Bellator 180: James Gallagher vs Chinzo Machida
Its getting to be something when the most anticipated mixed martial arts card of the week is a Bellator event. Its saying even more when there is a UFC just the very next day. Times are changing indeed and while Bellator has put on fight cards before, the level of competition on Bellator 180 is truly impressive. While I wont cover every single bout on the fight card, one of the more intriguing match ups pits Conor McGregors protege James Gallagher against veteran karate fighter and MMA convert Chinzo Machida.
As far as overall style goes, James Gallagher is a grappler through and through. While he may try to fool some people into believing hes the second coming of Conor McGregor, Gallagher has already shown that he striking may be competent, even fluid and sharp, but the ground is where his strengths lie. Now, thats not to suggest that Gallagher cant strike at all, but his striking is purely meat and potatoes with jab set ups into power shots.
In this fight hes going to want to take things to the ground or at least threaten. While his striking is certainly competent on the feet, Gallagher would be foolish to take away his biggest strength which is his awesome Brazilian jiujitsu skills. Gallagher is good at maintaining the center which hell want to continue to do in this fight. He should keep a good karate bounce to really mask his movement, through feints, and most of all be unafraid to throw kicks. If he slips on a kick and brings Machida into his guard, opportunities to sweep and get on top will fall right into his lap. How hell have to initiate shot attempts when he gets Machida to the fence, using his bread and butter jab to get in good position to hit a double leg takedown.
Chinzo Machida may have had a late start in MMA yet he still appears to be very fresh. In terms of his form and approach, there arent a great deal of high level karate fighters who have the kind of experience in timing and distancing that Machida has. Unlike his brother Lyoto who is far more focused on countering, Chinzo Machida is more aggressive in his attack. That doesnt mean he attacks constantly, but likes to play the aggressive counter fighter, attacking his opponent which forces them to counter moving them right into Machidas own counter. Machida should also look to kick from the southpaw stance in this fight. Gallagher keeps his hands extremely high so a fake left straight into a left body kick could fold Gallagher in half.
Its obvious that Gallagher will want to take Machida down at some point just as its obvious that Chinzo will want to keep the fight standing. In order to stay upright Machida will have to be constant moving target. Gallagher will want to pressure him against the fence, control center, and enter into range behind his jab as well as leg kicks. Machida is comfortable fighting on the outside but taking the center from time to time is highly advised as well as throwing a ton of feints to freeze the younger man. With Gallagher properly frozen a fake jab/front hand parry can set up a great cross or uppercut.
Its an interesting fight as well get to see two men who like to strike using traditional arts, but at the end of the day this is still clearly a striker versus grappler match up. Who you got?