Thursday, December 8, 2011

Who Can Solve the Ultimate Challenge?

Jon Jones has put together an absolutely fantastic record as a fighter. Through 15 fights, he has lost only once, via disqualification, and has finished his last five fights in vicious fashion while sustaining hardly any damage.

Lyoto Machida has been tabbed as Jones’ most interesting and, potentially, most dangerous opponent to date, but why? Is it because of Machida’s exotic crane kick? Here, we’ll break down the most interesting facet of this Saturday’s UFC light heavyweight title fight.

Perhaps the best aspect of Jones’ striking game is the variety which he uses to keep opponents guessing. It’s a merit which shines even more given Jones’ long-distance attack. Basically, Jones’ opponents can’t hit him because his reach is simply too long and his strikes are too unpredictable.

On the other hand, Machida is known for out-striking opponents from long range. His hand strikes aren’t exactly like boxing punches; his “tsuki” (thrust) comes with less shoulder motion, which benefits speed but causes less damage than punches thrown with more shoulder rotation.

Because of his karate-influenced technique, Machida isn’t as effective when fighting at short range. His losses to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson came when he was out-struck in close quarters. Both Shogun and Rampage pressured Machida in the pocket and struck from varying angles.

Jones’ extremely long frame his one of his greatest assets as a fighter, but we’ve never seen Machida lose when striking a long range. I’m most interested in whether the fight will play out from a distance.

At short range, we’ve seen less flattering sides of both fighters. As he did with Machida, Rampage got inside on Jones and found some success, but Jones’ long frame isn’t easy to control at short length either. With his wrestling base, Jones can shoot for strong takedowns when opponents get close enough. Machida will have had a tough time finding someone with Jones’ frame and grappling acumen to train with, so I will favor Jones at close range.

Machida has other strengths, such as the wicked front kick he used to knock out Randy Couture and other unpredictable karate tricks. Like Jones, he has a variety of strikes to keep opponents on their toes, which could lead to both fighters trying to trick one another with feints and fakes.

Of course, there is a chance the fighters won’t choose to trade from a far range. They may go for a takedown, choose to fight in the clinch, or utilize some other unexpected strategy. If it turns out like that, well, that’s the fun of this kind of fight.

Big thanks to Chris Nelson (from Sherdog) for English and editing.