UFC 104: "Machida vs Shogun" PredictionsWith less than 24 hours to go until UFC 104: “Machida vs Shogun,” MMARising.com’s Robert Sargent and Mike Miller preview the solid card, which is headlined by a UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout between Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

In other main card action, undefeated rising star Cain Velasquez battles former IFL standout “Big” Ben Rothwell in a heavyweight tilt and Spencer “The King” Fisher takes on Joe “Daddy” Stevenson in a lightweight fight that has quickly turned into a grudge match.


UFC Light Heavyweight Championship

Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida vs Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

Rob: With many believing that Machida is unbeatable, Shogun is one of few who seems to pose any threat at all to the karate ace. The deciding factor in this fight will be whether or not the same Shogun shows up as the one who handily stopped Chuck Liddell. Shogun employs an often wild style and that could be a problem when facing a tactician like Machida.

Mike: Honestly, everyone knows who these two fighters are, but I can’t see how anyone is giving Rua a chance. Rua is an aggressive Muay Thai striker with a feared ground game. Machida is a man (or machine?) who has rolled through every striker, wrestler, bear and beast on this planet. Machida has made four top-10 pound-for-pound fighters look like they did not belong in the same cage – maybe even on the same card – as him.

Rob: As good as Machida is, it’s impossible to discount Shogun entirely because he was the long-time king of the light heavyweight division for a reason. His strikes are very unorthodox, even more so than Machida, and that could pose problems for Machida that he hasn’t seen before. People are quick to forget that the wild strikes from Kazuhiro Nakamura were actually the most effective that Machida has faced in the UFC so far. As easy as it is to take the overwhelming favourite Machida, this is the part where I show (perhaps misguided) faith in Shogun to pull off a crazy upset.

Mike: Rua has been nagged by knee injuries from his vicious days in PRIDE and Machida is a champion who, in his last fight, never looked better. Rua struggled to defeat a 44-year-old Mark Coleman and Machida made two top-10 light heavyweights, whose ages add up to only a little more than Coleman’s, look borderline useless. Machida is a devastating counterstriker who thrives off of the mistakes that his opponents make and Rua is a striker who can get very reckless.



Rob: Shogun by TKO in round two.
Mike: Machida by TKO in round two.



Cain Velasquez vs “Big” Ben Rothwell

Rob: Velasquez was originally set to battle Shane Carwin to determine a number one contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, but Carwin got the immediate title shot and Velasquez instead has to get past a very tough test in former IFL star Rothwell.

Mike: Rothwell was a dominant and unstoppable force in the now-defunct International Fight League. Posting an incredible 9-0 record with all but two wins by stoppage during his stint in the IFL, he was feared for a reason. Cain is a promising heavyweight prospect from the American Kickboxing Academy. Did I mention that Velasquez is in way over his head? I will jump right out and say it. Rothwell is determined and skilled and has a personality that is positively correlated with his size.

Rob: Velasquez took Cheick Kongo’s best shots and pushed right through them to finish his takedowns. He showed that he can be rocked, but he also showed that he has an inhuman recovery rate. Velasquez plans to take this fight to the ground and that is clearly his best course of action. Standing and trading with Rothwell would be suicide, but Velasquez is smart. However, intelligence isn’t going to be enough this time, as Rothwell actually has a ground game, whereas Kongo did not.

Mike: Cain might be a great wrestler, and he has looked somewhat “fearsome” in his fights so far, but he has fought against opponents who were either overmatched or poorly matched. O’Brien is only a wrestler, Kongo has no ground game and Stojnic was just sloppy (and slobby). Kongo is the only person who has had Cain in any trouble and that was from a jab combination. Rothwell has over 40 pounds of muscle on Cheick and is not afraid to let his hands go. Whether this fight ends quickly or goes long, I just feel that Rothwell has the better chance.



Rob: Rothwell by TKO in round one.
Mike: Rothwell by TKO in round two.