MMA Live Extra: UFC Fight Night Preview
MMA Live previews Lyoto Machida vs Gegard Mousasi and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza vs Francis Carmont.
The performance against Evans on May 23, 2009, which resulted in a second-round knockout, was virtually flawless. Machida showcased the best aspects of his game, and he did it against a fighter who was unbeaten at the time.
In contrast, the fight against Jackson on Nov. 20, 2010, illustrated the worst parts of Machida's game: namely, his conservatism. He was dormant in the first two rounds before coming out to dominate the third. Two judges scored it 29-28 for Jackson; the third scorecard read 29-28 in favor of Machida.
Immediately after, Jackson admitted in his postfight interview that he thought he had lost. Most likely, that was because it was pretty clear to everyone by the end of the fight that Machida should have had the upper hand. But he sat around in the first two rounds.
It would be unfair to ignore that the loss to Jackson was Machida's first appearance after being knocked out by Mauricio Rua at UFC 113. Mentally, that type of loss can take a round (or two) to move beyond.
We all know by now, though, that conservatism has had an equal stake in the highs and lows of Machida's career. Even in victory, he has received criticism for a style that can invariably produce close decisions, with limited offense.
In his most recent fight, as a debuting UFC middleweight against Mark Munoz in October, holding back offensively wasn't an issue. Machida was active and knocked out Munoz in the first round -- his first opening-round finish since January 2009.
Machida doesn't need to completely throw caution to the wind -- and he never will, as his elusive style is presumably thoroughly ingrained in him by now. But when Machida is willing to open up, we've already seen proof it can lead to a UFC title.
Maybe it will lead to one at 185 pounds this year.
Lyoto Machida (20-4) versus Gegard Mousasi (34-3-2), middleweight
Odds: Machida -250; Mousasi +210
Breakdown: The difference in the level of competition these two have faced in recent years is impossible to ignore.
Machida's past five opponents were Jon Jones, Ryan Bader, Dan Henderson, Phil Davis and Mark Munoz. For Mousasi, that list reads Keith Jardine, Hiroshi Izumi, Ovince St. Preux, Mike Kyle and Ilir Latifi.
If iron is the only thing that sharpens iron, Mousasi must be pretty dull at this point. That's not to say he has never fought anybody of significance, but he'll be adjusting to the playing field here.
Stylistically, Machida has the advantage. He moves well and utilizes the entire cage. Mousasi is relatively flat-footed. He'll cut off the cage with his exceptional jab, but he lacks the desired hand speed for this matchup.
Machida tends to struggle against a kickboxing style far more than he does against a boxing style. Mousasi has decent kicks, but he relies on his hand combinations and straight right. Machida wants to stand, and it's doubtful he'll give up a takedown.
Prediction: Mousasi won't fall victim to the "get frustrated and charge at him" thing. He'll plod forward, calmly and tactically set up his range. But against Machida's speed and elusiveness, that will be hard to do. MACHIDA BY TKO, SECOND ROUND.
Ronaldo Souza (19-3) versus Francis Carmont (22-7) , middleweight
Odds: Souza -470; Carmont +375
Breakdown: The name of the game for Carmont in this fight is damage control.
On the feet, use length. Establish an outside fight. Score with the jab and keep the distance with kicks and lateral movement. On the ground, neutralize Souza from top position and win the scrambles. Eat up the clock like it's your birthday cake.
That sounds great, right? "Neutralize" Souza on the ground. How realistic it is -- that's up for debate.
Carmont is more athletic than he gets credit for, and while his grappling skills aren't on par with Souza's, he's not an easy mark on the ground, either. Again, if he can limit damage and stay out of trouble, an upset is possible.
Prediction: Too much firepower in Souza's arsenal. Depending on what happens in the main event, this fight could net Souza a title shot. I don't expect him to blow the opportunity. SOUZA BY DECISION.
Biggest storyline: Two former light heavyweights, Machida and Mousasi, look to make their mark in the main event.
Biggest question: Will Machida be aggressive for a second consecutive fight, or was his middleweight debut the exception?
Who's on the hot seat: Maximo Blanco. He is loaded with talent but 1-3 in his past four fights, including a blatant illegal knee disqualification in November.
Why you should care: Whether it's Machida, Mousasi or Souza, this event figures to provide the next No. 1 middleweight contender.