UFC 104 Preview

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Although nobody in mixed martial arts has any real idea how to beat Lyoto Machida, nobody can accuse Mauricio "Shogun" Rua of not giving it his best shot.

After four solid months of training and strategizing, Rua will attempt to solve his sport's greatest riddle on Saturday night at Staples Center in the UFC's first show in Los Angeles in more than three years.

Machida (15-0), the UFC's light heavyweight champion, has baffled every opponent he has faced during six years of competition on four continents. The Brazilian karate expert has trained in everything from sumo to boxing, and he employs that unique wealth of knowledge to flummox everybody who challenges him.

With an attack based more in the traditional martial arts than in wrestling or other disciplines, Machida's clever positioning and angles lead to big strikes - and he's only getting better, Rua realizes with a gulp.

Machida has yet to lose even one round in a UFC fight, and he stopped his last two opponents - Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans, both previously undefeated - in spectacular style, taking Evans' title and moving into MMA's elite handful of top fighters.

"Every time I step in the octagon, my goal is to become a better fighter," Machida said through an interpreter. "That's my goal every day, is to train on new things, to evolve, to apply the new skills that I'm learning."

It's a brutally tough assignment for Rua (18-3), a fellow Brazilian who has beaten Chuck Liddell and Rampage Jackson in a solid career. Rua earned a title shot with two entertaining victories earlier this year, and since knocking out Lidell six months ago he's been out of the octagon preparing for Machida.

"Lyoto is a different guy, a different fighter from the other athletes," Rua said. "For most athletes that you face, you just need to train, adapt to little things, but train as you regularly do and fight them. But Lyoto is a different guy with a karate background that's well-adapted to mixed martial arts."

Machida doesn't appear to be letting up in what could be a long run with the title, either. He claims he has avoided the pitfalls of fame that come with the light heavyweight title, although he has become a big celebrity in his hometown of Belem, a large city in northern Brazil.

Machida will have eight consecutive UFC wins if he beats Rua, tying the second-longest streak in league history behind Anderson Silva's 10 victories.

"There's a lot of distractions, a lot of people coming at you," Machida said. "But thank God I have a team around me that kind of protects me from that and just helps me stay focused."

Heavyweights Cain Velasquez and Ben Rothwell will meet on the undercard of a rare show in Los Angeles for the UFC, which is headquartered in Las Vegas. Although Machida is a remarkable talent, his relative lack of stateside fame - and the similarly limited U.S. drawing power of Rua - might make the card a tough sell with a Southern California football game and Game 6 of the Los Angeles Angels' AL championship series against the New York Yankees
on the same night.

But the young sport's biggest fans are eager to see the latest evolution of a champion who has shown no real weaknesses to date.

"The UFC fans have always treated me very well since the beginning," Machida said. "As the fans started to understand a little bit more of my style, and as I started to adapt myself to fighting in the octagon, and actually after my past (two) performances, my fan base has been getting bigger and bigger. It's been a transition from not too many people knowing what I was
trying to do in there, to understanding my style more."