UFC 98 features a matchup of two undefeated fighters at the pinnacle of the sport. Light Heavyweight Champion “Sugar” Rashad Evans (18-0-1) and number one contender Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida (14-0) will square off on the main event.
In a feature I recently posted was a poll that sought out your votes for the potential winner of that bout. The statistical relevance here is a long shot from a Gallup poll, but I will pretend that the results matter just as much...because I can.
A physicist, a chemist, and an economist were stranded on an island. They had little more than their wits and cans of tuna at their disposal.
While the chemist and the physicist shared elaborate theories on how to open the cans, the economist did what economists do best. He simply assumed he had a can opener and proceeded to feast.
The point is that today I feel like an economist, and I am going to assume that I am more knowledgeable than most of the voters. My dueling pistols and I are coming at the 15 of you.
Let’s delve into the fighters.
Lyoto has been very impressive in the UFC. He has managed to win all of his fights while remaining relatively unscathed. He has shown an affinity to countering strikes, and has set a tremendous precedent for Karate-based mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters.
He stands wide, tilts his head back, keeps his arms in front of him, and has yet to be significantly threatened on his feet. He is patient, calculated, and precise with his strikes. In addition, “The Dragon” is a good grappler, with a black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu.
Machida has remained a complex riddle in the UFC. He is viewed by many as a true martial artist, and all would agree that Lyoto is a well-rounded mixed martial artist.
The champion, however, has claims to similar qualities. Rashad has evolved from a wrestler into a well-rounded mixed martial artist as well. He possesses good grappling skills, and his boxing has greatly improved.
Much like the challenger, Evans is strategic, patient, and prefers countering strikes. They are both great at timing and exploiting a frustrated opponent’s faux pas.
While Machida has impressed in his contests, Rashad has arguably faced more elite opponents. Some may contest a few of his wins, but it is difficult to refute his propensity to hold his own against great opponents.
In that fact lays a potential advantage for the champion. While he has not fought a striker as elusive as Machida, Rashad has been involved in bigger fights, against top competitors with a wider distribution of skills. Lyoto has yet to face a well-rounded fighter of the champion’s caliber in the UFC.
Styles make fights, and in this case, “Sugar” has the style to at least match “The Dragon.” I don’t foresee any advantage on the ground from either man, but I believe the former has an added tool. That little extra is movement, specifically as it relates to boxing.
Machida moves fast and his body movements are linear. He moves forward, backward, left, right, and diagonally. What he doesn’t often move is his head, and his chin is usually kept up high; though none in the UFC have exposed it to date.
It would take a striker with great footwork to exploit that flaw; someone who is explosive, has great timing, and closes a mean distance. Rashad possesses all of these attributes, and he displays great head movement.
This implies that Rashad will be harder to hit than Machida’s previous opponents. Moreover, his fast hands will likely find a mark on their linear target. I can picture a well-timed straight punch or an overhand, especially if head coach Greg Jackson has a say in the matter.
The unpredictable nature of MMA fights renders any attempted prediction a grand task. Still I have assumed, and then argued, so I must conclude.
Voila! I predict a finish by Rashad Evans, probably a TKO. I hardly need to be an economist for this call, because I have Bruce Lee on my side.
“To beat a martial artist that’s been training for 15 years, all you need to do is box and wrestle for a year, and he’s yours.”
I highly recommend caffeine, lest you miss an exciting finish because you snoozed. That said, I expect a technical and entertaining contest despite their respective defensive styles. So I would urge you to not blink.
Now it’s your turn to pretend you have a crystal ball for UFC 98 on May 23. Better yet, assume you were a dreadlock-sporting Jamaican lady...with a set of cards.
Here’s to sharing elaborate theories, with one assumption too many!