Feuds, Beards & Cameroon Rule UFC 79

Sokoudjou vs. Machida

Dec 28, 2007
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (Pictures) vs. Lyoto Machida (Pictures)

If seeing one of MMA's age-old disputes reach its resolution doesn't appeal to you, then the showdown between UFC newcomer Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (Pictures) and former Antonio Inoki protégé Lyoto Machida (Pictures) should quell your appetite for something a little less retro.

Two of the sport's premier up and comers, Machida's ascent has been years in the making, while Sokoudjou (4-1) went from random prospect to the nouveau-"Brazilian Killa" faster than anyone outside of Team Quest could have imagined.

Originally brought into the Team Quest fold to help Dan Henderson (Pictures) prepare for his bout with Kazuhiro Nakamura (Pictures), Sokoudjou quickly distinguished himself as a skillful judoka and the sort of omega-level athlete capable of transitioning to MMA.

Three years later and Henderson's eye for talent has proven unerring. Sokoudjou ran roughshod over the Pride middleweight division with a pair of first-round knockout wins over highly regarded veterans Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira and Ricardo Arona (Pictures). Having grown accustomed to running the proverbial gauntlet, Sokoudjou should feel right at home taking on MMA's favorite karateka.

The son of legendary shotokan practitioner Yoshizo Machida, Lyoto (11-0) was groomed for fistic success from a young age, studying both shotokan and sumo before moving on to Muay Thai and wrestling under the guidance of puroresu legend Antonio Inoki.

It was through his relationship with Inoki that Machida was leveraged as Japan's next great light heavyweight hope despite being half-Brazilian. However, Inoki held back his star pupil by matching him up with mediocre competition in K-1 and the Jungle Fight organization.

To the relief of fans everywhere, Machida cut ties with Inoki and soon found himself right where he belongs: fighting under the UFC banner. Having raced out to a fast start in the UFC with three one-sided decision wins, Lyoto may be one more win away from entrenching himself as a title contender.

Much of Machida's success is owed to his singular style, which combines various elements from his diverse training background. Perpetually on the defensive, Machida is often content to pick apart his opponents as they come in and then quickly disengage before they can answer with any offense of their own.

For that strategy to work against Sokoudjou, Machida will have to be on his toes. Sokoudjou's style is akin to the '86 Bears smash-mouth "46" defense. He's always coming forward and unloading with heavy strikes, and most opponents simply can't handle the pressure that Sokoudjou brings from the opening bell.

A true thinking man's fighter, Machida is unlikely to be put off by Sokoudjou's relentless style. In fact, Machida seems to thrive when opponents are willing to engage him. What has been Sokoudjou's greatest strength will be the fuel for a Machida victory, as he frustrates the Cameroonian with his precise counters and ethereal movement.

Another unanimous decision win will come Machida's way when Sokoudjou learns that coming forward means nothing when your strikes end up swiping at air. Next up for Machida is a clash inside the cage against Inoki, thus completing the classic "student challenges the teacher" storyline.

Hey, a guy can hope.
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