Lyoto Machida: The UFC’s Karate Kid
By Jim Genia (Oct 19, 2009) DoghouseBoxing  
If the early UFCs taught us anything, it was that mastery of karate counted for nothing in determining a fighter’s likelihood for success. In fact, those who relied on karate to keep them out of trouble until they could land that one “deadly” reverse punch – like Japanese champ Minoki Ichihara, Kenpo stylist Keith Hackney or Goju-ryu practitioner Harold Howard – were more often than not simply toast when the cage door shut. No, success lay with those proficient in grappling and, later on, with those proficient in both grappling and either boxing or kickboxing. Karate became the punchline for a joke that included starched uniforms, colored belts, and rigid choreographed routines with no relevance whatsoever to an actual fight.

Thanks to UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, no one’s laughing anymore.

Sporting an unblemished 16-0 record, including five wins by knockout, “The Dragon” has emerged as a seemingly unstoppable force in the 205-pound weight division, convincingly defeating the likes of Rich Franklin, Tito Ortiz and “The Ultimate Fighter” winner Rashad Evans en route to securing the belt. The secret to the Brazilian-born fighter’s winning ways: Shotokan Karate, which has made Machida into a highly-unorthodox striker capable of sniping from a distance, landing deadly-accurate counter-punches and unleashing lethal flurries from inside. Thus far in his Octagon career, Machida has yet to lose a single round on the judges’ scorecards. For those who’d written karate off as useless in mixed martial arts, the joke’s now on them.

At UFC 104, slated for Saturday, October 24 on pay-per-view, the UFC’s “Karate Kid” is set to defend his title against fellow Brazilian Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, a devastating Muay Thai specialist (like Machida, Shogun also possesses a black belt in jiu-jitsu) who knocked out Chuck Liddell in his last Octagon outing. Who will win when karate and Muay Thai kickboxing square off? Years ago, the answer to that question was an easy one. Now, not so much.

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