I had earlier written a brief post criticizing Machida's performance against Rampage at UFC 123. As I pointed out then, I have always been a Machida fan but I considered him to be too elusive in his last outing, effectively stalling most of the fight by backpedaling for the majority of it. But I won't feel right unless I clear it up, whether anyone reads this or not or if anyone cares, I need to express my recantation in the same manner I expressed my initial criticism. I was wrong. Sorry, Machida.
Evidently I only partially understood, but I understand now -- the thing about Machida, what makes him so good yet at the same time brings him criticism, is that he eludes so well that he shuts down the momentum of his opponents, nullifying their flurries or attempts to cut him off and cut him down. Just as Rampage's style is to move forward, Machida's is to move backward -- not running away -- but moving around his opponent, jumping in and out, attacking at the best and most efficient opportunity. He shuts down his opponents without even hitting them, and when he eventually does hit them he makes something out of it.
You see him explode with knees to the solar plexus or to the liver, with hard and fast kicks to the legs, and perfectly timed and precise straight punches right on the button, just like he did to Rampage, stunning him immediately, causing him to reel back and fight desperately to defend himself.
The way he fights is almost like a fencer, parrying and maneuvering, bouncing in and out, and exploding with an attack when the opening is clear. He's highly efficient. I always liked him for this reason because he's not your typical stand and bang kind of fighter. He fights smart, he avoids damage, and when he dishes it out he makes sure to make it hurt.
As the audience we may sometimes feel like he's not making a fight out of it, but he is, he's not only fighting, he's dueling, with class and elegance. The reason he may be frustrating to watch is because, as in a typical fight, we expect to see impact, strikes landing, fighters getting hurt and combos connecting. But he shuts down the combos before they even start, and as viewers -- even to the fighters themselves -- it is frustrating. But I made the mistake of letting my frustration override my respect, and now that I've seen the light I appreciate him so much more.
Note: To you guys who remained faithful and stood by his style, particularly Judomania and Shonuff -- you were right.