fightfankevin

    Machida is an exciting fighter ……. For about 2 seconds when he fashionably knocks out his opponent. Sadly you have to watch him dance, fake, and jump in and out for 3-5 rounds to get to that 2 seconds. Another Machida snoozefest.

  • MuayThaiFood

    I must have watched a different fight. Maybe you complainers should go watch some backyard fights on YouTube if you don’t like it.

    • Alex

      maybe you should watch your clown kickboxing, where pussies touch each other by gigantic gloves, and leave the REAL MEN sport to the fans who appreciate the fighting spirit.

      • jeimuzujohnson

        That’s the dumbest comeback ever. Being an idiotic fighter with no approach other than brawling is NOT fighter spirit. You have obviously never trained and know nothing about what it takes to fight and be a winner.

      • FightFan

        The ignorance in your post is astounding, and dustin jacoby isn’t fighting at the “ufc” equivalent level in Muay Thai/ kickboxing matches either, so his opinion about it feeling like sparring is completely moot. I’d like to see him fight a world top ten opponent in his weight class and see if he still thinks it feels like sparring. I also find it funny Alex how your view on fighting is so Neanderthal like yet you correct somebody on their spelling, LOL yourself buddy. But all your idiotic posts just make people shake their heads. Fighters like wanderlei silva (my fav fighter of all time) are a dying breed, and very arguably his career would last much longer then being in its twilight. I appreciate how machida fights because I’ve competed and have trained in Muay Thai for a number of years now. I GUARANTEE you’ve never done a single session of even hard sparring in a gym, total couch warrior. You’re entitled to your own opinion and that’s just fine- you keep being your dumb self

        • FightFan

          And Dustin has gone 4-3 in his kickboxing career, has lost his last two fights and is fighting people on the regional circuit i.e. nobody’s LOL what a joke of a reference to your argument

      • Bawlesssss

        Are you stupid or are you just stupid?

  • KingLettuce

    Why risk losing a title shot just to make the ‘fans’ happy? It’s his body and his career.

    • Alex

      No one promised him a title shot LOL.
      If he fights exciting, he will be given a shot. If someone fights more exciting than him, Machida will wait some more – and rightfully so.
      If he keeps winning and bore us fans, like Fitch does – one loss and he may get cut, like Fitch was.

      They fight for us fans first and foremost, then for the title. If we are not entertained, eventually he’ll lose money, salary, sponsors and everything.

      MMA is not just a sport: it’s fighting, first and foremost. A war.
      If they don’t like wars, they can go to hell. Or to kickboxing – maximum rules, huge gloves, short rounds, less chance to get KO’d.

      • MuayThaiFood

        Your an idiot and your post is nonsense. First of all mma IS a sport. Second, you obviously don’t know kickboxing. Peter Aerts has 79 wins by knockout. Jerome Le Banner 77 wins 62 by knockout. I could go on all day. If you weren’t so busy watching WWE and Kimbo Slice you might know that kickboxing can be pretty damn exciting. Last but most obvious is that the people who are going to decide if he gets a title shot are the ones that gave him fight of the night…think about it.

        • Alex

          “Your” LOL. English, do you speak it?

          Had “your” known a bit about your beloved kickboxing, “your” would’ve realized, that the KO there is not the same thing as KO in MMA (or real life, for example). They have that little bitchy count until 10, and if your hands aren’t up, you lose. Also they stop the fight after 3 knockdowns LOL – and they get knocked down easily from that lame ass baloon-like gloves of theirs.
          Also they have that many matches because it’s easier to kickbox and you’re more protected there by rules and short rounds. Read the recent interview with Dustin Jacoby, former MMA fighter and now kickboxer – he said that it feels like freaking sparring LOL.

          And it doesn’t matter if they give fight of the night to them or not – they were influenced by the fact that it’s a headliner and all that crap. Now they know how the fans feel, and it’s most important, and they will quickly change your mind, they’re clever enough not to be stubborn like you LOL

          • MuayThaiFood

            I’m typing from a real keyboard now and not my phone. Congratulations on catching “your” (word predictor…missed it). You’re still still not as smart as my phone though. Do you really want me to pick through that crap writing you are so proud of? Your last sentence is almost unintelligible. You seem to have an affinity for using commas where they’re not needed and then not using them where they are.
            I’m not making any claim that kickboxing is better than mma or vice versa, just that there have been some very good kickboxing matches with knockouts as brutal as any in mma.
            If I ever need an editor I’ll call you. Now go back to your cave, troll.

      • KingLettuce

        If he loses he gets nothing. And it’s a sport first and foremost, Fool!

        • Alex

          If he loses an exciting fight, he has more chances to get a title shot than a guy who wins a boring one, and you know that very well, so don’t feed us with your BS, eat it yourself LOL.

          And it’s a sport all right, but it requires the REAL FIGHTER spirit more than any other sport…duh
          Machida and Mousasi don’t have that REAL FIGHTER spirit – all they have is the stupid attitude of point collecting.

          • KingLettuce

            Ok, dum dum. Mousasi has 5 decision wins out of his 34. What a points fighter! Now Machida…well that’s just his style. Can’t say much about that.

  • InTheColosseumTonight

    I think one thing worth considering is that Machida landed a handful of strikes that would have led to finishes against most opponents (mainly the two, second round head kicks) Mousasi just absorbed them because he is a beast, he might be one of the toughest guys in MMA right now considering he has never been finished by strikes. This is a great piece of writing by Erik Fontanez to make a case for high level technical fights. I really loved watching this fight, however I was in a room with two people that hated it. I think that is about the right ratio of who likes this kind of fight, and as the author stated: “that’s just fine”.

    • Baller31

      Those strikes would’ve finished most opponents?? Purely speculative, and highly unlikely.

      • InTheColosseumTonight

        Although it is speculative to speculate that Machida’s second round head kick would have finished most opponents. I would say the likelihood is medium to high. It is possible to form a hypothesis based on the fact that Machida has finished with a high kick in his last fight against Mark Munoz that was completely blocked by Munoz. Since we now know Machida is capable of a head kick finish we can imagine that since he can knock someone out through thier hand, then he could also knock many people out with the same kick landing behind thier ear unblocked. I will email you when I get the results back from the lab.

        • Baller31

          Munoz has a glass jaw. Email me when you get off of machida’s nuts

          • InTheColosseumTonight

            the kick went through munoz’ guard and landed on the side / top of his head. are you implying that Munoz has a glass head?

  • Baller31

    Boring fight. UFC starting to look a lot like boxing.

  • Kenny Powers

    Idk what people are complaining about. That was an incredibly technical fight. The reason they couldn’t finish each other is because theyre both highly skilled. These aren’t 2 cans in there fighting, these are 2 very intelligent and experienced martial artists. The kicks Machida landed and some of the punches Mousasi landed would have put lesser fighters out. If u dont wanna see 2 world class fighters fight, then dont watch. 2 guys brawling in there like Varner and Trujillo is exciting, but they aren’t as skilled as guys like Machida and Mousasi.

    • Brian

      I agree 100% and it’s annoying that simpletons fail to realize that at this level the slightest mistake will spell the end. If people want to see reckless abandon then they should train for 2-3 fights / year, join the UFC, and risk everything just to be exciting. At this weight class Machida is not going to be overpowered like he was by Jones, so those who face him are going to have to figure it out. Mousasi hits HARD and Machida stood up to it. As fast as Machida looked, he took a shot for his trouble almost every time he closed. I actually think Mousasi’s chin is superior to Machida’s, but at 185 it’ll be hard to find someone with the power to put Machida out. This fight, to the trained eye, was an extremely strategic contest and it enjoyed it thoroughly. Can’t wait to see Machida again. And BTW, Machida has the 4th highest number of finishes in UFC history; the “lay and pray” designation is flat inaccurate.

    • Jason Priest

      Agreed dude. Great Fight. Machida is a technician.

  • Luis Arashiro Tengan

    Machida tried to test his groundgame, was looking for a submission in rounds 4 5

  • claudale

    Horrible fight. In the first round I realized I should probably go to bed and check in the morning that Mr Play it Safe himself would win by decision and that’s what happens

    Machita makes you chase him around the ring and every minute or two, he tries to catch you off guard with a flurry. If you don’t walk into his game plan, we end up with another Silva vs Cote situation where neither guy will come forward.

    • InTheColosseumTonight

      It sounds like you didn’t watch the fight, but typically Machida attacks stationary oponents and move laterally and backwards in defense. the style of karate moves in to strike and retreats in defense. Machida would have been in alot of trouble if he had stood in front of Mousasi, he looked like a powerhouse at 85.

      • Alex

        Who cares what he does in karate LOL
        This is MMA, not a point fighting sport – the aim is to beat the opponent, not to be untouched by him.

        Machida can go back to karate for what I care.

        • InTheColosseumTonight

          But he did beat him. the fight ended with machida on mousasis back, and clearly was trying to finish the fight. you should watch the fights before you post about them Alex.

          • Alex

            I saw the fight very well, and I could’ve fast forwarded it as well LOL.
            Had Machida been active the way he should’ve been, the whole episode should’ve happened in the third round, instead of the fifth one.

            He tried to finish the fight after waiting and waiting and waiting and not risking. Fans don’t have time and interest for that, and it’s fans they’re fighting for.

          • InTheColosseumTonight

            Idont think that all fans want the same thing. I enjoyed the fight, so I don’t see how you can talk about the fans. he was in Brazil, the arena loved the fight, if brazillians have the patience for soccer than they have the patience for a machida fight. I would argue that the fans in the arena where pleased with that fight. not all UFC fans are in USA with varying degreesof ADD

        • Alfredo Herrera

          “This is MMA, not a point fighting sport”….. really? stupid 10 point system liars!

        • Bucket of Chicken

          Like the rest of us fans care about your opinion. Maybe you can do better, tough guy.

        • Ian Price

          In all fairness, he gave Mousasi some devastating strikes, but Mousasi has never been finished due to strikes.

  • XIRand0mHeroIX

    These are the same kind of fans that would boo a really technical ground match for being boring because they don’t understand the beauty of making your opponent fall into a trap so you can take a limb or lock in a choke.

  • lowlb

    great fight, good match-up, totally boring.

  • Mr Holmes

    “two chess players looking to king the other.”

    Did you mean checkers?

    • Rence

      LOL I’m glad i’m not the only one who saw that. I was going to comment on it anyway, but i’m sure some would/will say it was a nitpicky observation when i think its totally valid.

      So he either meant checkers, or he meant checkmate. Either way, when writing a story you dont really want to mix up your game terms i would think…glad to see its not just me lol

  • diazfan209

    By the end of the 1st round it looked like Mousasi figured out how to attack Machida, but then he never reverted back to it. Mousasi’s corner f#^ked that up for him. You gotta communicate what’s working for your fighter in between rounds.

    • Aimed With “V”

      Are you Dutch?
      I wonder what Mousasi’s corner told him between rounds…

      It’s a shame, that they only have Portuguese translator.

  • Aimed With “V”

    TBH I saw Machida getting more effective during this fight, when he increased that aggression.
    He was busy and aggressive in the rounds 3 to 5, and these were the rounds that he won AND it was fun to watch.

    First two rounds were pretty much waste of time, neither landed anything significant and I don’t know who landed more, both rounds are 9-9 in my book and were totally expendable.

    So yeah, nice strategic fight overall, but they could’ve done better.
    However, if you start watching from the round number 3 it’s OK
    (maybe it should’ve been 3-rounder? Hmmm…)

  • fatbalddana

    God knows y the writer refers to it like a chess match to make it sound competitive and edgy. This doesn’t stand well with me. U got two highly competitive fighters, who both get paid well and hyped up as one would get a title shot if he wins. Well, it comes down to actual fighting when it comes to it and if they dont or wait for one to make a mistake, its rather disattisfying. If u combine any hits on target, its only up to 1 min for the whole duration of the fight. There were plenty of moves n faints but no action. Absolutely horrendous. Much worser than a sparring match and literally at walking pace. Shameful really. Worst still the ref didnt do anything, not even calling for action or verbally warn them. Oh man, the rule set sucks. This match was awarded the fotn, which goes to show that most matches on the card were boring. I could see fighter grinning out the round by pinning the opponent against the fence or on the mat, just to win the round cos it is judged that way. The ref didnt do a thing. Come on at least after 2 mins of hugging or rubbing each other against the groin, at least stand them up or call for action. Im sorry to say but lately the overall contents has been poor n boring during events. Carry on like this, with its high entrance fee n ppv, fans will start to shrink. Having a good org name or high profile fighter names do not constitute to entertaining or exciting fights. Having a good rule set helps to generate entertaining fights. Thanks God, not all mma org follow the same rule set

  • candelario

    typical Machida fight, nuff said

  • KJK

    Machida is the Fitch of standup.

    • Aimed With “V”

      Wow, what an exaggeration.
      Machida has finished 3 or 4 top ranked fighters during his career, comparing to Fitch’s none.

      • Ian Price

        Agreed. While Machida may be a little Fitch-like in his approach, he is definitely not the Fitch of standup