In a light heavyweight scrap that could have easily gone to either man or been deemed a draw, Lyoto Machida did barely enough to nip Dan Henderson in the co-main event at UFC 157.
But because of the generally passive nature in which Machida prevailed in this de facto title eliminator, questions will linger regarding whether or not "The Dragon" deserves a rematch with champ Jon Jones.
After all, if Jones gets past Chael Sonnen in April, he'll have handled every opponent he's faced, including Machida, who "Bones" choked to sleep at UFC 140 just over a year ago.
UFC president Dana White all but called the tilt a title eliminator, so Machida surely can't shoulder any blame for executing a safe and simple game plan, regardless of how much the fans griped.
From the get-go, Machida stayed in constant motion, moving his head and wisely circling away from Henderson's notoriously venomous right hand.
Machida's elusiveness frustrated "Hendo," forcing the 42-year-old to consistently measure and paw before lunging with looping haymakers. Henderson managed to successfully close the distance a few times using low kicks, only to watch Machida brilliantly counter his blitzes with nifty footwork and clinch work.
The Dragon capitalized on Hendo's frustration and scored with kicks and knees to the body, high kicks and several left and right straights. Machida also tagged Hendo with a few front kicks, one of the flying variety, which landed flush on Hendo's chin late in the third round.
Machida also matched the two-time Olympian's wrestling prowess, scoring a trip takedown in the waning seconds of the first round before surrendering a takedown out of a scramble late in the third.
He may not have pocketed a $50,000 "Fight of the Night" or "Knockout of the Night" bonus, but Machida successfully baited Henderson into fighting under his terms. In doing so, The Dragon made one of the sport's most lethal fighters look one-dimensional.
When asked about his thoughts on the fight, White said this at the UFC 157 post-fight press conference:
How you scored the first round, (that was) tough to score. Lyoto gets the top position and drops a few bombs before the end of the round. The second round was eh. And the third round, neither one of them did anything the last three-and-a-half minutes. So, it's anybody's fight. I gave it to Machida, barely.
With Rashad Evans coming off a loss and Phil Davis and Alexander Gustaffson each in the midst of training camps for other opponents, Machida remains the lone deserving challenger to face the winner of the Jones vs. Sonnen fight in April.
Although he didn't leave the Honda Center with a seal of approval from the fans, Machida left with something much more valuable, at least according to White's sentiments—another ticket to the big dance.
Dan Henderson's one of the toughest guys in the sport. You don't knock Dan Henderson out when you're in there. Lyoto took some big shots from Dan. Dan took some big shots from Lyoto. It wasn't a barn burner. It wasn't the most exciting fight you've ever seen. You won't be writing stories about this fight until the end of the time, but, you know, Lyoto won the fight. He beat the No. 1 contender. He beat Dan Henderson.
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