One of the most talked about fights at UFC 84 was the Tito Ortiz vs. Lyoto Machida match up. Very few are indifferent when it comes to Ortiz, he is either loved or hated. However Machida has not been a beacon for controversy. Sure his fight style has previously been questioned by a few of the self-appointed MMA pundits, but after his bout with Ortiz, those questioning pundits grew exponentially.
Is this fair? He won the fight in convincing fashion, but many fans are frustrated, even furious. The most ridiculous compare him to Kalib Starnes who did not attempt to engage Nathan Quarry at UFC 83. A few others are upset because he did not try to finish and was content with simply out pointing Ortiz in route to a decision. And finally, there are some that just can't stomach his style. They call it boring, unworthy of gracing the Octagon.
Of course these are opinions, just like this article. We are all entitled to them. Therefore, I don't intend to change anybody's mind. I just want to offer my opinion and then a few hard to argue with facts.
What we witnessed in the UFC 84 bout was a complete fighter who executed a game plan to near perfection. Machida did not want to give Ortiz the opportunity to take the fight to the ground because Ortiz is bigger, stronger, and his prowess for beating people up on the canvas is well documented. So Machida moved, picked his spots, fired punches and kicks when he saw openings, worked to stay on the feet, and thoroughly frustrated Ortiz. No running whatsoever.
Regarding Machida not attempting to finish, it is my contention that Machida did look to end the fight. The opportunity did not really present itself and he remained disciplined until late in round three when he landed the knee. Once Ortiz dropped Machida pounced, worked to finish, and was almost submitted for his troubles. As a matter of fact his efforts to stop the fight at that moment might've been the only time he strayed from his plan and it almost cost him.
As for Machida being boring, again it is a matter of opinion. This next statement may make MMA fans stomachs turn, but I'll say it anyway. Machida's style is akin to practitioners of high level Olympic style Tae kwon do in the sense that he does his best to hit the other guy without getting hit. He creates angles, uses feints, and offers an array of strikes. Some have a problem with this, I personally don't. I find it fun to watch because it requires great skill, something like Barry Sanders slipping and sliding to evade tacklers. Of course unlike the Tae kwon do Olympians Machida is also well versed on the ground if the fight goes there.
Now enough of the opinion regarding Machida's style, let's get to some facts. According to Fightmetric.com in round one Machida was 2 of 5 with head power shots, Ortiz was 0 of 13. Machida was 3 of 4 with body power shots while Ortiz did not attempt any. Machida landed 3 of 8 leg power shots, while Ortiz was 0 of 2. Overall for the round Machida connected on 23 of 34 strikes while Ortiz was 0 of 18.
Round two was more of the same, Machida was 5 of 6 with head power shots, Ortiz was 0 of 11. Machida was 1 of 1 with body power shots, Ortiz was 2 of 3. Machida connected on 3 of 3 leg power shots and Ortiz did not attempt any. In round two Machida landed on 17 of 20 strikes while Ortiz was 6 of 19.
Round three was a much better round for Ortiz that is until the knockdown. Machida was 5 of 12 with head power shots while Ortiz was 2 of 5. Machida was 1 of 1 in body power shots while Ortiz was 9 of 9. Machida did not attempt any leg power shots while Ortiz was 2 of 2. Overall for round three Machida landed 27 of 37 strikes with most of them being jabs. Ortiz was 33 of 39 with 18 of 20 coming from head jab shots.
Thanks to the third round knockdown and subsequent attempt to finish by Machida he landed quite a few more ground strikes as well, 26 of 33 to Ortiz's 16 of 16.
Due to Machida's continuous movement it is easy to conclude that he didn't want to engage Ortiz a great deal, but the numbers seem to disagree. For the entire fight Machida was 67 of 91 for a connection percentage of 73.6. Ortiz was 39 of 76 for a connection percentage of 51.3.
When we look a little deeper at the numbers, through the first two rounds Ortiz was only able to hit Machida six times, while Lyoto landed 40 times. Almost half of Tito's punches came on the ground late and none of them were power shots. Speaking of power shots, overall Machida was 23 of 40 while Ortiz was 15 of 45!
As can be seen by the above numbers Machida did what he needed to win and win convincingly. He threw more shots and almost as many power shots. Ortiz was game and fought his hardest, but plainly had a difficult time hitting Machida. The fact that he is so good at making people miss may not be exactly what the sport of mixed martial arts was built on, but it should not be held against "The Dragon" and I for one love watching him fight.
For more opinion pieces, results of UFC 84, and other interesting stories check out my blog Sports by the Numbers MMA.