White confirmed at the post-fight press conference that with his win over Henderson, Machida is the next challenger for the light heavyweight crown. The official Twitter feed of the UFC confirmed White's decision:
Dana says that Machida is now the #1 contender and is in line for the next title shot.— UFC (@ufc) February 24, 2013
Joe Silva and White obviously know what they're doing most of the time. They wouldn't have built the UFC into the organization that it is today without their ability to put on great fights. That being said, this decision is a real head-scratcher.
Machida won the fight on the scorecards. He outstruck Henderson, was the more accurate striker on the feet and controlled the fight with his elusive style. Although it was a split decision, there's no denying that Machida deserved to win the fight.
This wasn't a case of robbery or anything like that.
However, it wasn't the kind of performance that warrants another shot at UFC gold.
Should Jon Jones get past Chael Sonnen in his next title defense, the UFC hype machine is going to need to kick into hyperdrive to sell a rematch between the champion and Machida.
Machida is the only fighter to really catch Jon Jones, but Jones choked him out in quick order once he settled in and found his range against the elusive striker.
Since then, Machida has knocked out Ryan Bader (a fighter that Jones has also dominated) and now owns an uneventful decision victory over Henderson.
It wasn't as though he beat a prime Hendo, either. After being away from the Octagon for over a year, Henderson looked every bit of the 42-year-old fighter he is.
Rather than approach Machida with a varied attack that could keep him off balance, Henderson opted to look for his signature big right hand. It wasn't until the third round when Henderson embraced his wrestling roots and got Machida to the mat that he looked like vintage Hendo.
However, it was too little too late. Machida had already built enough of a lead on the scorecard with his safe style.
The problem isn't that Machida was "boring" as many fans will surely proclaim. There's nothing wrong with having a game plan and being a tactical fighter. The problem is he didn't show that he really deserves to get a shot at UFC gold.
Unfortunately it appears that the organization is locked into another Machida title shot, whether he truly deserves it or not.