After turning down light heavyweight champion Jon Jones on short notice to save UFC 151, Lyoto Machida's life became a tornado of speculation, doubt and criticism.
In the wake of the disastrous cancellation of the event, Machida is now rumored to be taking on former UFC, Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson. Boasting a resume studded with noteworthy wins, Henderson is a tough out for any fighter in any division on any planet in any dimension with any style (insert propositional phrase here).
For Machida, this bout is a must-win for his career and his fan base, as many are none too happy with "The Dragon's" reluctance to fight anywhere, anytime.
Likewise for Henderson, this bout is necessary to ensure his shot at Jones somewhere in the future.
With so much on the line for each fighter, let us explore each man's skillset and see who will come out victorious when they finally clash inside the Octagon.
Henderson has the legendary H-bomb, but Machida has the best striking in the light heavyweight division.
While "The Dragon's" power and precision is beautiful to watch, he boasts striking defense which is even better than his offense. Almost impossible to tag, Machida is a frustrating opponent on the feet, regardless of his opposition.
Henderson, at 42 years of age, is not the most nimble fighter, and I highly doubt he will be able to track down Machida and land his powerful hands. Machida will simply stay away, pick his shots, wait for Henderson to make a mistake and exploit it.
As we have seen time and time again, when Machida strikes, he strikes hard and without mercy, and even a chin as sturdy as Henderson's will have a hard time withstanding a barrage from the Karate master.
This one is easy to call:
While Machida holds a definitive advantage in the standup game, the wrestling edge is much more difficult to call in this matchup.
Henderson, a former Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler, has an impressive resume, but his wrestling inside the cage is lackluster of late.
He was repeatedly taken down and controlled by Jake Shields in a Strikeforce middleweight championship matchup, and he was also grounded by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the later stages of their epic November 2011 clash.
Machida, on the other hand, rarely finds himself on his back despite taking on some of the best wrestlers in the light heavyweight division, and he is a master of quick trips and throws that catch his opponents off guard.
The wrestling strategy of each man is completely different, but both styles are effective in their own ways. Henderson will probably look to control Machida in the clinch against the cage, while Machida will be the one on top should the fight hit the mat.
Because of this, the wrestling aspect of the matchup is a push.
While he has great control once he is on top of his opponents, Henderson is outmatched should this fight go to the canvas.
Machida's most underrated aspect of his game is his Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a testament to his ability to keep fights standing and in the range he wants.
Rarely do we see Machida in a bad position on the ground, and when he is on top, he has shown the ability to finish opponents smoothly and efficiently.
Henderson, on the other hand, has lost three times in his career via submission and is more concerned with ground-and-pound and controlling his opponent's position when he ends up on top.
Despite this, where pure submission skills are concerned, Machida is the superior fighter.
I'll say it: I am not sold on Henderson as an elite light heavyweight.
While he is always dangerous thanks to his cinder block fists, he gasses quickly and cannot impose his will with his wrestling like he could in his prime.
The man is a legend, and he is one of the best competitors the sport of MMA has ever seen, but he is outmatched against Machida.
Machida will control the distance, avoid bad situations and land a knockout blow once Henderson slips up and leaves a hole in his striking defense. If he feels he is getting the wrong end of the standup, Machida can also choose to take the fight to the ground, where he is the superior grappler.
This fight is Machida's to lose, and I can legitimately see it ending via submission, knockout or lopsided decision, should he play it safe and pick his shots for the match's duration.
That said, I like Machida's power, and I think he will be the first man to stop Henderson via strikes.
Prediction: Machida via TKO (Round 2)