This Saturday at UFC 129, Randy “The Natural” Couture will be retiring. With 14 years of experience and 29 total fights he’ll be stepping in the cage one last time. In his last fight he has hand picked Lyoto Machida as his final opponent. With all of the news and hype surrounding the retirement though he has to remember one thing. One of the world’s most naturally talented fighters in the world will be standing across the cage. He’ll have to bring his A-game if he wants to win. No matter what Machida’s recent record says.
May 23, 2009 was the biggest night in Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida’s career. Coming in with a 14-0 record, Machida was ready. Combining karate and Brazilian jiu jitsu, Machida cultivated a fight style that was not only dominating but could not be duplicated. It was a mystery that defeated top ranked fighters such as Rich Franklin and Tito Ortiz. Despite being labeled as boring by some, there was no doubt that he had earned his spot as one of the top light heavyweight fighters in the world. As he calmly entered the cage, you could almost forget that he was fighting against the undefeated Rashad Evans for the UFC Light Heavyweight championship. When the fight started, his calm was justified. With his elusive fighting style Machida had hardly broken a sweat when he knocked out Evans in the second round. It was like the kung fu movies of old. The enigmatic karate master coming out of nowhere and decimating the competition. On the grandest of stages he beat the hated champion and became a hero.
Like the martial arts movies of old though, the sequels were never as good as the original. For Lyoto Machida, this came in the form of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The two Brazilians faced off in the cage in October 2009 at UFC 104. The fight was a back and forth for all 5 rounds. Well, it was when they were actually fighting. In one of the most disappointing of 2009, Rua and Machida have a very slow-paced fight with ever so brief flurries of action. To add insult to injury Machida won a decision victory he had clearly lost.
More importantly though, the Lyoto Machida puzzle had been solved. The invincible aura that surrounded the champ was now gone. Not only were his flaws seen by the fans but also other fighters. At UFC 113 Rua beat Machida in a terribly one-sided fight, knocking out the champ in under four minutes. In Machida’s next bout he went up against the hard-hitting Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. In another debated decision Lyoto Machida lost to Jackson. Despite a barrage of punches in the third round, it couldn’t turn the tide and Rampage won a split decision. A disappointing and controversial loss for the former champion.
This Saturday at UFC 129, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida will be looking for redemption. With 6 years of experience and 18 total fights he’ll be stepping in the cage one more time. In Saturday’s fight he was hand picked as Couture’s final opponent. With all of the news and hype surrounding Couture’s retirement though he has to remember one thing. One of the world’s most naturally talented fighters in the world will be standing across the cage. He’ll have to bring his A-game if he wants to win. No matter what Machida’s recent record says.