When asked by Paula Sack about his upcoming bout with Lyoto Machida, Gegard Mousasi said,
“Not the biggest (challenge of my career). I’ve had many fights, against dangerous strikers, heavier opponents. I fought K-1…. different divisions. It’s one of the most important fights for me. Definite a big challenge because he’s one of the best. I look forward to the fight… I haven’t really watched his fights… but he has his gaps… Stand-up, he makes mistakes. I think it’s gonna be that fight — whoever makes a mistake is gonna pay for it.”
Middleweight and Stylistic Matchup
Mousasi isn’t a big 205er — in his last bout, he came in exactly at 205. He will come in “more conditioned and bigger” than he would against a Light Heavyweight. In an interview with Kayrn Bryant, Mousasi said that Machida is an intelligent fighter (and that he’s excited for a fight — “It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited for a fight).
When discussing how he’s going to deal with Machida’s “unorthodox” Karate style, Mousasi said,
“I trained with Jaouad Ikan. That’s my friend who I always trained with — he’s a karate guy. He even fought Machida twice, I think, in karate. He does Machida exactly the same. I would say even better… karate-wise. I learned a lot from him. I at least know what to expect in the fight.”
Against A Southpaw: Ovince St Preux
Ovince St Preux — OSP — is 11-1 out of his last 12 fights, only losing to Mousasi. As a southpaw, OSP was able to land several rear kicks to Mousasi’s body. Mousasi established nice “outside” lead-leg kicks to OSP’s lead leg.
OSP was controlled and stuck near the cage for a majority of the bout. Mousasi is “in your face” type of fighter, comfortable in exchange range. OSP was also able to land a nice left-knee to Mousasi — in a similar manner to Machida. However, it should be noted that in these cases Mousasi was able to catch the kicks and knees of OSP.
Kyotaro Fujimoto: Calculated Aggression Against a “Passive” Counter-Fighter
Kyotaro — similar to Machida in some ways — patient, draws the opponent in with back-pedal and at times pesky strikes, and times a big rear-counter.
It’s interesting to note that Mousasi was able to take away small spaces and press forward against a heavyweight without taking much punishment. The key was his calculated aggression — take the space and expect a counter from Kyotaro (low-kicks — especially inside low-kicks). Mousasi would quickly scoot back and retract his lead-leg every time Kyotaro reached out with his hand (if you don’t establish a jab this is a big tell to inside low-kicks).
Mousasi would push forward with the longest and safest weapons: jab and teeps. If he was able to push Kyotaro back, he’d time a cross or rear low-kick.
After being successful with this tactic, Kyotaro started pouring on combinations while pushing forward — not his usual style. As a result, Mousasi got Kyotaro to play his game — the exchange range, and went on to land several counters and mid-range combinations. Eventually, Kyotaro showed several holes — pushing away without protecting the head — the result was more punishment.
Now many may look at how Mousasi beat Kyotaro as a reference on how he’s going to beat Machida. Strategically, it may work — establish “point-gaining” strikes to force Machida into aggression. But it’s important to note that the jab and lead push-kick does not work the same in a Southpaw vs. Orthodox matchup.
If you’ve read my work before, it’s often discussed — most recently in Donald Cerrone: Kicks — Strategies and Tricks
Southpaw against Orthodox Lead Hand:
“In this type of match up, the lead-hands from both fighters align. This is why it becomes much more difficult to jab against the opponent. To see this principle at play, see Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks.”
In Cerrone’s bout against Adriano Martins, Martins had a habit of setting up his strikes with the jab. The Jackson camp must’ve studied this in detail to exploit it — almost every other time Martins reached out to jab, it would get downward parried by Cerrone to launch him into a stepping left-roundhouse.
Downward Parry Into Stepping Left-Kick
Push-Kick Angles in Southpaw vs. Orthodox
Notice Cerrone throws many rear push-kicks. Why? Because rear push-kicks are more versatile in this matchup. Take note of where the lead-foot of the two fighters are. If Cerrone chose to push-kick with the lead leg, he only has the outer-stomach to attack.
This point can easily be attacked by the rear push-kick (notice how it’s still there even when he takes an outstep, but the rear push-kick can also attack the mid-stomach more easily — particularly when their lead-foot are either parallel or if Martins attempt to take an out-step.
These angles matter a whole lot, and its another reason why Georges St-Pierre chose to rear push-kick Johny Hendricks, while opting to lead-leg side-kick.”
I think Mousasi will try to steal points by establishing long strikes early (e.g. rear teep and sliding lead low-kick). But it’s tough to say how effective it’ll be due to several reasons: (a) it’s a 5 round fight — Machida may not feel a need of urgency and Mousasi will have to keep it up for much longer — as a result Machida may figure it out. (b) Machida showed in his last fight that he can press forward with rear-roundhouses very effectively.
I do think the rear-teep will be at play (from Mousasi); Machida will go for sweeps; Mousasi outside lead-leg kick; Machida will land with rear-kick, rear-knee and rear-punch… I think neither will completely control the pace, tempo, or center. Clinches will be engaged and initiated by Mousasi, but Machida will probably disengage.
For now, all I can say for sure is that it’s going to be a battle of brilliance, and I can’t wait to see it materialize.
As always, thank you for reading. To stay updated, you can find Lawrence Kenshin on his social media linked below.