The Ultimate Fighting Championship comes to Los Angeles Saturday for UFC 104. Newly crowned star Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida will defend his light-heavyweight title against fellow Brazilian Maurico "Shogun" Rua.
The bout at Staples Center will showcase the 31-year-old, undefeated champ, who's father is Japanese and whose mother is Brazilian. His multidisciplinary, highly-trained style with roots mostly in karate, represents the more-genteel future of what was once thought to be a bloody, feral sport.
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Machida is a technician whose modesty and hard training (reported to include six hours a day in the gym) has led some to dub him the "karate kid" of the UFC. He's a fighter who has yet to lose a round in an organization where one lucky swing to the jaw can decide a bout. He's triumphed over Tito Ortiz and knocked out Rashad Evans.
It's the first time, however, that the low-profile striker will be carrying a UFC card without a grudge match lower on the card to help stir up drama and ticket sales. Rua is a product of the Japanese circuit called Pride, which was merged into UFC. Although he can be a powerhouse -- he's knocked out Chuck Lidell -- he's been plagued by injury and is on a comeback tour.
Machida grew up in a household of intense discipline. His father owns a dojo, and Machida woke up at sunrise each morning to train as a child. He still works out at his family gym in Brazil, and he still mentions his father as a source of inspiration.