Fighter Feature: Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida
This April, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida was resoundingly beaten by Luke Rockhold at UFC on Fox 15. Rockhold dominated Machida in a way nobody has ever dominated Machida before. At the time, many believed that fight to be the end of the road for the MMA legend. At the age of 37, the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion was forced to go in for surgery to repair a broken left arm. Add to this the concussion he suffered during the fight and Machida’s glorious MMA career seemed to be coming to an end.
It seemed his dream of becoming only the third multi-divisional champion in UFC history (after Randy Couture and BJ Penn) were over. A loss to middleweight champion Weidman in 2014 and a loss to the new number one contender Rockhold led people questioning whether his trade-mark elusive style and world class counter striking abilities were still effective in an ever-changing sport. Given his age, it seems highly unlikely that Machida will be able to reinvent his style to compete at an elite level. Most respected journalists were already preparing eulogies for his career. Fast forward 3 months, and the dragon is back.
Determined to prove the naysayers wrong, Machida will square off against top middleweight Yoel Romero at UFC Fight Night 70. Machida’s story has been one of overcoming adversity and breaking conventional wisdom. When he first signed for the UFC many wondered if a master of Karate could hold his own against Muay Thai, Taekwondo and Jiu Jitsu experts. Over the years, Machida has proven that while Karate is his base, he is a very well-rounded fighter. Skilled in the arts of Muay Thai and Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Machida realised his lifelong dream of being UFC champion with an iconic knockout of reigning Light Heavyweight king ‘Suga’ Rashad Evans at UFC 98.
That fight was the culmination of a journey that began when he was 3 years old, studying Karate under the tutelage of his father. Despite what people said, never once did he question his Karate roots and after his title win, got on the mic and famously proclaimed, “Karate’s back!” Machida would eventually lose his title to Mauricio Rua and despite working his way back to a championship fight, he went on to lose to Jon ‘Bones’ Jones. It would have been easy for him to retire after his fight with Jones. Well-respected and widely regarded as a pioneer of the sport. Yet, true to himself, Machida wasn’t satisfied. He moved down to the 185 middleweight division in search of more glory.
Despite his recent setbacks, it takes a brave man to ever count Machida out. No matter how high the obstacles, no matter how unfavourably stacked the odds are, the dragon always comes through. He is the embodiment of the spirit of a martial artist. He spends hours perfecting his techniques and leaves no stone unturned on his journey to glory. Sunday night is probably the biggest fight of his illustrious career.
A win puts him back in the title picture, but a loss all but relegates him to the doldrums of the division. With that kind of pressure, a lesser man may crumble but not the dragon. He may very well lose. This may very well be the last we see of him. But if he is going down, you can be sure he won’t go down without a fight. Say what you will about him, but one thing Lyoto Machida always comes ready for, is a fight. Beating Romero won’t be easy, but Machida doesn’t like doing things that are easy.