UFC 113 Preview: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua Promises New Strategies for Rematch With Champ Lyoto Machida

Sherdog was on the press conference call: Rua, who was lauded for his calculated attacks against Machida, said he's been planning and drilling alternative strategies…

By: Nate Wilcox | 13 years ago
UFC 113 Preview: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua Promises New Strategies for Rematch With Champ Lyoto Machida
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Sherdog was on the press conference call:

Rua, who was lauded for his calculated attacks against Machida, said he’s been planning and drilling alternative strategies but doesn’t forget that he’s facing an unorthodox striker.

“Many people think that taking the fight to the ground and working the ground with Machida would be a good way to win the fight, but that’s a very hard thing to (do) because Lyoto is a very good player on the ground and he’s trained a lot of sumo and wrestling, so he has a very good base,” said Rua. “Sometimes it’s very hard to get him down to the ground.

“When you prepare (for) a fight, you have to focus on the worst situation you can go through in a fight,” he continued. “Fighting Machida, the toughest situation you can find is fighting him standing up.”

Fighters are always vague and cagey when discussing their strategies pre-fight and rightfully so. Nevertheless, this little bit of entrail reading is very interesting to me. 

First let’s put it in context — Shogun essentially “solved” Lyoto Machida’s innovative (for MMA) striking style at UFC 113. Before facing Shogun, Machida had utterly baffled every opponent he’d faced in the UFC, most notably Rashad Evans.

I’m hoping to be able to focus on breaking down what Shogun did in some detail before the fight, but let’s start with a quick summary:

  • Machida’s Shotokan Karate style emphasizes evading strikes above all else;
  • Machida fights outside the kickboxing range of most fighters, he lunges in to land punches then retreats and throws kicks from the far outside — aiming to land with his feet rather than his shins as Muay Thai-based fighters do;
  • Machida looks to strike at the very instant when his opponent has committed to a strike and is therefore helpless to react;
  • Machida is also a double threat from the clinch: Machida has incorporated a fair bit of Muay Thai into his clinch game, especially knees from the plum, he also has an arsenal of trips and sweeps from the most common wrestling tie ups;
  • Machida loves to trip and sweep opponents while also landing punches and kicks from range;
  • Machida uses a bewildering array of feints and misdirections to keep opponents guessing.
Shogun essentially took almost all of Machida’s tools away by doing a few simple things:
  • Constantly walking down Machida and cutting off the cage while maintaining a tight defensive posture with his hands up;
  • Ignoring the movement of Machida’s limbs and focusing entirely on his trunk;
  • Refusing to strike first but immediately countering with kicks to the legs and body anytime Machida lunged in to strike.
By doing all this Shogun turned Machida’s wearing game of evasive maneuver and hit-and-run tactics into a grinding war of attrition. By the championship rounds of the fight it was clear that Shogun’s kicks to the legs and body had worn down Machida far more than the punches to the head that Shogun ate in exchange.
The biggest question mark in the first fight was why no one took it to the ground. Both men are very skilled jiu jitsu players, and both are probably better from the top than from their backs. My theory is that Shogun felt he was winning on the feet and felt no need to take that risk and that by the time Machida realized that Shogun was wearing him down standing, his legs were too damaged to attempt a take down. Shogun did attempt a few take downs and said after the fight that he didn’t want to burn more energy on failed take down attempts.
So the question for today is this — is Shogun hinting that he’s looking to take Machida down in this fight?

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of BloodyElbow.com. As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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