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Lyoto Machida: The Forgotten

Posted by Dave Walsh on July 29th, 2008

I was watching the fantastic Margarito vs. Cotto fight on Saturday, and all of the talk surrounding Margarito was that nobody wants to fight him. He has an aura around him as a legit tough contender that can damage a money-making reputation. This brought up one name in my head, one fighter in MMA that fits that profile: Lyoto Machida. Lyoto is a fighter that has, in just a short amount of time, made quite a name for himself. Right now, the name is one that high level competition are flat out looking to avoid right now. Lyoto has always had an aura around him, always been met with a certain degree of hype, only to then confuse both fighters and fans.

I remember New Japan Pro Wrestling and Inoki hyping up the debut of the mysterious LYOTO. For those that (luckily) aren’t in the know when it comes to the sordid history of New Japan Pro Wrestling, Antonio Inoki was able to take a company that was incredibly influential to the world of MMA in Japan to a company obsessed with trying to compete with modern MMA, as pro wrestling had been exposed as inferior to MMA. In Inoki’s mind, pro wrestling was just as strong — or stronger — than Mixed Martial Arts. I could write for days on this subject, but instead, I will focus on where LYOTO fits into the picture. Lyoto was Inoki’s hand picked successor to his throne of Japanese fighting star. He was under Inoki’s control, trained where Inoki wanted him to train and only fought on Inoki-approved events.

A New Japan Pro Wrestling card would be LYOTO’s professional Mixed Martial Arts debut. The confusion of placing sanctioned Mixed Martial Arts bouts on a pro wrestling card, in a night featuring pro wrestlers vs. pro fighters in both pro wrestling and MMA bouts was immense. If anything, this fits right into Dave Meltzer’s world view of pro wrestling and MMA being the “same.” LYOTO made his debut against the less-than-game Kengo Watanabe, who had a decent record against pro wrestlers like Dos Caras Jr. and Tomohiko Hashimoto, but mixed against actual competition. LYOTO came in to tons of hype and fanfare, months of mysterious Inoki-led hype of LYOTO being the best fighter in the world and then dragged out a decision against Kengo. While a win is a win, especially in a pro fighter’s debut, LYOTO was met with a hard slap to the face by Inoki, as well as two straight punches on live Japanese television for lacking “fighting spirit.” This was not what Inoki was looking for. Lyoto was not the fighter that he was supposed to be.

This slap and public barrage of insults proved to be a bittersweet and telling beginning to Lyoto Machida’s career. One could say it motivated the careful and cerebral Machida in his next 3 fights, where he cut Stephan Bonnar under the eye bad enough to stop the bout in Inoki’s first Jungle Fight event, then a rather brutal TKO of the now former UFC Middleweight Champion, Rich Franklin, and finally a guillotine choke of Michael McDonald in a K-1 show (Inoki and NJPW, at the time, had a good working relationship with K-1). Out of Lyoto’s next 9 wins, 7 have been via decision, with huge wins over and undersized BJ Penn, Kazuhiro Nakamura and Tito Ortiz.

It wasn’t until 2006 when Lyoto broke free of Inoki (Inoki’s Management Company went under, Inoki was somewhat bankrupt), signed with the WFA, which was later bought out by Zuffa, landing Lyoto Machida in the UFC. Lyoto has yet to lose in his career, and looks unstoppable due to his defensive counter-striking style, careful approach and amazing ability. While one would think being as talented as he is, this would lead to nothing but good. Our own Tom has placed Machida in the #1 spot in the 205lbs Rankings, but for Lyoto it is lonely at the top.

Before Rampage and Griffin faced off, both men made it clear that they were not interested in fighting Lyoto Machida. Griffin was originally slated to face Machida at UFC70, but came down with a case of staph infection, so he pulled out of the fight. If Machida/Griffin had happened as planned, who knows what the Light Heavyweight landscape in the UFC would look like right now. Griffin even stated before the Rampage fight; “I want nothing to do with that guy. Not at all. He’s a tough fighter and I’d like to fight a lot of other guys first.” Dave Meltzer, in a recent issue of the Wrestling Observer has even stated that the UFC is having a hard time finding suitable opponents for Lyoto Machida, as the higher-level fighters will not accept a match against him due to his unorthodox style.

What it comes down to is, most of the fighters in the 205lbs division seem to have a fear of fighting Machida. It isn’t a fear of fighting a beast like Fedor, or even the fear boxer Antonio Margarito receives, being ducked by names like Mayweather and De La Hoya, but instead one of simply losing to a fighter they do not understand. Although, much like Antonio Margarito, Lyoto Machida will see his day in the sun, when he finally gets his shot at some more high level competition. Until then, we have to deal with Lyoto Machida vs. a good, but not great Thiago Silva in October. I think one thing that is certain, as long as Lyoto Machida keeps fighting the way that he does, he will make Inoki want to slap himself for eventually letting Machida out of his grasp, much like he did with Brock Lesnar.

21 Responses to “Lyoto Machida: The Forgotten”

  1. Lee Says:

    Simply put, Machida makes every opponent look bad. Not “overwhelmed by superior talent” bad, but “baffled and inept” bad. It’s bad enough losing a fight that the live crowd is going to shit on; no one wants to look like an idiot on top of it.

  2. Dave Walsh Says:

    Yeah, that is what makes Lyoto the dude nobody wants to fight and the dude that not many people want to watch.

  3. Mike Says:

    Isnt Inoki know for transferring his “fighting spirit” via the slap?

  4. Mike Says:


  5. Dave Walsh Says:

    Usually the slap is Inoki’s way of transferring “fighting spirit” to somebody, not decking them in the face afterward. The whole thing was odd as hell, as they’d show him and he looked ticked off, he gave him the slap, then decked him twice, begrudgingly shook his hand and gave this look like he was incredibly ticked off and turned away immediately. If I remember correctly he also made some disparaging comments to the press after the event, and went ahead and praised Shinsuke Nakamura, Josh Barnett and Kaz Fujita for their strong performances while more or less brushing off Machida.

  6. Dave Walsh Says:

    Also, it is pretty awful that I remember all of that.

  7. Kendall Shields Says:

    What is “somewhat” bankruptcy, and more importantly, who do I talk to about it?

  8. Kendall Shields Says:

    (I kid, I kid, I am “somewhat” solvent.)

  9. Dave Walsh Says:

    Oh, somewhat bankruptcy is owing the Yakuza a ton of money because of your absolutely batshit insane ventures that never work out. They essentially own him now, I think they just get a kick out of throwing money at him now after he finds ways to pay them back, just to see what he’ll do next. Right now it is booking insanely strange pro wrestling cards and thinking it will be the next big thing in Japan.

  10. Kelvin Hunt Says:

    Machida is a tremendous fighter…however, having him ranked at #1 is a bit much. The only credible opponents he has defeated at LHW are a washed up Tito Ortiz and Sokoudjou. If he defeats Thiago Silva at UFC 89..that won’t do much for him Silva is overhyped to death…and in a similar situation in that he hasn’t beaten any top competition yet.

  11. Dave Walsh Says:

    Well, TOM’s rankings aren’t exactly done like everybody elses. His do involve a bit of MMAths.

    I think just about everybody will agree, with ease, that Forrest Griffin is the #1 LHW in the world right now.

  12. Marc Says:

    Well, TOM’s rankings aren’t exactly done like everybody elses.

    That’s a nice way of saying his rankings are terrible. There are a lot of really bad errors therein.

  13. WEC media coverage gains steam for the heat-up to Sunday's event | - Your Global Connection to the Fight Industry. Says:

    [...] Total MMALyoto Machida: The Forgotten [...]

  14. David Says:

    Sadly we will not get to see teammates Vand Silva fight Griffin because of stupid politics though it would make the most amazing fight of the year!

  15. Lomez Says:

    Huge Lyoto fan here
    Lee #1 said it best. He takes talented fighters and makes them look like they just plain suck.

  16. sved Says:

    straight UP!—-Machida has defeated Ortiz in a win or Go HOme match—Ortiz retired from the UFC for now—

    he defeated R.Franklin who got his major push in the UFC after a win over Shamrock @ 205lbs ===which is where R.Franklin is now….hmm

    Also Machida is probably one of the top 3 Traditional Martial Artists competing in the 205/MW/LHW division–the other 2 in that division
    why Chuck Liddell and yoshihiro Akiyama–both have KO power/ footwork/ distancing, and good/great grappling/ or grappling Defense.

    ((((((((Key point)))))))) please understand that MMA/NHB/ Vale Tudo has been around for over 20 years and to say that if someone isn’t in the UFC @ the 205 weight div doesn’t immediately mean that that is someone that is no good.

    As for why nobody else wants to compete against Ryoto—they’re not good enough Artists to do it… Real Martial Arts creativity and originality is still important in MMA and very few have it in the Striking Oriented UFC…Most focus on sport training boxing/kickboxing/BJJ/Wrestling–All good sport athletics but actual Martial Arts skill is rare in MMA today. The artistry is what makes someone that is quiet and respectful like Minotauro/Fedor/Ryoto etc… allow for their artistry and individual skillset speak for themselves.

    The reason that so few MMA competitors want to risk a match w/ RYOTO is that they don’t have the quality Non MMA instruction to carry over into MMA.

    Only world class BJJ champions or MuayThai champions have the pedigree necessary to throw elite level creativity into the mix.

    Most others have some TMA to complement their MMA

  17. Josh Says:

    Simply put Lyoto/Ryoto is the best 205 pounder in the world right now and those who don’t agree are as confused as his opponents. For those not in the know, his dad was a martial arts champion who began training him HARD at age 3. He moved to Brazil later in life and was training BJJ amd Vale Tudo before he was 13. His dad had told him since he was 3 years old he was going to be the best in the world; or in his fathers eyes he was a failure. For all his decisions, and as far as action goes, not appreciating technique, some are boring. Blame his opponents. The same thing happens to all of them, they attack early and don’t even connect and get countered. They go for a takedown and can’t do it or he immediatly sweeps. By the end of round 1 they are frustrated because they can not win. For those who call his decision against Ortiz boring I offer this challenge; find any point in the match where Machida was in trouble (or any of his matches for that matter) and remember that he almost finished Ortiz at the end of round 1 and also dropped him with a knee in round 3. That equals total dominance. There’s a reason Rampage Vera Forrest and Wandy all were offered fights with Machida and declined; they know they’d lose pure and simple. Now it’s time for the fans to learn this too.

  18. Marc Says:

    That’s a nice biography and all, but rankings aren’t about “who’s the best in my opinion”. That leads to bad rankings. The absolute criteria is subjective as in what has the fighter actually done? Who has he/she defeated?

    Lyoto being #1 at 205 isn’t even that bad, it’s a lot of the other rankings. Mostly it’s lightweight (Sean Sherk ahead of Gomi, Gomi at #7!, Andre Amade in the top ten wtf, Kawajiri at #14!), with some varying degrees of error in other divisions -Jake Shields being ranked behind Diego Sanchez, Karo, Thiago Alves … Kadowaki at #6 … Cain Velasquez in the top ten … Rashad Evans at #6 … (Kendall Grove being ahead of a lot of guys he shouldn’t be ahead of, Jacare too high at #12 … BJ being listed at #128 at bantam even though his run at Shooto 132 and leaving AACC was a disaster. Why not rate flyweight (where you can give BJ his due?

  19. Helton Kuhn Says:

    for those who doubt of machidas abillities . go to you tube AND watch him destroying Francklin , bonnar , sokojou , ortiz, Michael mc donald, vernon white, grecco, … wonder why no one wants to fight Machida…
    for that he is the best 205 whitout even having the BElt

  20. nyc ufc Says:

    A Comment like Dave Walsh epitomizes the the blind stupidity of ‘ignorant Americans’ who
    don’t see anything other the the “USA Way” of doing things. the notion that Lyoto Machida
    is ‘boring to watch’, just makes you wonder what if there are any brain cells in there, not that
    Chuck Liddell didn’t have his ‘moment’in creating a one-dimensional punching buzz. Which was fleeting as he quickly became a dinosaur in
    the name of evolution. the only problem for all of the potential contenders is, where the American UFC style is, having a basis in classic boxing and good ole fashioned mid-west wrestling, is facing a level of complete martial artists the likes of Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva. Until the ‘dummy American’ style evolves to incorporate multidimensional skills, namely kicks, knees, and elbows, no one will have a chance in beating the worlds ultimate and finest fighters.
    A minor problem in the UFC business model, perhaps that had not been accounted for…since things were working well until Anderson S. arrived.

  21. Dave Walsh Says:

    I don’t know if you are complimenting me or dissing me.

    Anyway, funny that now Lyoto is champ and Margarito is a criminal.

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