UFC: 'The Dragon' rules

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

He's the real-life Karate Kid minus Mr. Miyagi and the Hollywood subplot.

UFC light-heavyweight champ Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida is a one-man testimonial to the power of explosive striking and calculated baiting.

In a sport where every fighter needs a mixed bag of disciplines to succeed, the 30-year-old Brazilian has re-introduced karate to a generation that had long ago traded the Japanese art for Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai.

The end result has been a spike in karate class registrations across the continent and a vindication for martial arts purists.

"I'm very happy to be in this position to be able to make all of these people in the traditional martial arts proud," Machida said through an interpreter.

Machida grew up in a karate family in Salvador, Brazil. His father Yoshizo Machida is a Shotokan master and Lyoto received his black belt at 13.

He has trained extensively in jiu-jitsu and even sumo, but it is his grounding in karate that has made him an unsolvable challenge to his opponents.

"I've been adapting karate because my karate is not the typical karate that you learn, but I've been adapting it for quite a few years and how to adapt karate to be effective in mixed martial arts," he said.

With a perfect 15-0 record and the astonishing feat of never having lost a round in the UFC, Machida will take on fellow Brazilian Mauricio "Shogun" Rua tonight's UFC 104 main event.

It will be Machida's first title defence since his knockout destruction of former champ "Sugar" Rashad Evans at UFC 98.

But it hasn't been an easy ride selling his traditional style to a mixed martial arts audience with little patience.

His stick-and-move, cerebral approach to fighting was booed by many fans in his early outings.

The ever-gracious Machida responded by saying he would try to make his fights more exciting.

He enlisted the help of a strength and conditioning coach before his fight with Thiago Silva and the results were devastating.

He knocked out the then-undefeated Silva in the first round, earning a title shot and countless new fans.

MOST EXCITING FIGHTER?

Machida, once labelled a boring three-round decision fighter, is now coming off two knockout wins and is arguably the most exciting fighter in the game.

His opponent knows he's in for a war.

"Lyoto is a different guy, a different fighter from the other athletes," says the 18-3 Rua, who's coming off a knockout win that sent Chuck Liddell into retirement.

"He's a guy with a karate background and well-adapted to mixed martial arts. And it's very tough to find him during the fight, to find the right distance as he has great timing."

UFC 104 is available in Canada on pay-per-view.

JOSE.RODRIGUEZ@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos