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Bellator 222 breakdown: Who takes Lyoto Machida-Chael Sonnen southpaw showdown?

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MMA Junkie Radio co-host and MMA Junkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down Bellator’s top bouts. Today, we look at the co-main event for Bellator 222.

Bellator 222 takes place Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.

Lyoto Machida (25-8 MMA, 1-0 BMMA)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 41 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 74″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Rafael Carvalho (Dec. 15, 2018)
  • Camp: Blackhouse MMA (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ Former UFC light-heavyweight champion
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ Shotokan karate black belt
+ 10 KO victories
+ 2 submission wins
+ 5 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Crafty feints and footwork
^ Deceptive distance closer
+ Accurate left cross
^ Coming forward or off the counter
+ Dangerous left kick
+ Traditionally counter wrestles well
^ Solid base and balance
+/- 4-3 against career southpaws

Chael Sonnen (30-16-1 MMA, 2-2 BMMA)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 42 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 74″
  • Last fight: TKO loss to Fedor Emelianenko (Oct. 13, 2018)
  • Camp: ATT Portland (Portland, Ore.)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler
+ Multiple wrestling accolades
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 8 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ Aggressive pace and pressure
+ Underrated striking ability
^ Solid boxing technique
+ Strong inside of the clinch
+ Excellent takedown ability
^ Favors power-doubles
+ Good transitional grappler
^ Passes, rides and floats well
+/- 1-3 against southpaws (last 10 yrs.)

Point of interest: Southpaw vs. southpaw

The co-main event for Bellator 222 features an intriguing matchup of veteran-savvy southpaws.

As I often preach in my breakdowns, a matchup of lefties can often be tricky, especially considering most southpaws predicate their games on facing an opponent of the opposite stance. For this reason, the more “skilled” striker does not always demonstrate his perceived on-paper advantages.

With that in mind, I will be curious to see Lyoto Machida’s approach in what will be his seventh straight southpaw opponent.

Typically circling along the outside of range, Machida will lure his opposition into his space, keeping left-cross counters on a hair-trigger for anyone who commits to entering. Once finding offensive angles to his liking, the Brazilian blitzes in left-to-right punch continuums.

When feeling in stride, the 41-year-old will unleash his patented left body and head kicks, a weapon that has seemingly gotten stronger since his time spent with Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA. In said time, Machida has opted to throw more leg kicks in his repertoire, a trend I will be curious to see if he carries over to this fight considering the potential level-changing threats coming his way.

A self-proclaimed “gangster” from West Linn, Ore., Chael Sonnen is a southpaw who has little issues with confidence when it comes to trading in a fist fight.

Demonstrating solid boxing fundamentals (something he’s had experience in from a young age), Sonnen utilizes strong fakes while working behind a pumping jab. And with his patented left cross not far behind, the 22-year pro will quickly close the distance as he looks to change his level.

This high-percentage approach has served Sonnen well over the years, and it’s even earned him some memorable moments against skilled strikers like Anderson Silva. That said, despite showing arguable improvements to his striking in recent outings, Sonnen will still have to mind being timed by one of the best in the game when it comes to countering –– a trade-off that should keep exchanges exciting while they last.

Next point of interest: Avoiding the wrestler’s wrath

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