(Photo Credit: REUTERS/Jason Silva)
Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Lyoto Machida will go down in history as one of the most exciting and unique fighters ever to grace the octagon. The third-degree karate black belt has some of the most creative and devastating kicks in the UFC, rivaled only by Edson Barboza and Stephen Thompson. Any kick from "The Dragon" has the potential to put an opponent to sleep in the blink of an eye.
After three straight losses, fans questioned if Machida still had what it takes to compete at the highest level. That though proved to be a false one as he came back with two consecutive wins, including a stunning knockout this Saturday night that ended Vitor Belfort's MMA career. The first round of the fight appeared to be a feeling out process, but in retrospect, Machida was setting up his knockout all along. He did not throw many punches but threw many kicks with his front leg to the body of Belfort. At the beginning of the second round, Machida wiggled that front leg to show Belfort that kick again. This caused Vitor Belfort to lower is hands. Machida took advantage and threw a front kick with his back leg that landed on the chin of Vitor Belfort and knocked him out cold.
This kind of intelligence from Lyoto Machida has led to highlight-reel knockouts over and over again. We will take a look back at some of the amazing finishes that "The Dragon" has given us over his years in the UFC.
The crane kick
Karate is often dismissed as an ineffective martial art in the MMA world. Lyoto Machida made a strong argument for the legitimacy of karate with a single kick. In 2011 at UFC 129, he had the honor of fighting Randy Couture in the legend's last fight ever. In the opening round, Machida threw just two kicks and gave Couture the impression that a boxing match was underway. "The Dragon" was clearly the faster fighter, hitting Couture with counterpunches that he opened up with his slick movement. In the first minute of the second round, Machida threw his first head kick of the fight. Machida fainted punches, faked a kick with his front leg, then threw a jumping front kick to the face of Couture that sent him plummeting to the mat to end the fight.
This fight was nearly a carbon copy of what we saw this Saturday night. He used the first round to show his opponent a false gameplan and force their defenses in the wrong direction. Both Couture and Belfort never saw the kick that knocked them out coming. His flashy style makes it easy to forget how high Machida's fight IQ is. Even fans and commentators can never tell what he is setting up before it happens. That type of intelligence along with an impeccable ability to find the chin of his opponents with powerful kicks gave Machida a legendary career that was rejuvenated this weekend.
Through the glove
We just talked about the intelligence of Lyoto Machida, so let's take a look at the power he has behind his kicks. The best example is his knockout of Mark Munoz in 2013. As expected, there was a lack of action to start this fight between two friends and former training partners. The most significant strikes were two body kicks from Machida that landed on the abdomen of Munoz. This was likely an attempt to get Munoz to lower his hands, but because the two had sparred countless times, Mar Munoz knew better than to fall for it. About three and a half minutes into that first round, Machida threw a head kick. Munoz got his glove up in time to block it and the kick landed right on his hand. Despite blocking it, Munoz dropped to the canvas, and the fight was over.
The kick that Machida threw was one we have seen countless times in MMA. The fact that Munoz blocked the kick with his glove and was still knocked out cold speaks volumes to the power of Machida's kicks. Aside from avoiding the strike all together, there was nothing more that Munoz could have done. That type of power mixed with his IQ and speed makes him a problem for any opponent. After the kick landed, Machida refused to follow up with another strike and opted to check on his friend to make sure that he was okay. This is the respect and class that Machida shows each time he steps in the cage.
Capturing the belt
We have all seen the face of Rashad Evans being knocked out by Lyoto Machida, but the brilliant striking of "The Dragon" is what led to such a devastating loss of conciousness. At UFC 98, two undefeated fighters squared off for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. The fight began like most Machida fights. The champion, Evans, took time to analyze the puzzle standing in front of him, aware of the dire consequences that come with a mistake. In the closing minute of that first round, Machida landed a left hand behind a knee that dropped Evans. The champion survived for the time being. In the second round, Lyoto Machida knocked the champion down multiple times with a flurry of punches and finally ended things with a scary knockout. to earn the belt.
This fight is a great example of the versatility of Lyoto Machida. He is known for his kicks but he won his UFC Title with crisp punching. He put on a clinic of movement and accuracy, lighting up Evans who was unable to hit the speedy Machida back. "The Dragon" proved to have some power in his hands as Evans collapsed and bent in a way that people are not supposed to bend. He showcased the ability of point Karate fighters to move in for a punch and out of danger quicker than most other fighters in the world. The versatility of Lyoto Machida along with his kick power, accuracy, intelligence, and respect for the sport will give him a place in history as one of the greatest and most unique fighters in the history of the UFC.
What is your favorite Lyoto Machida Moment? Leave a comment below.