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UFC 123 Machida vs Rampage: The Final Exam

 

For about three weeks leading up to the fight between Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida and “Rampage” Jackson all you would hear from MMA analyst is how Jackson’s non-technique would be defeated by Machida’s elusive style. In the fight it was very interesting seeing how their styles matched up. “Rampage” was on the move, straight forward, for nearly the whole fight. He was swinging wild hooks, most of them were air-balls but a few were effective. On Machida’s side, we saw a man coming off of his first loss, his first knock out and possibly the first time that his style was figured out. If you take all of that into account then his performance with the ultra-powerful “Rampage” is reasonable at this point in his career.

 

He used a more traditional version of the style that brought him to his impressive 16-0 record before the first Rua fight. He would counter a punch-movement from “Rampage” with leg kicks in the beginning. About halfway through the first round, after 4 or so leg kicks, Jackson started to take notice; he would move his leg out of the way and rush forward really quick with wild hooks and power punches, missing most of them. In the second and third round Machida really cranked up the “point-fighting”. When they would come at each other to exchange, whether Machida got a clean strike in or not, he would clinch up with “Rampage”, and usually end up against the cage. This strategy is one we’ve seen Machida use in the past, but not this often. He could have been trying to win rounds by pushing Jackson against the cage, but nearly every time “Rampage” would counter the position and put Machida’s back on the fence. It was fun to see the little technical battles in close between these two very different fighters, but it was clear that Jackson’s strength was winning the clinch exchanges.

 

Machida’s strategy of “throw little hand strikes, lots of kicks, and clinch often” was only flawed in its execution. On paper that would seemingly defeat the not-so-hard-to-figure-out “Rampage”, but where Machida messed up was being a little too reserved to exchange with the power puncher; which is completely understandable, but that’s the trust of the matter. Had Machida been more aggressive in the first round, included some punches, and made Jackson think a little more than just the times when Machida would kick his leg then he would have had more success in the later rounds. Especially in that third round when Machida had “Rampage” hurt and covering up, retreating. It was one of the first times I remember seeing “Rampage” in a position like that since his fight with Dan Henderson, about three years ago now. It was almost as if Machida became a little too predictable. If it weren’t for that fighting changing exchange in the third and the ground control that followed, I don’t know if the fight would have seemed as close as it was.

 

One of the best things about this fight, at least for the two fighters, is that it was very close. Obviously, it’s a “win” for “Rampage”, and those are good, but I don’t see it hurting Machida all that much. He’ll get a fight with another top guy next and he’ll have to adjust to whoever they put in front of him. “Rampage” was a really tough fight for him coming back from the Rua knockout. As for Jackson, he’s still in the mix at Light Heavyweight. I could see an argument that after one more win he could be in the title picture again. It’s no secret that if “Rampage” just works hard during training and comes in at 100% he is a handful for anyone.

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