It seemed like only yesterday when Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi was the definitive dream fight being wished-for among die-hard MMA fans. However, fate had other ideas. Within a three-week time span, an out-of-shape Mousasi lost the Strikeforce light heavyweight title to King Mo, and Machida had the UFC light heavyweight title unconsciously taken from him by Shogun Rua. A new weight class and four years later, we have the combative chess match we’ve been waiting for.
The variables of this bout will make it go one of two ways. It will either be a very engaging display of skill, or it will be like watching two turtles race. They’re counter fighters with infinite patience and will not succumb to the pressure of a jeering audience. On a fundamental level, this is a striker vs. grappler match. Machida’s bread and butter is his stand-up game while Mousasi wraps like a present on the ground. However, they both have earned advanced placement status in the other’s specialty.
In the past, Gegard Mousasi had expressed his desire to not fight at 185 lbs. He is a pro and will make the necessary adjustments. But what if he doesn’t? Mousasi has had some conditioning issues in previous bouts, while Machida had shown none. Machida keeping his fingers crossed, hoping that Mousasi neglected the treadmill, isn’t a sound strategy, but it could be a factor. Machida is a southpaw who is so good at avoiding getting hit. However, when he does get hit, he becomes frazzled and looks for a quick escape with very little defense.
Machida is a master at making people chase him, and Mousasi will have to secure a takedown. The Brazilian often controls the distance and throws feints to set up his strikes. It is difficult to hit Machida, but Mousasi will have a better chance at closing the distance with his smooth Boxing and reach advantage.
Both fighters are accurate on their feet, but Machida uses a wider array of strikes. If Mousasi makes it difficult on the feet, Machida might go for a takedown, which Mousasi has trouble defending. However, it will be a stalemate on the ground, which is why we shouldn’t see much action there. Mousasi makes it look easy when he finishes a fight, but how do you finish someone who is content on making it a fencing match? Machida’s technical approach will dilute Mousasi’s methodical plan of attack and should score enough points throughout the five-round affair.
The Pick: Lyoto Machida via unanimous decision.