From a statistical perspective, this is a trickier fight to predict than you might expect.
Let me elaborate. Machida and Mousasi both prefer to stand and strike as opposed to doing anything else. Machida will mix in some takedowns, but that’s definitely secondary to his striking. The same goes for Mousasi.
In a striking match, I’m not so sure that Machida would have the advantage. Machida’s patient and careful style is great at limiting the opponent’s offense but often results in his fights being too close for comfort. Overall, Machida has landed 2.0 strikes for every one he’s absorbed, which is a phenomenal ratio. But Mousasi trumps it with a ratio of 3.5 strikes landed for every one absorbed.
It’s true that Machida has faced considerably tougher competition throughout his career than Mousasi, so those numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. But Mousasi should not be counted out in a fight that stays standing. Mousasi is a fighter who has defeated some high-level opponents in professional kickboxing. He’s no joke.
To illustrate my point, take Dan Henderson for example. Henderson is many things but a great technical kickboxer is not one of them. He had a very close fight against Machida in terms of strikes landed. Phil Davis outright defeated Machida by keeping the strike count close and landing a couple takedowns (although that decision is still very contentious). Jon Jones and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua straight up beat Machida in striking matches. I understand, these names I’m listing are very good/great fighters… but so is Mousasi.
The “X-factor” here, and the reason I’m favoring Machida to win the fight, is Mousasi’s historically weak takedown defense. I mentioned that both fighters like to mix in a takedown here or there. If Mousasi tries that against Machida he’s likely to be stuffed – Machida has 79% takedown defense against a who’s who in the light-heavyweight division. But if Machida goes for a takedown on Mousasi… he’s almost certain to land it.
The best game plan for Machida is to take Mousasi down early and play the top control game. Mousasi’s ground game isn’t poor by any means, but Machida has very strong Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills and should be able to win as long as he maintains top position. Mousasi’s takedown defense is just 52% and again, he hasn’t faced the same level of competition that Machida has.
From a pure fan perspective, I want to see the striking match. I want to see what happens in a kickboxing match between Machida and Mousasi. That would be extremely interesting to me. But if Machida wants to win, he’ll do it by way of takedowns and the ground game.
Pick: Lyoto Machida by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
Machida is the favorite at -235 with Mousasi the underdog at +195. I think Machida is the favorite to win, but only by a narrow margin due to Mousasi’s excellent striking abilities. At a +195 price I think Mousasi represents decent value, so I’m going to risk $1.00 to win $1.95 on him.