Machida's Mistakes/Shogun's Success (Long and gif-heavy)
So we all know now that a rematch is going to happen between Shogun and Machida. Since BROK« pulled out of his UFC 106 fight with Carwin (rescheduled to Jan. 2nd), it's even possible that this fight could replace theirs at UFC 106 (note that this is pure speculation, I haven't heard it reported or even rumored yet). So Lyoto Machida needs a gameplan, and fast. What did he do wrong at UFC 104? What did Mauricio "Shogun" Rua do right? Here's my opinion, for what it's worth.
(***Note that I'm no technical genius and have a total of probably 3 months of Muay Thai training. However, I've been boxing for a year and a half, been an MMA fan for 5 years and formerly trained for a loooong time in Tang Soo Do, aka Korean Shotokan***)
This mistake was so glaring to me, I'm surprised more people haven't been mentioning it. For (usually) having such great elusive footwork, Machida circled to his left, better known as "where Shogun's right leg lives" the entire fight. Let's watch the replays the UFC showed at the end of round 5.
Notice especially the leg kick and punch. In both cases, Shogun leaps forward with a wild left-handed fake. Machida goes for it, moves to his left and eats a tremendous front leg power kick and a stunning overhand right, respectively, for his trouble.
Shogun did this all night long, from the first round to the last, and had a lot of success with it. Mostly he used it to set up body kicks, which he landed at a decent rate. Machida continuously moved away from a jab or feint from the left hand, straight into an oncoming Shogun body kick.
To make matters worse, Machida's left arm was usually in no position to block a body kick. Instead, he usually tried to sweep the kick away with his right hand. This is a decent defense, particularly against straight kicks, when you want to catch the foot as it comes in. In this case however, reaching across the body to catch a roundhouse kick traveling the other direction proved to be ineffective. Making matters worse, naturally, was that Machida moved into the kick by circling to Shogun's right, giving himself even less time to parry the kick or catch the foot.
The solution to this problem is fairly simple. Machida needs to circle to his right, away from Shogun's power. This might also create a better angle for his left straight and left body kicks, if he can pull it off.
2. Head movement
I feel like maybe this is related to his footwork. Simply put, I didn't see Lyoto being confident enough to step to the outside (his right) of Shogun's left jab, and I'm wondering if it's because he lacks any head movement beyond forward and backwards. He's shown small flashes of it in the past, but only when leading with his arms. Note how he avoids Nakamura's punches to set up his sweeps.
He didn't do this at all against Shogun, and to be honest I think Shogun's power scared him. Look above to the gif during the last round, Shogun's wild overhand right that knocked Machida against the fence. Machida clearly respects that wild left-handed fake. Why? Compare it to a similar feint from Rashad.
The biggest difference I see, beyond respecting power or not, is that Shogun already had Machida backing up before he throws this feint. Therefore, Machida is not in position to counter with any power, and it comes back to footwork again. Shogun realized he needed to disrupt Machida's space with footwork before attacking, while Rashad tried to disrupt Machida with fakes before entering with footwork. We can see which one was more effective.
Coming back to headmovement, here's a gif that demonstrates the aspect of Machida's game that I personally always thought would be his achilles heel. This is from Machida's flurry at the end of the 3rd round.
Machida does a decent job of pressing the action here, and lands more shots than he takes. But look at his hands-down at his sides. Watch his head-it moves only forward and back, away from Shogun's punches and in when Machida is attacking. Basically, he gets away with it because he's attacking, and only sustains an attack like this when he thinks he's hurt (or can hurt) his opponent, but this is a recipe for disaster. The biggest shot landed in the entire exchange is the big right hook Shogun throws, which may have rocked Machida and caused him to initiate the clinch. If he's going to have success being aggressive at left straight chamber-punching range (his best weapon), Machida either must keep his hands up, or start moving his head side to side.
This was another downright uncharacteristic aspect of Lyoto's performance. Usually the 2nd most accurate fighter in the UFC (behind Anderson), Machida missed an unusual number of head power strikes (41 according to FightMetric), many of them straight lefts. As pointed out by Hesperus in the UFC 104 discussion thread, many of these simply bounced off a static guard from Shogun, missing his chin right between the two arms. Shogun's head movement while kicking had an impact too, however.
Notice Shogun's body kick from round 1. I can't tell if this is bad accuracy or poor targeting from Machida, meaning: did he intend to hit the chin and miss horribly? Or did he intent to hit the body, in which case it was a poor choice for a body kick counter? Either way, the punch did not hit its intended target (chin or solar plexus), partly due to the movement of Shogun's body and head while kicking. Shogun also follows up with a decently powerful punch to the head, highlighting Machida's lack of head movement or shoulder roll on the punching side.
Part of Machida's inability to counter Shogun's kicks (besides circling the wrong way) was Shogun's excellent kicking technique. Let's compare a kick Rashad Evans threw to one Shogun threw in the 2nd round.
This perfectly highlights what makes Shogun so damn good at Muay Thai. Although his boxing technique has never been excellent, look at how: 1. Shogun turns his body 180║ with amazing quickness, 2. Rolls his shoulder to protect his chin, and 3. Throws the kick with a bent knee in the perfect trajectory to catch Lyoto across the abdomen rather than on the side. In particular, Shogun's placement of the shin takes away all the power of Lyoto's counter. This is tragic for Machida, as it's one of the few times in the fight he's able to stand his ground and line up his favorite power punch accurately. Being Machida, he's quick enough to try and follow up with a sweep of Shogun's left leg, but the kick is so powerful that it's robbed him of the necessary balance.
Compare Shogun's kick to Rashad's, where Rashad gives away the kick with unnecessary motion, fails to turn his body quickly enough, does not roll the shoulder and aims for Machida's side rather than the front of his body.
Machida's Successes and Future Plans
A. What Machida Should NOT Do
Check leg kicks.
I realize this is crazy talk. The best defense against leg kicks is to check them, of course! The problem is, I believe lifting the front leg to check Shogun's kicks would disrupt Lyoto's stance an inordinate amount because so much weight is on Machida's front leg. He relies on that stance for power in his punching and in order to move quickly. Shifting weight to pick the front leg up is slow and invites punches to his face-undefended by his hands, which are down by his chest most of the time. Shogun would have a field day mixing up leg kicks with feints and following up with straight punches. It's a better idea to circle to the correct side and force Shogun to either reach with his right leg or take the time to switch stances and kick with his left. Both of these invite counter opportunities, either from being off balance, or the time it takes to switch stances.
B. What Machida Should Do
In my opinion, Machida's main success was highlighted in the rounds 1 and 2 gifs found above. In both of those rounds he was able to land multiple earth-shattering knees that Shogun took with characteristic stoicism. Still, I was surprised at how effective those knees were against such a good Muay Thai practitioner. In particular Machida's quick switching of stances before moving in during the 1st round gif seemed to put Shogun on the defensive and add power to the strike. Machida should think about using these knees (or faking them) to set up his left straight in the rematch.
Essentially, the rest of Machida's gameplan should be first and foremost to circle to his RIGHT. As mentioned before, this will set up his own left straight and left leg while avoiding Shogun's power side.
He also needs to make a commitment to keeping his hands up at least shoulder level at all times. Head movement would be great, but learning to accurately slip the correct miniscule amount while not exposing himself to headkicks against a great kicker like Shogun, all within the time Machida has before the rematch...that just won't happen.
Finally, I think Machida needs to be more aggressive with his foot sweeps and leg kicks. Even though Shogun likely has the slightly better ground game, looking for opportunities to kick out Shogun's plan leg can dramatically alter the power and commitment Shogun is willing to kick with. He can take a page out of Shogun's book here (Page out of Shogun...heh. Anyway) from the first round. I can't find the gif, but the first time Lyoto went for a head kick, Shogun calmly waited for the perfect moment, and hit Machida's plant leg with a powerful leg kick while covering up, taking away the danger the headkick posed.
In closing, I think this plan is workable in the month or two Machida will have to prepare for an already-confident, more-determined Shogun when they meet again.
Interesting evaluation. I always thought Machida looked ripe for leg kicks, but I assumed he was mobile enough to avoid them, or had some other advantages I had not seen. I'm hoping Shogun can bring a new bag of tricks and finish what they started come next time. Shogun should work on his clinch more as well, Machida might think he has an advantage there now, which he did seem to.
I think that would be a good idea, if Machida can take away the leg kicks. Hanging out in punching range is not something Shogun should be doing. Head movement or not, Machida hits too quickly and accurately to be allowed to get comfortable punching with power.
Originally Posted by shelbydeth
Interesting analysis, from it, it sounds like Machida can make adjustments and show some dramatic improvement. What about the flip side? Rua needs to put more together to win. What is your take on his next game plan?
Hm...this won't be as detailed or long. But I think first, he needs to assume Machida will fix his footwork mistake and circle to the correct side. If Machida doesn't fix that, Shogun has shown he has the tools to beat Lyoto at kicking range. If his corner hadn't told him he was winning so often, Shogun probably would've won in more dominant fashion at UFC 104, so it's plausible to think a more aggressive Shogun against a Machida with the very same gameplan and flaws might win in dominating fashion, or even win by stoppage.
Originally Posted by mike321
Assuming Machida circles to his own right side, I think Shogun should try to work knees and the clinch more. In particular, he should see if he can get Machida to react to kick feints with attempted counters (obviously Machida's going to work on countering leg and body kicks) and already have a punch or knee on the way.
Machida circling to his right also may make a single-leg on that side easier to grab, since he'll be moving closer to Shogun's lead hand. If so, Machida countered all of Shogun's takedown attempts in the first fight (except, briefly, for one in the first round), but didn't punish Shogun for them. Rua might be able to put Machida on the ground, or at least fake a shot to open up body, leg or head kicks.
Essentially, he should work off his first game plan, assume Machida has prepared for the things he did last time and mix in feints so he can counter. Adding in the threat of a serious takedown attempt, whether or not it actually works, is a good idea to keep Machida off balance. Luckily for Shogun, for all of Machida's speed and reflexes, his striking offense is fairly simple: Kicks to the head, body or legs from Machida's left are fast and powerful. His left straight punch to the chin is Machida's best weapon, but the same punch didn't hurt Shogun to the body. Kicks off the right leg, Machida usually needs to hop into, which slows him down. His right hand is mostly limited to a straight or lunching jab. His best strikes came from those lunging knees (with or without a stance switch), which, if Shogun looks for them, he might be able to catch Machida mid-step with a good leg kick.
Can you tell I'm pumped as hell already for this rematch?
Last edited by G-Off; 10/26/2009 11:45pm at .
Great post. I totally agree with you about it not being in Machida's best interest to start checking leg kicks. I think the adjustment would totally disrupt his signature rhythm. You also made a solid point in examining Lyoto's circling to his left. Bas made some similar statements on Inside MMA recently about his penchant for springing backwards and to his left and how that could be exploited.
Ooh...interesting. I always forget to watch Inside MMA because it's so damn long. Do you know which episode it was? I'm going to try to find it and watch it, if I can.
Originally Posted by Zaii
Indeed. Long and usually broadcast at odd hours.
Very recent show. The panel consisted of Roger Huerta, Nate Marquardt and Josh Thompson. There should be a few torrents up.
Good call! Just found and watched it, it's the October 23rd show. Bas, at around the 45-46 minute mark answers a fan question as to how he would train a fighter to face Machida. I'm paraphrasing here, but he basically noted that Machida always moves straight back and then to his left, and that (other than countering) his basic offense includes a right low kick, followed by a left straight, a left straight lead, or a left kick followed by a left straight. He noted that attacks from his right side can be countered because, due to his stance, there's not much power in them.
Originally Posted by Zaii
I would agree with Bas for the most part. There's a little more variety to Machida's offense than that (lunging knees, anyone?), but in essence it revolves around either leading or setting up the left side. Because he doesn't have a good lead hook, the right side isn't to be feared unless Lyoto switches stances or steps forward on his punch. Nice analysis by El Guapo.
So in a nutshell, lyoto's defensive problems are mostly due to his main standup art being karate?
it worked fantastically against rashad because he rarely kicks (although capable of it), but going backwards to avoid a kick means going back a long way when your opponent is over 6'