Why Machida Was Right and Jones Was Wrong

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Despite the high injury rate in MMA training, the UFC has never had to cancel an event — until now. Dan Henderson injured his knee, and Jon Jones refused a match with legendary smack-talker Chael Sonnen.

Jack Stack explains why Jones was wrong to turn down that match-up:

This should be obvious to almost everyone: Chael Sonnen is not a light heavyweight, not a striker, and not likely to be able to give Jon Jones any trouble on the feet. This is clearly a hilarious mismatch and it’s actually understandable that Jones would not want anything to do with this fight when it could lower his credibility immediately after signing with Nike. No-one wants to fight enormous mismatches when they are supposed to be proving that they are the best fighter in the world.

On the other hand, this match was an absolute gift in terms of publicity. Chael Sonnen has proven one thing over the last three years; that he can talk up a fight which on paper is an enormous mismatch. No-one rated him as having a chance at Anderson Silva in their first bout, in fact many were disappointed at yet another mediocre middleweight title match being put together, but the amount of smack talking Sonnen did made people pay attention. It was the same with the rematch – Sonnen had lost the first bout with Silva the exact same way he had lost almost every other bout in his career but he still managed to make people pay to see the rematch.

It is interesting that Sonnen began his smack talk campaign against Jon Jones just days before his former team mate and friend, Dan Henderson dropped out of UFC 151. It is certainly worth considering that at least Sonnen knew about Henderson’s inability to compete long before Jones did. In that respect I can understand where Jones is coming from, he could feel like he has been set up to have his opponent switched at the last minute.

What it all comes down to, however, is that almost two dozen fighters on this card have made huge sacrifices, many of them living fight to fight on tight cash, for a card that is now cancelled. Jon Jones directly affected their livelihood and the lives of their families and children by refusing to fight a 185lbs wrestler. It’s understandable that Jones wouldn’t want to risk losing to a middleweight, but that’s exactly what he was risking against Dan Henderson. Jon Jones trained a full camp for a 185lbs wrestler with a huge right hand, and he was asked to fight a 185lbs wrestler with little striking skill or punching power to speak of. When you boil it down to those facts, it’s hard to side with Jon Jones.

Lyoto Machida has turned down a rematch with Jon Jones at UFC 152 on September 22 — but the fact that he was scheduled to take that fight is puzzling:

It bewildered me that Lyoto Machida would take a rematch with so much to work on in his game at such short notice. Lyoto Machida was stopped pretty emphatically by Jon Jones in their last meeting due to Jones’ better wrestling and, more importantly, due to Jones exploiting holes that have always existed in Lyoto Machida’s striking game. The error that Jones exploited in Machida’s striking is not something that can be changed overnight, it is something that Machida has had trained into him since infancy under the karate tutelage of his father.


Machida comes from a karate background, and that is what gives him the confidence to back up for a round and a half and then dive in with a counter as soon as the opponent over commits. Machida uses the same counter every time – a straight with whichever hand is his rear hand (he switches stance often).The difference is that Machida’s karate technique is not good boxing technique.

When the reverse punch is thrown in karate, the non-punching hand is drawn back to the hip in what is called hiki-te. This represents the act of grabbing an assailant’s clothing and serves no functional purpose in MMA.

In boxing the non-punching hand is drawn back to the chin or to above the eyebrow, to deflect an opponent’s punches should he fire back.

Machida can get away with pulling his passive hand back to his hip when he is southpaw and his opponent is orthodox due to his head moving outside of their lead hand and being safe from the left hook. What Jones did was to switch to the same stance as Machida, fake a kick to cause Machida to counter, and then connect a rear hook on the side that Machida drops his hand. This was also not a one off event in the fight — Jones hit Machida with a hard rear hook on the jaw in the first part of the second round — showing just how open Machida is to this punch.


Clearly Lyoto has been working consciously on making sure his non-punching hand is in position to block Jones’ attempts to counter, but this was just a month ago and he still got clipped by Ryan Bader who is an inaccurate striker for the most part. To take a fight next month with Jon Jones would simply be lunacy when Machida has so much specific work to do on his style and gameplan. Lyoto has the tools to defeat Jon Jones, he demonstrated that in the much referred to first round of their bout, but to rush a title shot would be throwing away what could be his last chance at the light heavyweight crown.


  1. Wobbly says:

    I’m laughing at the idea that Jones was “wrong”. I’m not a follower of MMA but this is business and Jones had a deal and when that deal fell through he had a choice to do what was best for him. Henderson is the one not fronting for the fight.

    Why is he fighting? For money? Glory? Who knows, but I doubt his priority is the benefit of the other fighters on the card. There seems to be a fair bit of pressure on him to accept this fight so his refusal shows some strength. Good for him.

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