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Irresponsible Speculation Alert: What’s Wrong with Lyoto Machida?

(In a world without fences, Lyoto Machida could just back up and circle out of any situation. PicProps: ESPN.)

As noted in this morning’s Armchair Matchmaker, the last time we saw Lyoto Machida really look like Lyoto Machida was May, 2009, when he delighted GIF creators worldwide by making Rashad Evans go all googly-eyed while winning the light heavyweight title by second-round knockout at UFC 98. Though we joke about it, it’s worth pointing out that at the time Machida’s defeat of Evans capped a run of seven wins in the Octagon all dominant enough to prompt the UFC broadcast team to prematurely ejaculate all over the beginning of “The Machida Era.” Can’t really blame them. Dude did look poised for a nice, long run with the gold. Naturally, cue obligatory disappointment in 3 … 2 … 1 …

Since then (as you know) Machida has looked increasingly mortal in three consecutive appearances – a gift decision over Shogun Rua at UFC 104, the karmically-justified follow-up KO by Rua at UFC 113 and Saturday night’s split decision loss to Rampage Jackson at UFC 123, in a fight admittedly difficult to score because of its general shittiness. After watching Machida seemingly dry up and turn into a brittle, hollow husk of his former self during the last 18 months, is it wrong/unjustified to wonder aloud what the fuck is going on here? Was this guy just overrated from the start? Is he simply on a cold streak? Is something wrong with him? Obviously, it would be reckless and irresponsible for us to speculate … then again, reckless and irresponsible speculation is basically what we do. In light of that, here’s a few ideas (read: wild guesses) about what could be ailing the former light heavyweight champion … 

The jig is up …

This actually happens all the time in sports. A guy debuts and for a little while he’s just ridiculously dominant. Then – because the guys he competes against are also competent professionals – they start to figure him out. There is more tape out there for study, more hypotheses tested and proven right or wrong and just more information in the collective braintrust from which to draw on. At this point, do fighters simply know the blueprint of how to beat Machida? Rampage sure looked like it, using pressure to foil his unorthodox striking style, closing the distance while utilizing the clinch and a few takedowns to grind out the decision. Could it be that Machida’s early success was based on mere tricks and sleight of hand and now other fighters just have him figured out? Maybe. Also …

He’s fighting better guys …

Obviously, it’s impossible to explain away all of Machida’s UFC success – those wins over Evans and Thiago Silva still hold up pretty well – but it’s worth noting that his first four UFC fights came against guys who went on to establish a combined lifetime mark in the Octagon of 3-11. Another of his wins is over Tito Ortiz, and you know what that means. Is it fair to say after that 10 UFC appearances Machida only really has two quality victories in the promotion? Maybe. Maybe not, but once you consider the increasingly difficult competition coupled with a growing understanding of how to beat him, it could (maybe) help explain what we’re seeing now.

He’s physically or mentally hurt …

Machida hasn’t looked physically hampered in either of his back-to-back losses, but the interwebs were rife with conjecture about how he might respond to the first defeat (and first knockout) of his career at the hands of Rua six months ago. Can’t say we thought he appeared any different than normal at UFC 123. Honestly though, it wouldn’t be that surprising to learn Machida was doing some typical MMA fighter bullshit like fighting with a blown out knee/back/shoulder. Could there be something wrong him we just don’t know about? Maybe.

This is just his defensive style coming home to roost …

Clearly, Machida’s fighting style – while effective in early UFC appearances – walks a fine line between being coldly efficient and being a totally unwatchable disaster. At its best, “Machida Karate” or whatever he calls it is unorthodox, difficult to prepare for and frustrating to face. At worst, well, it’s pretty hard to win rounds when the judges just see you circling and backing up the whole time. The choice to pretty much exclusively counterstrike limits your path to victory and much of the crappiness of the UFC 123 main event came because Machida was waiting for Jackson to engage and Rampage refused to fall for it. Bottom line: You fight like Machida, you’re gonna lose some fights on points. Is it time for the guy to adjust and become a bit more of an offensive fighter? Maybe so.

It’s all about the training … 

Interesting to note that while Mike Goldberg assured us that Machida had trained at the Black House Gym in preparation for Rampage, there weren’t a lot of recognizable faces in his corner on Saturday night. Ed Soares was there, as were Machida’s brother and father, but many of his teammates were conspicuous only by their absences. No Anderson Silva, no Nogueira brothers and no Jose Aldo (who was in the building to receive his shiny new UFC title belt). Junior dos Santos later tweeted his disappointment at the judges’ decision, but was not on hand at the time. Should we read anything into that? Hard to say.

But look, given what we know about the Machida family’s love for traditional karate, would it surprise anybody to learn that he’s not exactly augmenting his training to grow and adapt the way a top-flight 21st century athlete should? Is it time to switch things up, take the show on the road? Maybe.

WTF are you talking about, idiot? He totally won that fight …

Fine, if you’re one of the people who scored the first and third rounds for Machida, that’s OK too. Clearly this fight could’ve easily swung Rampage’s way if a couple of judges’ pen strokes had gone in the opposite column. You know you just watched a hard bout to score when both guys emerge from battle thinking they lost.  If Machida would’ve eked out a decision over Jackson on Saturday night, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. On the other hand, win lose or draw would ignoring the chinks that have become obvious in Machida’s armor during his last three fights be to stick our heads in the sand and take no notice of what could be a big, big problem for him moving forward? Maybe so.  


  1. StinkFacer Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 10:38

    Machida needs to...uhhh.... stop sucking. If you wanna be elusive, be elusive. But try and mix a bit more offense than the occasional leg kick and the counter punch into it.
  2. ihateemo Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 10:45

    Feh, the talk of Machida being in trouble is overblown. He just took too fucking long to pull the trigger. If he'd fought like he did in round three he would have absolutely destroyed Rampage. The KO loss was probably why he was so cautious - Rampage has murder in his hands when he connects and Machida was most likely doubting himself after the way Shogun put his lights out. Plus even though he dropped a decision based on the ten-point must system, he clearly won the damn fight under PRIDE rules, based on overall activity, the strikes he landed and the submission attempts. It's not like he got blasted again. He just Okami'd himself. He'll be back, players. Sibbuh down.
  3. tp24890 Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 10:49

    You forgot the main problem: He has urinary tract infection. Not drinking enough of his own piss. Thats been altering his chemical inbalance
  4. cecils_pupils Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 10:50

    this reckless, irresponsible speculation will not stand!
  5. RwilsonR Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 10:54

    Chad, I know how much you dislike the guy, but could it be possible that you are still totally underestimating Rampage? I thought Rampage was the reason Machida looked bad. I thought the way Rampage came out, his aggression, his speed, his accuracy, and his power all made Machida revert to the 'elusiveness' we used to see out of him becuase he didn't want to engage with Rampage. Although it was a shitty fight, that is largely because Machida refused to engage on the feet, and Rampage can't engage on the ground. But that Rampage was able to make Machida look so bad I think is more of a statement to how good Rampage looked on Saturday than it is on wheher Machida has changed in any way. That Machida is still so good is the reason he wasn't knocked out, where Rampage would have done that to a lesser fighter. Although, I could very well just be pumped up about the 'old Rampage' from hearing the Pride music...
  6. MonsterMaulingAss Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 10:55

    Im sorry but this is ridiculous, his losses came by SHOGUN RUA and RAMPAGE JACKSON 2 of the best 205ers on the planet! And BOTH fights were highly competitive(yes i enjoyed the fight with rampage). We have seen Lyoto has the ability to be competitive with and beat any light heavyweight in the world, its not like he got his ass handed to him in either fight as his battle with shogun was very competitive until he got caught. Yes machida will be fine, Yes rampage won that fight, NO rampage is NOT a washed up fighter who got lucky, Yes im sure lyoto is training hard, Yes im sure lyoto has a bright future in the sport still ahead of him, and YES im sure that future will be riddled with legendary fights with the top 205ers on the planet. Enjoy the dragon while we still have him, appreciate our fighters and their capabilities.
  7. RwilsonR Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 10:55

    @ tp24890 - Good call. I think he had a urinary tract infection in his throat.
  8. MorningwoodII Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 10:59

    To me it's hard to win backing up the whole fight. I agree that he was tenative because he was worried about getting hit by Rampage. It wasn't until he thought he had to engage to win the fight in the 3rd round that we saw any kind of "offense" from Machida. He probably thought after the fight, if I had only engaged earlier..... I think if he had he may have been able to stop Rampage. But, he didn't and in my opinion Rampage won the fight. But, I wouldn't change anything other then learning to push the fight if the other guy isn't going to. I was frustrated that Machida didn't employ the Griffin tactic of kicking the hell out of Rampage's legs. Which would have probably given him the confidence to engage and push the fight.... oh well, easy to say with out an angry Rampage in front of me.
  9. MonsterMaulingAss Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:01

    @ihateemo If he'd fought like he did in round three he would have absolutely destroyed Rampage. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- I dont think so, it would have been a more competitive fight though. In that round when Rampage started to flurry back, and then got took down, and almost got a slam i do wish the whole fight would have went that way, but it would have more than likely got lyoto KO'd IMO.
  10. Stak40 Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:04

    I think what happened to Machida was a combo of things. I think fighters realize that you cant fight Machida from the outside. You have to get close. I think Machida realized his game isn't on the inside and trying to take the fight to Rampage is just stupid and will end up like the Shogun fight. I think both fighters executed their gameplans and Rampage won. Simple as that. If there was a rematch i think it could go different. I think Machida knows (based on the third round) that he can engage a LITTLE more with Rampage because he is quicker and possibly catch Rampage making a mistake. In all honesty I am not overly impressed with any of the LHW fighters. Shogun isnt the Shogun of old, Evans looks like he completly forgot how to fight, Forrest...where the fuck is Forrest, Rampage is slowing up and like my boy told me he cant be as effective as he was in Pride because of the rules and Machida will never be exciting and can't run forever. Jones, Bader and Davis are all coming up the ranks but have yet to be proven. Maybe they are the new faces of what i feel is a dwindling LHW division.
  11. Goog Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:05

    Look, I get all the talk here. It's something to talk about when nothing else is going on. But seriously... call it like it is. Machida does not "suck". You can't fight all the time and NEVER get hit. But he still takes less damage than anyone around. Karate also teaches discipline and patience. If he went nuts throwing those flurries all the time, he's be called reckless. A cobra doesn't just flop all over the ground snapping it's jaws hoping to catch something... it stares a hole in you then bites you once and it's over. Just like Machida watched for openings and obviously didn't see many he liked. But everyone has seen what happens when he does. He's surgical, lightning fast and it's big trouble for the dude across from him getting the Hundred Hand Slap. I don't know.... I just don't have a problem with his "style". It's proven to work for him a lot given his record. Yes, the point system is a gamble after the final bell, but so is bullrushing a guy and jumping into a guillotine 5 times per round. Lyoto's a good fighter and he's in the cage with the top guys nowadays. Arguing that he has to try and finish a fight? I kinda think he's always got that in mind anyway. But I'da been just as entertained watching him use his sniper style versus the shotgun approach. It's a different skill and I guess I'm one of the few who appreciate the differences. Regardless, he's still a badass. Ask the guys he's beat. Or hit. They'll be the last to say he sucks.
  12. echoxer0 Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:08

    i cant believe u used that word... u cracker
  13. SnallTrippin Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:09

    I think Machida won if only because of the third round - which is the only interesting shit really. But still horrible fight and he needs to learn to attack...I really do think he'll learn to do this and be a truly interesting fighter in the coming years...probably
  14. RSparrow Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:16

    The answer: The man is overrated. Remember when Liddell was in the division, and knocking everyone out. THAT was exciting. I said it once and I'll say it again, these 205'ers aren't exciting. The division is all about decisions, and it shouldn't be like that. We need someone to take over that division and FINISH each and every time. I'm thinkin' Johnny Bones....
  15. RwilsonR Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:26

    @ Goog - I get your point, and agree with it concerning Machida to some extent. I would never say he sucks. In fact, I think he is still one of the best out there. But not the way he fought on Saturday night. He wasn't a sniper in that fight. He refused to pull the trigger in the first two rounds at all. You simply cannot stay out of range the entire time and not even try to throw a single counter. Not saying you need to brawl, but you do need to fight. You cannot patiently wait for an opening, let 5 minutes roll by and the bell goes off, and then just shrug your shoulders and say that the opening never presented itself. That isn't fighting. That isn't even a points match.
  16. IsnappedYourarm Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:30

    Machida is just average. He is a step above Thiago Silva. THats about it. Remember the Machida era? lol
  17. Goog Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:39

    @RwilsonR Agreed. 100%. You can't do nothing and I did get eager for him to even throw a leg kick with bad intentions, but he just kinda slapped at him a little. I'm fine with even giving him a round to watch Rampage move to get a feel and then act on it in rounds 2 and up. But I saw him defend well when pressed and think it's too bad he didn't give even 10% more in each round. As close as it was, even Rampage thought it likely came down to aggression and not so much strikes landed and that little bit extra could have even pulled it out as a draw. As it was, he gambled and lost this time. But, hey... as we've seen... he's capable of anything against anyone and I look forward to his fights. And to his benefit, he's not taking 150 punches in the skull per fight like the old school Chuck Liddell and he's gonna be better off when this whole fight game is over for him down the road. He's smart and talented, no doubt. But to stay in the money-making limelight section of the PPV cards, he needs to occasionally go for it and add to the highlight reel.
  18. SweetAfflictionShirt Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:43

    Machida is going to win his next fight and then everyone is going to be screaming about how he is totally back. funny thing, these sports where you only compete a handful of times a year... However, anybody remember Hideo Nomo of MLB? Unorthadox Japanese pitcher who went from unhittable future of pitching to that weird throwing guy who everybody crushes in like 2 years? There is a reason why fundamentals are fundamentals...
  19. ubidoob Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:54

    Anyone else notice Ed Soares super sexy "HD WrapAround" sunglasses in that picture? He makes retiree sunglasses look hip and youthful. Ed probably sees things in Lyoto none of the rest of us do right now because we're not watching Lyoto drink pee in HD like he can...
  20. just some dong Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 11:59

    More leg kicks and clinch offense would have helped Machida in that fight. He caught Page with a good leg kick in the first that staggered him, and I thought for sure that more kicks were coming... but nope. He kept reversing and controlling the clinch, which surprised me, but he didn't really utilize the position to score points or wear Rampage down. All credit to Jackson - he looked like the guy who walked in and KO'd Liddell. I believe Rampage's fast and rangy punch combos really threw Machida off - Machida was likely banking on being the faster striker. When Jackson slowed down in round 3, Machida started to take control. If this had been a 5 rounder... ?
  21. El Guapo Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 12:17

    Lyoto was as defensive as they come prior to getting KTFO(and I mean knocked the f'k OUT!), so what did you expect would happen after? It's not that he's overrated, not that he got exposed, not that the end of the world is upon us. It's pretty simple, actually. Let's ask Coach Green waht he thinks about Machida. "HE IS WHO WE THOUGHT HE WAS!"
  22. Yazloz18 Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 12:19

    Rampage looked better than his performance against Evans and when Rampage cares he is dominant. I still think Machida will have success in the UFC but he has two losses to a super determined Shogun and a Rampage who actually gave a shit, no shame in either of those
  23. danomite Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 01:00

    Maybe his problem is that he has a douche manager who won't or can't tell him what he's doing wrong. Ed Soares says he has rewatched the fight from every possible angle and just can't fathom how two judges could possibly give rampage those first two rounds even though he landed twice as many strikes as Lyoto in each round. He then tries to justify the judges ignoring Lyoto's lack of aggression simply by saying "that's not his style". As if the judges are not supposed to reward aggression and octagon control in Lyoto's fights just because that's not how he fights. This is the same guy who still says Lyoto won the first shogun fight too, even though Lyoto could barely stand or breathe at the end of the fight from all the damage shogun did to his legs and ribs.
  24. omunto Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 01:21

    Did anyone else notice Machida pushing on the bump above his belly button over and over before the fight. My friends and I were thinking maybe he had a hernia. It looked similar at least. Not an excuse just something that I was curious if anyone else saw.
  25. LOKI Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 01:31

    The worst thing in the world that could happen to a fighter happened to him right after he won the title... He went and got himself civilized; started wearing fly-ass suits going on long exhausting media tours, hanging out with the'Glimmer Man'. He needs to get back to his Samurai roots and go into every fight as if he were already dead. That and realize that he is as sick on the matt as he is on the feet and can pretty much take the fight there whenever he wants.
  26. RwilsonR Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 01:36

    @ omunto - I did notice that, but I just thought it was some sort of breathing technique. Never thought about a hernia... Although, I would think Soares would be the first to be screaming about a medical excuse to the whole world if Machida did have one.
  27. halfbreed23 Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 01:54

    Back to back losses to Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson? Really? At least you qualified it with "Irresponsible".
  28. The Oracle of MMA Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 02:20

    I believe I may have a plausible explanation. By now we all know Mr. Machida drinks his own urine. While this is normally a relatively safe practice I propose that it is negatively effecting the brazillian. How can I contradict myself like this and expect anyone to take me seriously? Well here's how. Mr. Machida has spent a considerable amount of time away from his home and regular source of drinking water and food. drinking his own urine has been safe for him for years but I believe he may have been exposed to environmental toxins that in such small amounts normally don't harm anyone since they expel these toxins in their urine. Lyoto has been putting them right back into his body. Every time he does this the normally minuscule amount increases slightly while he is near the source of the environmental toxin. Wouldn't something show up on one of his drug tests? No since those tests only look for performance enhancing drugs. The toxin won't be found unless he is tested to specifically search for the toxin.
  29. agentsmith Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 05:15

    I guess Shogun knocked the piss out of him. See what I did there?
  30. Nut Puncher 9000 Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 06:01

    Im going to deck the next asshole that says Machida is "Elusive". Standing in the pocket and still not being touched...elusive. Standing barely in kick range and endlessly circling is not elusive. WHEN KALIB STARNES CIRCLED everyone stomped his image to pieces. Watch Kalib's notorious track meet and then watch rounds 1 & 2 of Machida/Rampage. At least Kalib was injured... Fuck Machida. He is worse to watch than Jake Shields imo.
  31. Ballkick Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 07:43

    I wish I cared :-/ My best guess: He been channelling the spirit of Kalib Starns.
  32. Copier Guy KY Says:

    Mon, 11/22/10 - 08:40

    Whats wrong with the guy? Nothing. He is just on tape now with a lot more footage. Fighters figured him out.
  33. stopdrinkingpee Says:

    Tue, 11/23/10 - 12:45

    Solid work here, CP.
  34. Dagnut Says:

    Tue, 11/23/10 - 01:50

    Anderson Sliva has 2 fights in him, If I was Machida I'd be dropping to decent strikers there and physically it shouldn't be a problem he's not naturally a big guy. He won't win a belt again at 205, he could definitely win one at 185.
  35. JWM Says:

    Tue, 11/23/10 - 01:54

    It's the pee.
  36. Dr. Cagelove Says:

    Tue, 11/23/10 - 02:25

    Machida really had that fight to lose. He showed in the third round that he can choose to fight and win rounds. The biggest thing about his style is that it doesn't create opportunities independent of the opponent. He needed Rampage to make a mistake. Since Rampage didn't feel like giving the fight away he got to win by default. One of the judging criteria is aggression. Lyoto could have received an 8 point round in the first for not only running away, but choosing not to be aggressive. Another thing Rampage did very well is keep Lyoto outside the black octagon line in the ring for most of the fight. Lyoto could only circle and not move backwards.
  37. Lyoto Machida considera bajar a las 185 libras para enfrentar a Dan Henderson Says:

    Fri, 01/27/12 - 12:18

    [...] Un duelo entre la leyenda Dan Henderson y el estilo de Lyoto Machida sería muy interesante de ver en el futuro. Imagen via: cagepotato [...]
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