Machida had the opportunity to reclaim the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship that night, but was choked unconscious in the second round. Typically, that would move a fighter down the rankings significantly. However, Machida showed enough against Jones in the first round to give hope of a rematch.
That is of significance and cannot go unstated.
Eight months later he would step in to the Octagon to battle Ryan Bader, but Jones’ dominance created some issues in the 205 pound division. Jones had one legitimate contender remaining, Dan Henderson, but after that it was a sea of fighters he had already defeated and young prospects not ready.
That put the UFC in an interesting position leading in to the UFC on FOX show, where Machida vs. Bader and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Brandon Vera were booked. UFC President Dana White said whoever looked best on that night would be next in line for the title shot.
Shogun and Vera had a back and forth fight. A fun fight, but nothing that would suggest either should get a title shot. Machida put Bader out. The Dragon earned his title shot.
Then came the drama that was UFC 151.
An injury forced Henderson off the card just a little more than a week outside of the event. Jones refuses to face late-replacement Chael Sonnen, and White decided that at UFC 152 it would be Jones vs. Machida. Machida turned down that fight, citing inadequate time to prepare for Jones.
With Jones and Sonnen booked to coach The Ultimate Fighter, and to meet inside the Octagon for the title later in 2013, that left both Machida and Henderson on the outside looking in. It made sense to put them together for an all-out number one contender’s fight.
UFC 157’s focus is on the historic first-ever UFC women’s fight and rightfully so. Yet, the co-main event of the evening may be the best matchup on the card.
Machida has shown the importance of looking competitive in a fight. If he does not win the first round against Jones back in December of 2011, then he likely falls down the ladder significantly and loses favor with the fans.
The road to UFC 157, and this fight in particular, has been very interesting. Injuries, knockouts and rejected fights all lead us to one of the best possible contender fights in recent memory. Let’s just hope that Machida doesn’t ride horseback in to Anaheim.