Whenever someone mentioned the front-kick, my mind would summon Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort. Many credit Anderson Silva for bringing the technique to the table – and it’s true — after Silva vs. Belfort, the kick showed up in various bouts. Amongst many fights, perhaps the most spectacular was Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture and Travis Browne vs. Alistair Overeem.
Anderson Silva did popularize the technique, but that’s not the first time I saw an MMA bout end with a front-kick. Shame on me, I forgot the fight because it wasn’t a “high profile fight”. In hindsight, I should’ve remembered – if Anderson Silva didn’t exist, either of them could’ve been the greatest middleweight of all time.
Rich Franklin Era
When I was just starting to follow MMA, Rich Franklin was the middleweight champion. My friends and I were amused at how he’s a Jim Carrey doppelganger. But more importantly, we were amazed at how a math teacher beat up Ken “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Shamrock – a man of frightening physique and an equally frightening nickname.
Franklin won the title off Evan Tanner (27-3 at the time, with his only UFC loss to Tito Ortiz), and defended it against murderers like Nate Quarry and David Loiseau (a superbly talented fighter). Remember, this was at a time where Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, Chuck Liddell, and Tim Sylvia were kingpins.
Franklin held a sterling record of 22-1: so I thought, “who in the world beat this amazing fighter, and how?!” Upon going to Sherdog, I found a fighter named Lyoto Machida. I saw that Machida was an undefeated Karateka with wins over Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar, Michael Mcdonald (the murderous American Kickboxer), and BJ Penn.
Upon more research I found a website listing him as the #1 prospect. I was sold – I had to watch it on YouTube. In his bout against Franklin, he moved with exceptional grace and had some of the best kicks I’ve seen in MMA. But that’s not what blew my mind: he ended the fight with a front-kick and a punch.
In my undeveloped mind, I thought, “That’s impossible! I learned the front-kick the first day of my Taekwondo class. *A class where I was very dissatisfied with how the entire class was front-kicks (to the point where the instructor asked me “what’s wrong”. How’d Machida pull it off against a future world champion?… must be luck. That’s right, a lucky kick! And maybe it wasn’t even the front-kick that put him out, it’s just the punch.”
I am sorry, Lyoto Machida. It was wrong of me to forget about your beautiful front-kick transition. I forgot that you were the first to beat Rich Franklin. I had you picked to be a future UFC champion. I forgot about it because I didn’t want to believe in your front-kick… but now I’ll never forget.
As always, thank you for reading. Stay tuned for Machida’s pre-UFC breakdowns. To stay updated, you can follow Lawrence Kenshin on his social media accounts below.