Perhaps best known as the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, Chinzo Machida has designs on a successful MMA career of his own. However, a hand injury suffered in a December defeat and two subsequent surgeries could keep him out of action for much of 2011.
Chinzo remains an integral part of his brother’s inner circle and has helped the karateka train for his upcoming bout with hall of famer Randy Couture at UFC 129 “St. Pierre vs. Shields” on April 30 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Lyoto will enter the cage on the heels of back-to-back losses to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Chinzo discusses his path to recovery, his brother’s showdown with Couture and what he believes could be the secret to defeating reigning UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
I thought your hand was already recovered from the injury you sustained. What happened?
Machida: In December, I fought for Win Fight and Entertainment in Salvador and broke my hand in the first round, but I continued to fight. I got treatment there in Salvador, and after I got back here in Belem, I had to have surgery. Three months after surgery, I was teaching and my hand hit the other guy and broke the plate. I had to have the surgery again and will stop for another three or four months. Only then can I go back to training. I want to be fighting in the second half of the year.
How does Lyoto look ahead of his fight with Randy Couture at UFC 129?
Machida: Lyoto is very well prepared and already more than two months into training. We’re expecting Glover Teixeira to lend a hand with training and sparring. We have already fixed up an Octagon for him to train in. He is training for when the day of the fight arrives.
Many people have pointed to Lyoto as a possible complication for UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones because of his ability to dictate distance. How do you view Lyoto as a potential opponent for Jones if everything goes well from here?
Machida: Jones is a different kind of guy because of his size and physical structure. He’s also very technical, so I’m not denying that he’s exceptional. He’s extraordinary. Nevertheless, our main focus now is on Couture. We know how hard it is to face him, despite his age. We’re staring at him as a high-level fighter. He’s a five-time champion of the UFC, and that must be taken into consideration. We’re very focused, but we see what’s happening. We followed the fight between Jones and [Mauricio] “Shogun” [Rua], but we’re very focused on our fight. We’ll think about what’s next when the time comes. Now, it’s time to think about Couture.
What tactics does Lyoto plan to use to defeat Couture?
Machida: We know he’s a guy who always looks for the clinch. His strongest point is in the clinch against the cage. We’ve trained a lot in this specifically. We’re training the ground and standup hard, as Lyoto is used to doing. We’re in the last two weeks of preparation, and then we’re in the homestretch. We hired a physiologist to take care of that part and guide us. We also called on Professor Paulo Afonso -- he was a student of my father’s and has become renowned in karate and fought in MMA -- to help give us the strength to succeed.
Jon Jones file photo
Machida points to Jones' wrestling.
Speaking of Shogun and Jones, what did you think of their fight?
Machida: I thought it was a difficult fight for Shogun after being away for some time. He faced a guy who was in better shape and had a better fighting rhythm. The fight proved Shogun is a very tough guy, because he endured a lot of punches. Not just anyone can handle that much punishment. I would like to see Shogun better prepared. Jones’ game is really complete and makes it difficult for anyone.
He has very good wrestling, and, today, that’s what dictates the fights, either forcing a guy to the ground or forcing him to defend takedowns. In addition to jiu-jitsu and standup, wrestling is what is defining many fights.
Many people have said that if Shogun had entered his fight with Jones in the same shape that he entered his rematch against your brother, it would have played out differently. Do you agree?
Machida: I agree the fight would have been different, but I don’t know if Shogun would have won. I say that because Shogun’s strategy doesn’t work against Jones’ strategy. Shogun goes too far forward, and although he has a very strong punch, Jones has a very large wingspan. Shogun would have to play a little with the strategy and seek to change the pace of the fight so he could surprise Jones.
If all goes according to plan and Lyoto defeats Couture, what would be his next move in your opinion?
Machida: I think he needs a few fights before coming back to challenge for the belt. Everything has its time, in my opinion. If he needs to do some fighting to get back, which I think he will, I think it will be good for him. He’ll gain more confidence, and he’ll really be able to have the opportunity to compete for the title. If he gets there, it will be because he deserved it. The more fights he has before, the more it validates him. We cannot think about just the belt. We’ll seek to evolve and grow his confidence, so he can return to fight for the belt.
I was talking to Lyoto’s physical trainer, and we agreed that in the first two rounds against Quinton Jackson, Lyoto was still feeling the weight of his first defeat. In the third round, he broke loose and got back to being the Lyoto everyone knows. Do you also feel that way?
Machida: I also feel that way. It was something we noticed after the defeat because Lyoto had never lost, much less by knockout. In a way, he was a little cautious, not wanting to take another blow like that. He was more cautious than normal. He had some initial misgivings about his strategy but once he realized it would work, I think he went with it in the third round. I think it will be like that moving forward.
Do you think he may fight at UFC “Rio” in August?
Machida: Absolutely. We’re all hoping he has a good fight and defeats Couture, so he can be invited to be a part of the UFC in Rio de Janeiro. All of Brazil will be behind him, and he will do his best to please the crowd.
Brazil lost two belts in the light heavyweight division in two weeks. Rafael Cavalcante lost to Dan Henderson and Shogun lost to Jones. What do you think about that development?
Machida: Without a doubt, the Americans are improving. I was there training with Lyoto in July, and we spent 40 days there. We saw the differences that exist between us. Brazilians are more talented; we have a more refined technique and natural ability. However, Americans are very hard-working, and they don’t play around. The training is difficult, and it’s rare that you see any of them miss training. They want to be on top. That’s one difference I see. The other difference is that they benefit a little from the technique in wrestling. They learned to protect against our jiu-jitsu, and because they have a wrestling tradition in college, they’re more developed. What happened to [Rogerio] “Minotoro” [Nogueira] has happened a lot. Minotoro defended the takedowns well at the beginning against [Phil] Davis, but then Davis took advantage of his wrestling and won. Minotoro was trying to make the fight, but the strategy that the American used from wrestling meant he could win on points.
What do you think is the secret to defeating Jones?
Machida: I think the best way would be to counter. Since he has long arms, we’d expect him to make the first move. Between that and another, we’d have to wait for the right moment. Since he has a very large wingspan, it becomes more difficult. If you let him punch, the speed of transition between one strike and the other really gets a bit compromised. Anyone who went to work that way would have a better chance. Jones is a great opponent for any fighter.