Lyoto Machida may (or may not) have been slighted on the scorecards Saturday night, but he won't find himself too removed from the top of the light heavyweight division.
Machida was looking to keep busy while UFC champion Jon Jones took on Alexander Gustafsson even though he'd been promised a title shot on numerous occasions. That plan backfired on Machida as now he'll have to scrap his way back to title contention.
Where Machida will find some trouble is getting a top-ranked contender who makes sense for his next fight. He's already fought many of the top contenders and will likely have to engage in a rematch or face a young, up-and-coming type of fighter in his next outing.
Or perhaps he'll take a more drastic approach.
Rashad Evans is coming off a victory, while Lyoto Machida just lost. By usual methods of UFC matchmaking, this fight doesn't happen.
But when you consider Evans' ugly performance against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and another disappointing showing against Dan Henderson, it's not as if he is on a roll at the moment. Add in the fact Evans has expressed interest in a Machida rematch, and it's clear this bout makes a lot of sense.
Evans-Machida II gives Evans a chance at redemption and provides Machida with another high-profile matchup to remain relevant—something both fighters will undoubtedly look to do.
This fight is perfect for Lyoto Machida and for the UFC if it wants to keep the karate master in the upper rankings.
James Te Huna is tailor-made for Machida in that he loves to strike and has no issues with being aggressive. He also has granite in his chin and isn't likely to go quietly if he faces Machida.
To his credit, Te Huna has also shown the fight IQ to take it to the mat when it's advantageous to him like in the Ryan Jimmo bout.
This fight isn't likely given where both men rank, but it's perhaps the best matchup for Machida in terms of fighters not ranked inside the top 10 and not a rematch.
With a fight this close, there's bound to be some clamor for a rematch.
Lyoto Machida and Phil Davis just faced one another at UFC 163, but the fight was extremely close on the scorecards, stats and in fan opinion.
The two were surprisingly a lot closer on the feet than many fans were anticipating coming into the contest, and although Davis was able to secure two takedowns, Machida was able to fend off eight of 10 attempts.
A rematch wouldn't likely be a big draw given how polarizing Machida's style can be, but this type of high-profile matchup could be perfect for a Fox Sports 1 card. It would be an excellent showcase of high-level skill and would be a nice fight to introduce new fans to quality MMA.
The former middleweight contender is reportedly contemplating a move to light heavyweight, according to Ariel Helwani on Tuesday's UFC Tonight. Alan Belcher hasn't mentioned who he'd like to face in his return to the 205-pound division, but that just may be Lyoto Machida.
Although Belcher is coming off back-to-back losses, a move to a new division could inject some life into his career. Facing Machida gives Belcher one last chance to prove he belongs in the upper echelon of whichever division he wants to compete in.
For Machida, a fight with Belcher gives him a matchup against a guy with name recognition and a style that feeds into Machida's. Belcher's strength is his striking, which plays into Machida's strength, and his grappling isn't good enough to take Machida down.
Lyoto Machida to middleweight is a prospect fans have brought up before. Machida previously avoided going to 185 pounds given that his teammate, Anderson Silva, was the titleholder. Now that Silva isn't holding the strap, Machida may choose to try to test the waters at middleweight.
A fight that makes sense for Machida's trip down in weight would be the loser of Michael Bisping vs. Mark Munoz, which is scheduled for October.
It makes sense given that both men had impressive outings in their recent matches and, as long as one fighter doesn't completely dominate in their matchup, will still likely be highly ranked even with a loss. Both men are also well-known in the MMA world, which would give Machida a marquee fight.
Even though Machida lost to Phil Davis at UFC 163, he could very well be one or two fights away from a title shot should he drop down to middleweight.