What kind of hype was Murrieta’s own African Assassin Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou carrying into the octagon last time he fought at UFC 79 in Vegas? Enough that Joe Rogan, the seasoned voice of the UFC, sang out “I just want to sit back and watch Sokoudjou” as the bell rang—as if undefeated Lyoto Machida was mincemeat, nothing more than a clay mold for Sokoudjou’s big fist. Machida of course came over Sokoudjou like a hallucination in the second round, submitting the Cameroonian via an arm triangle with nightmare calm (I believe the term is discipline), a scene that has played through Sokoudjou’s mind ever since.
So the first lesson the 24-year-old Team Quest member Sokoudjou should have taken from that UFC debut heading into this Saturday’s redemption bout with Kazuhiro Nakamura? Don’t let pre-fight hype pressure you into making mistakes. Sokoudjou wanted to bury Machida fast, as he’d done to the heavy favorite Rogerio Nogueira (23 seconds) in Pride. He expended a lot of energy early, and, by his own admission, he wasn’t having fun out there (hard to have when eating elbows). But the greater lesson?—every man is vincible. Which boils down to, not so much my opponent is beatable—but rather I am beatable. It’s that kind of self-reflexive epiphany which informs self-preservation, survival, and killer instinct. Losses can be the best thing to happen to a young fighter (especially in MMA where everybody loses sometimes), and Sokoudjou learned a lot in that Machida fight. So when he steps back into the octagon this Saturday for UFC 84 at the MGM Grand, it’d be surprising if he didn’t teach Nakamura a lesson. (Chuck Mindenhall)
UFC 84, BJ Penn versus Sean Sherk, Tito Ortiz versus Lyoto Machida, Keith Jardine versus Wanderlei Silva, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou versus Kazuhiro Nakamura, MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Saturday, May 24, on Pay-Per-View live, 7PM