When Lyoto Machida destroyed Rashad Evans to claim the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, Joe Rogan dubbed the coming years "the Machida era." Two fights with Shogun Rua later, the first a controversial decision win, the second a crushing TKO loss, and the era was over. When Jones ran through Rua to take the title, it was hard to shake the feeling that he had the sticking power Machida proved to lack. Now with their UFC 140 bout Machida is out for redemption and another crack at establishing his own title reign, while Jones is looking to add to his already impressive, albeit short, list of title fight conquests.
While Jones technically enters this bout with a blemished record, even Jones-bashers are hard pressed to find major flaws in Jones' game until "sounding a bit like a jerk, sometimes" becomes a negative scoring criteria. Jones' only loss came by disqualification for an illegal elbow against Matt Hammil in a bout Jones dominated and in which Hammil could not continue not because the elbows, but rather an injured shoulder as a result of a Jones slam.
Jones has taken longer than his prior bout to put his foe away in each of his last three appearances, and that's as close as you can get to trying to identify a flaw in his performances. After debuting in the UFC with a YouTube-aided striking game complete with his now trademark spinning back elbow Jones has improved his record to 14-1, with the lone loss the aforementioned disqualification. Jones has gotten it done with both TKOs and submissions, with the main common element in his run to, and defense of, the Light Heavyweight title being the sound beating he's placed on every opponent put before him to date.
Strengths and Weaknesses
While Jones is no-doubt a hard worker, it's hard to overlook the natural gifts he has received as well in the form of his tremendous reach advantage. Under the tutelege of Greg Jackson, Jones has fine tuned his ability to use his reach both in securing chokes and landing punishing stand-up strikes. The most impressive strength Jones possesses is his growth. Every time he has set foot in the Octagon he has looked better than his prior outing, and it's lead to a trail of battered opponents of increasing skill and resume in his wake.
Only two fighters have ever managed to go the full three rounds with Jones, let alone make it 25 minutes without succumbing to the champion's impressively diverse skill set. Machida has a well-earned reputation for being hard to hit and picking opponents apart from the outside, but if he starts to fall behind on the cards, as I expect him to, he will be forced into pressing the action more and ultimately Jones' strikes will find their home in devestating fashion. It's possible Jones could look for a submission on a battered Machida, but a TKO finish is more likely near the midpoint of the fight in Round 3. On the fantasy betting side of the coin, buy into Jones until the game stops selling. This is one of those times where the lack of actual money on the line allows for betting with the heart to strongly skew a line, and at -240 to Vegas' -440 line you'd be crazy not to jump on board the Bones bandwagon.
Lyoto Machida analysis after the jump.
While the Lyoto Machida Era may have been shorter lived then most fans and experts predicted, there's no discounting the overall achievements of The Dragon inside the Octagon. Dogged by fans early in his career for being "boring" due to his elusive counter-punching style, Machida has swung the pendulum of public opinion by upping the KO-count in recent years.
The fight game hasn't always been great to Machida since he made Evans do the stanky leg to earn the title. His first defense saw the champ maintain the belt in a controversial decision over Mauricio Rua, only to be decisively finished in the rematch. He then found himself on the wrong side of an oft-bemoaned decision against Rampage Jackson and appeared to be reeling. While few in the know thought the Machida-Randy Couture pairing was an overly even one, the Dragon made sure to put a unique stamp on the fight, and Couture's career, as the karate expert channeled his inner Daniel-San to earn the KO by Crane Kick, which earned a nomination for 2011 KO of the Year.
Strengths and Weaknesses
If given one word to describe Lyoto Machida, it's hard to avoid the cliche and describe the karate expert as elusive. Although recent outings have seen Machida drop out of Fight Metric's all time UFC Top-Ten for strike defense percentage, his unique style of popping in for a shot before a quick exit of the pocket, combined with impressive speed for a larger fighter, makes Machida difficult to tag consistently. Unfortunately, Machida's greatest strength can also prove to be a weakness, as he learned against Jackson. Machida landed substantially more significant strikes in both the first and third round, only to lose by unanimous decision when judges rewarded the pressing, high-volume attack of Jackson over Machida's composed counter-punching.
Before going on let it be stressed that you pick Machida in this fight at your own peril. Decimating one legend can be a good night. Making back-to-back future Hall of Famers look helpless is a sign of something special, and until the worst thing anyone can say about Jones' game is "well, he's never been put in a bad position in his career so who knows how he will respond to it" you're better off paying attention to the first half of the quote. If you absolutely can't resist the urge to put down a pick for the Dragon, his best chance is to find Jones' untested chin early, before the wear-and-tear has built up. The first round will likely be pretty speculative as both fighters can stick to a game plan with the best of them, so go with a second round TKO. As for fantasy betting, +205 to Vegas' +350 tells you all you need to know about the value on Machida, namely that there isn't much.