As he prepares for his light heavyweight title fight with Lyoto Machida at UFC 104, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is expressing a concern that I've heard other fighters express before fighting Machida: It's really hard to find a sparring partner who can prepare you for Machida's unique style.
"I think people call Lyoto Machida a puzzle because he's a very different kind of fighter -- he fights in a different style than most people fight," Rua says. "It's very difficult to find sparring partners and train with sparring partners who will emulate his style so you can get used to it. I believe Lyoto Machida is a fighter who fights with a counter-strike style, so if you expose yourself to him by overly pressing forward he can take advantage of that and capitalize and hit you, hurt you and take advantage of your exposure. I think you have to be patient enough to find the right moment to attack, to know when to engage, when to connect with your strikes and when to pursue him so you don't get exposed to his style and his counter-striking abilities."
Rashad Evans made a similar comment to me about his preparation for Machida: He said that no one in the MMA world has the same karate technique that Machida has, so when you're preparing to fight Machida, it's impossible to find anyone who can push you in training every day the way Machida will push you in the Octagon. James McSweeney (who's on the current season of The Ultimate Fighter) did his best Machida impression to try to help Evans get ready, but there's only one Lyoto Machida. And as Shogun points out, there's no sparring partner who can match Machida.
More from Machida and Shogun:
Shogun Rua Embraces Underdog Role In Chasing UFC Title Dreams
Lyoto Machida Out to Make Traditional Martial Arts Proud