Saturday night at UFC 157: “Rousey vs. Carmouche”, the main event of the evening was a women’s bantamweight championship bout – the first women’s bout in UFC history. Somewhere lost in the shuffle, however, was the light-heavyweight co-main event between former champions Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida and Dan “Hendo” Henderson. This encounter was billed as a title eliminator bout, although knowing how many times, or how few times, the UFC actually follows through with fights labeled as “title eliminator”, we shouldn’t be surprised if Machida gets passed up once more.
The current champion, Jon “Bones” Jones, is scheduled to face Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 in April. Jones is the heavy favorite and if he dot’s his I’s and crosses his T’s, Jones should come away with a victory and his title intact. So it’s relatively safe to say that the winner of the Machida/Henderson bout would move on to face Jones sometime this year. Well, after three rather uneventful rounds, Machida managed to sneak away with a win. There’s a saying in boxing that goes, “win this fight, look good next time”. Sometimes this is exactly what needs to be done in order to ensure that “next time” – even if it’s not aesthetically pleasing. So it really should come as no surprise that Machida played it as safe as he could, even more than usual. With that being said, let’s look ahead and analyze just what Machida can do differently this time against Jones.
In the eyes of many watching, Machida actually won Round One of his fight with Jones at UFC 140 in December of 2011, before Jones came back strong to finish Machida in the second stanza. So if there’s any sort of studying or research Machida can do, for all intents and purposes, he’s done about a quarter of the work already.
We saw a strategy that Machida implemented in his bout with Henderson that may potentially lay the groundwork for a successful strategy against Jones, and that strategy is all about leg-kicks. Jones’ nickname is Bones, not because he’s great at dominoes but because he’s tall and in his younger years was extremely thin. Simply by taking a look at his legs, one can come to the conclusion that his legs may be a pretty big chink in the armor. Although Machida’s leg-kicks did little in terms of being a major factor in his victory against Henderson, it may very well prove to be a very important commodity against a tall, thin-legged champion within a twenty-five minute championship main event.
And there it is. What can Machida employ against the utterly dominant light-heavyweight champ that may help him secure a victory where one eluded him before? Leg-kicks. It’s all about the leg-kicks.