Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida seemed to be peaking last Fall. He headed into his October matchup with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua having won all seven of his UFC fights, including a stunning TKO victory over Rashad Evans that won him the light heavyweight championship of the world. Now coming off of a controversial decision win, Machida looks to earn a convincing victory this Saturday evening and retain his world championship. Can he come out with an attack that will counter the leg kicks that Rua throws so effectively? As I mentioned last year, sometimes the line between "boring" and being "elusive" or "slick" is very thin. Machida often walks the edge of that line but he is, nonetheless, effective. He is stylistically a tough for any light heavyweight out there. His defensive skills are excellent and his instincts have been spot on thus far in his career. The guy just doesn't take much damage and usually seems able to pick his spots effectively and take control of fights. His use of distance and an offense predicated on timing is impressive, but his demeanor and ability to remain calm and focused might be his most impressive qualities. Machida has a professional record of 15-0 with five wins coming by way of knockout and two wins coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced so far in his career is 64.5%.
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When Mauricio "Shogun" Rua signed with Zuffa a couple of years ago, fans were both excited and certain that he would headline events and take part in some big fights. He had accumulated an impressive highlight reel of knockout footage while competing for PRIDE, knocking out multiple world class opponents. Then a funny thing happened. He was upset by a talented underdog in Forrest Griffin. Injuries would follow and many began to doubt that Shogun would be able to reclaim his status as one of the top light heavyweight fighters on the planet. In early 2009 Mauricio avenged one of his few losses with a 3rd round knockout of Mark Coleman and followed that up with a late first round KO of former world champion Chuck Liddell. The performance that "Shogun" put on in his failed title bid last October was impressive. He came out with an effective gameplan and used leg and body kicks to score consistently. His decision loss was controversial in the eyes of many. Rua has been one of the top light heavyweight talents in the world for years now. This Saturday night is a good opportunity for him to claim the # 1 ranking that many think he deserves. Rua has a professional record of 18-3 with fifteen wins coming by way of knockout and one win coming by way of submission. The combined career winning percentage of the opponents that he has faced so far in his career is 66.7%.
I've been waiting since last October to see this rematch. I give credit to Zuffa for immediately granting it to Rua. Given the standings of both of these fighters, and given the prestige of being the world champion at light heavyweight, this matchup can be considered nothing short of huge. Will Rua come out with the same effective attack of leg and body kicks that he used last October? Will Machida be able to make the necessary adjustments and take control in this one? My best guess is that we'll see another closely contested fight. "Shogun" is simply too good to not make a significant run in the matchup. However, I see Machida making the necessary adjustments to his gameplan to outscore Rua on his way to another victory. As Charles wrote yesterday, the 205 pound division faces some more interesting options with a victory by "Shogun". However, my prediction is Lyoto Machida by unanimous decision.