May 27, 2008

un·ap·pre·ci·at·ed – adj.

1. Not recognized, as to quality or worth: an unappreciated gesture of good will.

2. Not having risen in price or value

Lyoto Machida is an unappreciated fighter.

Lyoto Machida at UFC 129

Lyoto Machida at UFC 129

He’s intelligent and very technical. Machida may not always press the action, but he counters very well. He finds openings with his controlled aggression and is dangerous standing and on the ground. Machida has solid takedown defense and has an uncanny ability to spin out of a clinch. His unpredictability and unorthodox stance sets him apart from the rest of the light heavyweight division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and in the world.

The Shotokan Karate black belt’s style has been known to baffle his opponents, often leaving them flustered. Machida is undefeated as a professional and holds notable wins over Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar, B.J. Penn, Kazuhiro Nakamura, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and most recently Tito Ortiz at UFC 84. That’s an impressive list.

I personally enjoy watching Machida pick apart his opponents and completely frustrate them with his elusive yet unappreciatively dominant style. Unfortunately, that same fighting style has garnered him a bit of criticism. Of his 13 career victories, Machida has won eight of them by way of decision. Moreover, four of his five UFC appearances have resulted in unanimous decisions.

“He’s a boring fighter.” “All he does is run away.” “He needs to press the action more.”

Comments like these are abundant and are the main focus of his criticism. Those who were quick to write-off his performances as “dull” have yet to doubt the validity of his victories. He deservingly earned all of his wins without question.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Why should Machida steer away from the old adage and play into the strengths of his opponent? Trainers and coaches strive to create the best strategies for their athletes knowing the capabilities of the fighter. Lyoto Machida uses his natural talents to the best of his ability and implements them into his strategy for each fight. Is it really Machida’s fault for executing brilliant game plans that break his opponents down? Why aren’t his opponents criticized for being unable to overcome Machida with their strategies?

After five successful appearances in the Octagon, a title shot seems to be looming in Machida’s near future. So what if Machida becomes the 205-pound champion? Will the UFC have a dilemma on their hands? How do you market what some call a “boring” fighter? What should the UFC do?

The answer is real simple. Nothing.

Allow me to digress for a moment. When Anderson Silva demolished Rich Franklin and took his middleweight belt in only his second Octagon appearance, many fans were stunned. Some were simply in denial. I recall hearing trivial comments that were a bit shocking and appalling to me. One that comes to mind was “How will the UFC market a fighter who can’t even speak English?” After four successful title defenses, comments like that are mere afterthoughts.

I feel that the critics’ concern about Machida’s fighting style can be approached in a similar trivial manner. If Machida continues to win his fights in dominating fashion, he will market himself. Fans will learn to appreciate Machida’s style as they become more educated about the sport and about the disciplines involved. If the UFC truly feels that Machida would be incapable of drawing a crowd as a headliner or co-headliner, then they’ll likely supplement the fight card with other fighters to balance things out.

It’s understandable that people want to be entertained, but there is one thing that is being overlooked. Machida is only one man with a unique style. Critics have been ranting about Machida as if he had five more clones in the UFC. He is just one person. I don’t consider Machida a “boring” fighter; I find him very entertaining and I feel there are many more fighters out there who fit the “boring” description. He exemplifies what mixed martial arts truly is and it intrigues me to see if someone can eventually defeat Machida in the Octagon. The same intrigue could be said about Anderson Silva in his weight class.

I must admit that reading the recent banter and arguments about Machida has been rather amusing at times, but it really is an exercise in futility. For those who can’t appreciate Lyoto’s fights, simply don’t watch. Don’t spend your money if you feel that you won’t get your money’s worth.

Lyoto Machida’s style is his own. He is more than capable of putting on an exciting fight and has shown that he can finish his opponents. Lyoto doesn’t need to alter it to please others. In my humble opinion, there is more to “The Dragon” that we haven’t seen yet. His style will change when he finally faces opposition that can make him change.