The first time viewing Lyoto Machida fight was at Sports Bar in Peterborough Ontario back in December 2007. I remember that day fondly because of the fact that I did not pay very much attention to him; after reading on his opponent Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and his winning streak, I automatically assumed that this was going to be a short match. As I was busy socializing with my friends, I neglected to see that Lyoto Machida (who was much smaller than Rameau physically), was not only winning the fight; he was confusing Rameau to the point that he had no clue how to handle him. The next minute I turned around to see Lyoto Machida’s hands raised in victory, and Rameau lying on the ground; I couldn’t believe what I saw but all I was thinking was “how could this possibly happen?”
Fast forward to April 2008, after work I decided to view UFC matches on YouTube. As I was passing through the list of matches to view, I finally found the Machida vs Sokoudjou match that has eluded me for so long, so without any hesitation I chose that match to view. I can safely say after watching that match again, it made the pain of ignoring it back in December so much worse; I concluded after watching the manner in which Lyoto dissected and eluded his opponent, eventually hitting him a strike that sent him on the ground and eventually making him the victor, that this was the best MMA fighter I had ever seen. For the next month I watched that match everyday to understand what he was doing, his movements, his fighting style. The match was so influential to me that I decided to go back and study the Martial Art that eluded me for so long, Karate. Till this day I am still a Karate practitioner and I credit that match and Lyoto Machida for showing me the beauty of traditional Martial Arts, but more importantly the effectiveness of it in a modernized Martial Arts.
Perhaps to understand this we should begin by understanding his fighting style. Lyoto Machida comes from a Karate background, to be more specific, the style is called Shotokan; Shoto (pronounced as ‘Shooto’) meaning “pine-waves”, and Kan meaning “house” or “hall”. Like many forms of Karate (ie: Goju-Ryu, Wado, Uechi-Ryu, Shito-Ryu), Shotokan originated in Okinawa before it was occupied by Japan; the name of the founder was the legendary Gichin Funakoshi. What makes Lyoto Machida very distinct from other fighters, is the fact that his style of fighting is as traditional as one can be, unlike Freestyle Karate he employs very fundamental techniques instilled by Gichin Funakoshi; yet he is able to incorporate these techniques with other forms of fighting such as Boxing, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Sumo Wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As matter of fact, his father the legendary Yoshizo Machida, is from the same lineage of the great Funakoshi. In Karate there are three distinct parts; Kata (forms), Kumite (sparring), and Kihon (basics). Lyoto Machida implements all the parts when he fights in the Octogon, but much of what he does is based on Kumite; the key to Lyoto success in Kumite and in MMA, derived from the other parts that he has spent over 30 years perfecting. When Lyoto Machida fights he is employing a strategy which is very unlike what MMA fighter were accustomed to seeing when he debuted to the UFC in 2006.
For the next part of Lyoto Machida 101, I will breakdown the strategy he employs, from his stance to his movements.