TALE OF THE TAPE: UFC light heavyweight fight should be a knockout

Two superstars will collide for the UFC’s world light heavyweight championship Saturday. The main event will be a classic matchup between two dynamic fighters.

Rising Dragon
Defending champion Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida is undefeated in 15 fights. Machida has received much criticism because eight of his previous fights ended in a decision. Many believe Machida isn’t capable of producing knockouts, hurting his appeal with mainstream audiences.

The five knockouts Machida has had were spectacular. Machida scored decisive victories over big names such as Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar, and an impressive win over then-undefeated Rashad Evans for the light heavyweight title.

Machida’s success has been credited to his slow and methodical style of fighting, stemming from his karate background. Karate is a discipline that stresses counters and taking a hit to deliver one. Machida, using a distinct style taught by his father, has popularized its use in mixed martial arts circles.

The result of this style is a more patient approach that delivers strikes accurately and uses counters to stuff an opponent’s attack. In addition to his karate background, Machida has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which has certainly become one of the more dominant fighting styles in the MMA world.

As patient and methodical as Machida may be, he has never had to deal with an opponent like Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua before.

Big in Japan
Rua started training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai kickboxing as a teenager before he began competing at the age of 21 in his native Brazil. Rua soon took his skills to Japan to compete in the respected PRIDE Fighting Championships, where he compiled an impressive 12-1 record. Of his 12 wins, 10 came via knockout.

While relatively new to the UFC, Rua defeated several notable fighters during his tenure in PRIDE, including Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Kevin Randleman, and had two dominating victories over Dutch fighter Alistair Overeem.

Rua could be seen as the opposite of Machida. Rather than utilizing counters to stop an opponent’s attack and wearing them out over time, Rua specializes in vicious kicks and knees, as well as the dreaded Muay Thai clinch. Of his 18 total wins, 14 have ended in the first round.

The place where Rua trained, the Chute Boxe Academy, has also produced famous fighters including Wanderlei Silva, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Fabricio Werdum and Strikeforce women’s champion Cristiane Santos. It is said that at the Chute Boxe Academy, fighters knock each other out on a regular basis during training.

Rua’s UFC debut was disappointing, as he tapped out to a rear naked choke at the end of the final round against Forrest Griffin. Since that loss, Rua has rolled over UFC Hall-of-Famers Mark Coleman and ‘The Iceman’ Chuck Liddell.

Fight Breakdown
As both men are dynamic strikers with respectable backgrounds in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, they will probably prefer to stay on their feet.

Rua will have a slight reach advantage in the fight, but it may be a moot point against Machida’s precise karate counters. He’ll also need to pace himself during the fight as his losses, with the exception of a TKO because of a broken arm, have come in the third round. Nine of Machida’s fights have gone to the third round, so Machida will be more comfortable as the fight drags on.

Likewise, Machida will have to keep an eye out for Rua’s kicks and avoid the clinch. Rua also has devastating knockdown power and is quick to drop bombs on downed opponents. If Machida goes down during the fight, his undefeated streak, as well as his title, will be in trouble. Rua will look to end the fight quickly.

The match is hard to call, but with his devastating knockout power, Rua may be wearing the UFC light heavyweight title soon after the bell has rung.

Prediction: Rua defeats Machida via knockout in the second round for the UFC light heavyweight title.

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