Lyoto Machida is fairly well known for his counter striking style. He is a southpaw with a more traditional karate stance that puts his lead leg far out front, his torso leaning backwards, and his head always at the ready to snake back and out of the way of punches. Typically, Lyoto waits for his opponents to come forward, and then he moves backward and counters at the end of his opponents combos. He also has the ability to leap in with flying knees and flicking leg kicks to goad his opponents into attacking. Once he is able to stay out of danger from flurries, Lyoto has a lightening quick blitz attack that he uses to go on the offensive with when he thinks his foe is hurt or in danger.
Randy Couture is more of a boxer when it comes to striking. He doesn’t throw very many kicks, and is more keen on leading with the jab (which many times looks more like a hybrid of a jab/hook). When jabbing, he also keeps his head low and his right arm high to protect his face. More often than not, Randy sticks with simple boxing combinations that rely on technical precision.
When it comes to athletic striking advantages, Machida should win this matchup in spades. He has faster hand speed, shorter reaction times, and the power edge. Plus, he is a southpaw that is facing an orthodox technical boxer, which means he’ll have better opportunities to use his power leg to batter Couture’s lead leg and right side of the body.
Edge: Lyoto Machida
Randy Couture is a master of the clinch game. In fact, he practically wrote the book on dirty boxing. Once he is able to push a fighter against the fence, he is able to keep them against the fence and batter them with short elbows and uppercuts. So far, no one has really been able to beat Randy against the cage. They may reverse him for a short time, but Couture is almost guaranteed to regain his dominant positioning and continue batter them.
While the clinch is probably the last place Machida will want to be against Couture, that doesn’t mean he is completely impotent inside the clinch. He is good at avoiding damage, and he has the hips from his sumo base to fend off Couture’s takedown attempts against the cage. In addition, he has good trips, body locks, and has mixed it up with plenty of Judo guys (and come out on top). However, the longer he plays inside the clinch with Randy, the more damage he could potentially accruee and points he loses on the judges score cards.
Edge: Randy Couture
While Randy should have the offensive wrestling edge, Machida’s sumo base will keep him upright. He has incredible TDD and it is unlikely that Randy will attempt any takedowns from the outside, instead utilizing the clinch for his takedown attempts. As such, Machida could very realistically be able to keep this fight standing by shaking off Couture when he moves in or being is normal elusive self. While Machida hasn’t faced any elite level wrestlers (Evans simply wanted to stand, so he doesn’t count), Couture is much more of a clinch wrestler and lacks the driving takedowns that could give Machida problems.
Edge: Lyoto Machida
Couture is great on the ground when he is able to establish top control and work his GnP. However, he has been put in numerous bad positions on his back, and his guard work leaves something to be desired. Lyoto is a completely different beast. He trains with the Nogueira brothers and has demonstrated a tight top game and the ability to get back to his feet very quickly when on his back. As such, he should have the grappling edge against Couture. Plus, Big Nog has already rolled with Couture and may be able to give Machida plenty of tips on maintaining top control against Randy.
Edge: Lyoto Machida
Paths to Victory
Randy Couture only has one way to win this fight. He will need to follow the game plan he used against Brandon Vera and use his clinch game to neutralize Machida’s striking and grappling edge. However, he will be in a great deal of danger if he is unable to close the distance on Lyoto.
Lyoto Machida needs to keep the fight standing and use his superior striking to take Couture out. Vera showed that Randy is suseptible to body kicks due to his stance, especially against southpaws. Machida simply needs to stay elusive and dart in with kicks and knees whenever possible. Once he is able to hurt Couture, a quick blitz should result in a KO or stoppage.
Machida can also work the game plan he used against Evans, which is to pressure Couture against the fence and win the striking exchanges at that medium range that is right outside the clinch but not quite normal boxing range. Since Couture has been rocked in nearly every one of his fights since the Lesnar fight, one decent shot could put the aging veteran away.
Setting the Line
While Randy Couture has been defying father age his entire UFC career, what he is facing now is probably his biggest test to date. Machida is fast, elusive, and very powerful. Even though Couture is a freak of nature himself, it is very unlikely that he will simply be able to grab a hold of Machida and ride out a 3 round decision against the fence. At some point, Machida will connect with a hard shot that puts Captain America down, and you can be sure that he will pounce and finish.
We also need to address the nostalgia that Couture seems to bring out in hardcore MMA fans. While Couture has had a storied career, he hasn’t defeated anyone of note in several years (Vera, Coleman, and Toney are not top-tier competition). He is most likely retiring after this fight, and has plenty of gyms and outside business interests to make a lucrative living outside of fighting. Therefore, this is not a must-win for Randy.
For Machida, it is a must-win fight. He has already dropped back-to-back losses, but they were to the likes of Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson. In addition, people may be putting too much stock into how Machida looked in his most recent fight against Jackson. Machida was coming off his first loss and knockout. He was facing a very dangerous boxer in Rampage and he smartly decided to stay cautious in that fight until the final round. He will not have to worry about Couture’s hands nearly as much as he did Jackson’s. Therefore, we should expect the dominant Machida that knocked out Silva and Evans to appear in this fight instead of the careful Machida we’ve seen in his last two losses.
Therefore, this fight should have the following line: Lyoto Machida at -355 and Randy Couture at +355