UFC 123 Fight Card: What Lyoto Machida Needs To Do To Beat Quinton Jackson
"It's not if you fall down, it's if you get back up."
Many champions tell themselves this when they finally lose their belt and they look for ways to get back up.
In team sports, you often see this happening when a player gets traded or when a coach/coordinator gets fired and someone new comes in to help the team.
In Boxing and in MMA, you sometimes get the same, but you often don't see a return to form until the former champ beats some solid competition.
In the case of Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida, that's what he has to do this Saturday at UFC 123.
He has to beat Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and he has to do so convincingly within the first fifteen minute time limit that he's seen in his career since beating Thiago Silva for what was a potential shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight title.
Even still, Rampage presents problems on the feet and the ground.
Rampage may be able to take Machida down at will, even if Machida defends, and he has made it clear that he's a changed man since Rashad Evans edged him out at UFC 114, so he's letting his talking come with what he aims to do to Machida.
That said, I see one clear way that Machida's striking could actually prove more effective than Jackson's, and a lot of that logic stems from the footwork of the former champ.
You know how Machida has that counterstriker-type of fighting style — the style where he's usually an evasive fighter that likes to frustrate opponents into coming forward, which is usually Machida's most opportune time to land the straight left — the same straight left that did in Rich Franklin back in Machida's early days?
Well, being evasive and moving like Machida does didn't help too much against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, but against a guy like Rampage who is a good stand-up fighter but not a fast striker as much as he is a powerful one, Machida's hit-and-run strategy may prove both useful and effective.
His "masterful technique" comes from his defensive-yet-effective style, which has always been the type where Machida tries to take the least amount of damage possible while inflicting the most damage possible to his opponent, and that's what MMA has been about.
Machida needs that footwork and that movement to frustrate Rampage, and if he can rock him, that's all the more better.
Another major question is Rampage's conditioning as of late, and this is where the key to the fight lies.
Rampage may have rocked Evans at UFC 114, but that third-round rock was really the only offense he had for Evans, who just took him down and controlled him for three rounds.
In short, Rampage didn't look like the Rampage who wanted nothing more than to wreck Rashad Evans.
I don't know if we'll see the Rampage of old, but if Machida can exhaust Rampage's gas tank for fifteen minutes, all the while hurting Rampage on the feet, then we will have seen Machida take his first step towards a trip back into the UFC Light Heavyweight title scene.
It's not going to be easy — no fight against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson ever is.
On the other hand, though, no fight with Lyoto Machida has ever been an easy fight either.