The End of Karate in MMA?

Caption contest!  Post your best one-liner in the comments!

All joking aside, Machida’s loss raises some serious questions.  Throughout his career, and especially before the rematch with Shogun, Lyoto has had his critics.  Just before the fight, an interesting article published by Jake Rossen (Sherdog.com) explains:

“Much will be made this week on whether or not Rua can make additional adjustments to figure out Machida’s style. If the first fight is an indication, it’s Machida who needs to worry about figuring out Rua’s. If he can do that, and decisively finish a man who gave him such trouble, it will be another episode in a storied career. If he cannot, then karate will fall into the same suffocating fate as every dynamic new method of professional fighting to come before it: It will become familiar.”

Was familiarity the issue in this fight?  It seems to me like Machida was figuring out Shogun: he avoided leg kicks better than in their first bout, scored a few takedowns, and was landing knees up until the very end.  The problem was that Machida, in his efforts to vindicate himself from the poorly-decided first fight, was way over aggressive.  He abandoned his defensive style and feared “leaving the fight in the hands of the judges.”

Here’s the fight–sorry for the poor quality.  If you skip to about 3:40, you’ll see the beginning of the end for Lyoto.  The angle is a little off, and the action is really fast, but you can see that he was really gunning for Rua here.  At about 4:50 you can see a replay that shows Lyoto’s mistake: in his haste, he lead with a reverse karate punch–a primarily defensive move.  This concept isn’t exclusive to karate.  How often does a boxer lead with a cross?  Even when throwing a reverse punch on the attack, most karateka will do something to distract their opponent.  Machida just dove in with a chambered punch.  His face was wide open.

I don’t mean to over-analyze Machida’s performance.  I certainly don’t mean to criticize him.  He’s my favorite fighter!  But it’s plain to see that the his style in this match is a complete turnaround from the ever-evasive, switch-kicking, couter-striking master that became the UFC champ.  It seems that karate hasn’t abandoned Lyoto Machida, Lyoto Machida abandoned karate.

I think this is temporary.  The Machida family are geniuses for adapting Shotokan to MMA; however, becoming too aggressive to impress the fans and the judges is a mistake.  I expect them to right the wagon and for Lyoto to get back to his roots.

What do you think?  Weigh in here.

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About moaimartialarts

Lucky enough to grow up with the martial arts, I have felt their positive influence throughout my life and am especially interested in sharing these experiences with others. I enjoy working with youth and adults to give back some of what I've received. If you would like to learn more about Uechi-Ryu/Shohei-Ryu Karate, or if you want to find people to train with, please contact me. I am the head karate instructor for the Meriden Martial Arts Club.
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5 Responses to The End of Karate in MMA?

  1. BJJinCT says:

    The reason ANY Karate or most stand up arts can be used in the cage successfully is because of the fact that these guys are exeperts in ground fighting(Black Belts In BJJ) which allows them to conduct them selves on thier feet without fear of being taken to the ground hence the Domination of BJJ in MMA.

  2. shoheiryuct says:

    I have to say I do agree with a lot of this. As a long-time student of karate, I always worried about what would happen if I was taken down. Now that I’ve started BJJ, I know I would have been in real trouble. The ability to negate an opponent’s strikes is a major asset in a fight–in MMA or otherwise. There’s no denying that’s why BJJ works so well in the cage and why all fighters need to know how to grapple.

    That being said, I’m wondering how you feel about offensive versus defensive styles? Wrestling is an offensive style while jiu-jitsu is more defensive. Muay Thai is an offensive style while karate is more defensive. Which style or strategy or mix of skills do you think is better suited for MMA?

  3. Flynn says:

    It’s funny how ppl are quick to dismiss Machida and everything that he has accomplished after the last fight. I think most ppl who are unfamiliar with the “Iken Isetsu” or “one strike kill” fighting strategy do not understand it . . . and even seem to be uncomfortable with it. But, that is what you see when Machida is being “elusive” and usually … See Moreeffective. I think you nailed it sighting his abandoning this and going to a very aggressive strategy. If he is smart, he will return to the thing that got him so far!

  4. Curtis says:

    It seemed like Lyoto was able to avoid some of the strikes but he never was able to dominate. After seeing the first fight and the preparations for this one, it seemed like Lyoto wasn’t really preparing a change in his approach – he was more reacting to the aggressiveness that Shogun naturally utilizes.

    People say that GSP is boring because he controls opponents – I disagree with that sentiment – but he uses what he’s best at and, at least for now, no one can touch his game. Lyoto should have stuck to what he knows best and modified his game to beat Shogun – maybe more jiu jitsu, maybe more defensive striking. A win via decision, knockout, or submission is still a win.

    It seems that Lyoto hasn’t faced much adversity in his career. When fighters are faced with a new situation (like being overmatched) you can see in their eyes that they’re struggling. Experienced fighters seem to maintain a sense of calm both inside and out. I saw a fight with Faber in his prime – his back had been taken for more than 3 minutes – he never flinched. Totally relaxed and comfortable being in a defensive position while he waited for his opportunity. Had Lyoto not forced the situation, could he have remained more in control and played to his strength? Not popular to watch but it could have been effective enough to win.

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