On November 20th at UFC 123 former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida will look to bounce back from the first loss of his career, a devastating KO at the hands of Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua.
Four months on from that fight the 32 year-old admits he’s not quite sure how the defeat will affect him the next time he steps into the octagon.
“I learned from it, but it’s hard to foresee how I’m going to fight and how everything will be”, Machida says in a new interview for Graciemag. “I’ll only know on the day and I’m most curious to find out just that: how I’m going to carry myself.”
Getting back to winning ways will be far from easy though with another ex-champion Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson standing in his path, but Machida is up for the challenge.
“Couldn’t be a better opponent and the date is great, too; it gives me time to prepare,” he enthuses.
“I’m happy to be back and to prove I’m in the mix with the best of them. I’m working hard, I’m correcting a lot of things and putting a lot of effort in. I’m doing all aspects of fighting, the takedowns, ground fighting and striking.”
Machida’s confidence may come from the fact that he believes he sees weaknesses in Rampage’s game that he can exploit.
“I feel he’s a bit limited standing, but he’s really strong and, although he may defend well on the ground, he’s not that good there, either.
“As I feel MMA is a sport in constant evolution, one tends to seek out all the possibilities, regardless of the facet of the fight that comes up. I’m going to exploit Rampage where he isn’t totally dominant. But I’m prepared for anything, whether it’s standing or on the ground.”
On paper this is a fight that some believe favor’s ‘The Dragon’ in the striking realm due to his fast in-and-out counter-striking style, but there seems to be a subtle suggestion here that Machida may be planning to take Rampage to the ground.
If so that could be an interesting tactic given that his jiu-jitsu skills are underrated and though Rampage’s takedown defense is good, the trips that Machida often employs to get fighter’s down are hard to prevent.
As well as having to overcome him physically, there will also be a mental battle to be won before they even step into the cage, with Rampage being one of the sports most outspoken and intimidating stars.
As far as Machida’s concerned it’s what happens in the cage that matters though.
“I’d rather not focus on that. Saying you’re going to make something happen is easy, but it’s when we’re locked in battle that we see what happens. I don’t fall for provocation and I’m focused.”
Though Machida has reached the very summit of the light-heavyweight division once before it seems that he still has a hunger to prove that he’s still the best.
“A fight between two former champions couldn’t be more fitting,” he says of his upcoming fight, “two fighters who want their place in the sun.”
The hype surrounding Machida may have cooled down significantly since the Shogun fight, but if he can overcome Rampage in November then the momentum could quickly turn back in his favor.