Lyoto Machida-Rashad Evans: A New Breed of Fighting in the UFC
There's been no lack of opinions concerning the Lyoto Machida-Rashad Evans UFC 98 main event.
It's the MMA equivalent to Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao, Peyton Manning vs. Brett Favre, Sir Alex Ferguson vs. Rafael Benitez.
It's going to shape the way fighters train and fight from May 23 forward.
But why? How could two fighters who flew well under the radar alter the way fighters approach fighting?
In one corner, there's Rashad Evans, who is (for all intents and purposes) the best career fluke in MMA history. The last choice to win The Ultimate Fighter 2 Tournament, the underdog in every match since then, and an underdog today, Evans didn't begin turning heads until he knocked out Chuck Liddell.
A grinding fighter with a decision-heavy record, Evans lacked the glaze that UFC light heavyweight champions traditionally have.
Ortiz has unmatched ground-and-pound. Couture has dirty boxing and indomitable wrestling. Liddell has punishing right and left hooks shot from the hip. Jackson has raw power. Griffin has work-ethic, intelligence, and a solid chin.
So what special trait does Evans bring to the title?
Adaptability in the face of adversity.
If anything, Evans should be known for his ring awareness and adjustments. Against fighters with readily exploitable weaknesses, Evans pounces.
Although Jackson was the first in a long list of challengers to exploit Liddell's long-winded yet devastating hook, Evans capitalized on the same error, smashing his right hand into Liddell's jaw with a left ready to follow basically knocking him out of his shoes.
Prior to his match with Liddell, Evans's kick to Sean Salmon's unsuspecting cranium displayed his fighting tact. After going one-dimensional and boxing for the majority of a round, Evans lands a KO wrestling kicks reeking of premeditation.
It's a fact that Evans' ability to adapt led to a majority of his wins. His style of fighting coupled with Greg Jackson's ideals in fighting has made fighters and fight fans aware of the importance, and benefits, of adapting properly to adversity.
The wave of the brawler is ebbing.
But the question on analysts' and writers' minds is how will Evans adapt to Machida, an evasive, calculating fighter who consistently stays one step ahead of his opponent?
Could it be a fact that Machida, cut-and-dry, is a more advanced fighter than Evans?
Shifting focus to the opposite corner, there's Lyoto Machida with a pristine record supported by enviable stats (highest strikes-landed percentage in UFC; shares prestige with Fedor Emelianenko for least amount of time spent on his back).
Although most writers, fans, and fighters like to emphasize Machida's effective application of karate techniques to MMA and his "elusive style," the most amazing and dangerous aspect of Machida is his mentality.
The fight-to-win mentality, by which Machida abides, was exemplified best by Anderson Silva. A lethal, precise striker who tends to smother his opponents with attacks (barring his latest performance), Silva changed the stand-up game in UFC overnight.