Lyoto Machida cleared the final hurdle in guaranteeing himself a second meeting with UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones later this year.
At UFC 157, "The Dragon" defeated Dan Henderson by split decision to earn the No. 1 contender's spot for the next shot at either Jones or Chael Sonnen for the UFC title.
Unless Sonnen pulls off one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, it's likely Machida will be squaring off with Jones for a second time before the year is out. The first bout was over a year ago at UFC 140, where Jones choked Machida unconscious in the second round with a standing guillotine.
Despite Jones' highlight-reel win, the rematch should still draw some interest. Machida proved to be Jones' toughest test to date. Some even scored the first round in favor of the Shotokan Karate master.
Can Machida right his wrongs and solve the greatest puzzle in the light heavyweight division, or will Jones continue to casually stroll toward all-time greatness?
Here is the head-to-toe breakdown of the potential rematch between Lyoto Machida and Jon Jones.
Endurance shouldn't be a problem for either one of these guys.
There are few fighters on the planet as disciplined as Jones and Machida. Both have already competed in five-round UFC title bouts, and neither seemed fazed in maintaining a grueling pace.
Conditioning could play a role if Jones gets an early takedown and draws first blood. After being cut, Machida seemed to panic in the first fight and get away from his typical, careful fighting style.
The panic button serves only to deplete the gas tank and force fighters into making uncharacteristic mistakes.
Clearly, the bout against Henderson wasn't one of Machida's best showings.
Some credit has to be given to Henderson, who mixed things well up on the feet with kicks and punches.
Still, Machida remains arguably the most effective all-around striker in the entire light heavyweight division. It's almost like watching a magician at work. Machida's ability to angle off his attacks, counter effectively and be creative has sustained his presence as one of MMA's all-time enigmas.
At UFC 140, he was able to find his range and keep Jones guessing in the standup exchanges. He even sent Jones backpedaling at one point in the first round after landing a hard counter-straight left hand and following with a flurry of punches.
The second round was a completely different story as Jones seemed to find his timing. Champions learn how to make adjustments on the fly, which is exactly what Jones was able to do.
Machida is an incredibly efficient striker, but in boxing range, he rarely throws a jab. All of his combinations typically begin with his power hand. After seeing this, Jones became more patient and waited to time his counters off Machida's straight. In the open, he utilized a steady dose of leg kicks to force Machida to engage.
Jones' evolution as a striker has been nothing short of amazing. While Machida still deserves a slight edge in the striking department, the margin is closer than it has ever been.
If there is any significant gap between Jones and Machida, it lies in the wrestling department.
Jones' superior wrestling provided the turning point in the first bout. After securing a takedown, Jones utilized his vicious ground-and-pound to open up a cut on Machida's forehead.
Machida can make improvements, but it's tough to see his wrestling ever surpassing Jones' at this point of his career.
One thing Machida is good at is not becoming stagnant on the ground and finding openings to scramble back to his feet.
Machida is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but he only has two submission victories in his professional career.
When taken down, Machida hasn't shown much of anything from guard. His forte has always been creating space off his back and scrambling back to his feet where he's more comfortable.
While Jones lacks Machida's black-belt credentials, he is proving to be an underrated submission artist. He has more than double the submission victories as Machida.
There isn't anything fancy about Jones' submission attack. He has mastered the front choke, and his modified guillotine remains one of the most overlooked and devastating submissions in MMA.
Machida may be the only fighter in the light heavyweight division with the right skill set to defeat Jones, but it still isn't enough.
It's tough to ask any fighter to overcome Jones' Reed Richards-like reach and all-around skills.
Machida has the striking to keep things interesting on the feet, but as soon as Jones shoots in for a double-leg takedown, it won't take long before reality starts to sink in.
Fans should expect a nice chess match in the second bout. Jones will remain vigilant of Machida's straight and sit outside the pocket with leg kicks and well-timed counters.
There won't be much in the way of standup action, but Jones' takedowns will be more than enough to earn the unanimous nod from the judges.