UFC Fight Night 30 was going to feature Michael Bisping against Mark Munoz in a big middleweight clash. It was a homecoming for the Brit, but an eye injury forced him off the card and left the UFC looking for a replacement.
Machida was set to make his middleweight debut against Tim Kennedy at the Fight for the Troops card a week-and-a-half later, but he will move it up to fight Munoz in an even bigger fight for his 185 debut.
The fans in Manchester will be treated to six main card bouts across four divisions.
This is an early look at the October 26th main card.
The opening bout of the main card will be in the flyweight division.
No. 5-ranked John Lineker will take on England's Phil Harris.
Both flyweights lost their UFC debuts but rebounded. Harris dropped his debut against current No. 10-ranked Darren Uyenoyama before returning with a unanimous decision win over top-10-ranked Ulysses Gomez. Lineker failed to defeat Louis Gaudinot, but he has since reeled off three straight wins to move into the top five.
This will be a great opening fight. The difference may be in Lineker's power.
Very few flyweights have the fight-altering power that Lineker does. Although, sometimes he can get a bit wild in swinging for the fences. As Lineker moves up in the division, he may become a bit more reserved and pick his shots. A title shot could be at his feet.
Harris is a live dog in this fight, but I lean toward Lineker winning using his hands.
Prediction: Lineker defeats Harris by TKO in the second round.
The middleweight division's first fight features Alessio Sakara returning to action against Magnus Cedenblad.
Cendenblad picked up his first UFC victory at UFC 164. In under a minute he forced Jared Hamman to tap to a guillotine choke. It was an impressive performance, and now he has a relatively quick turnaround for this fight.
Sakara is a crafty striker, but he has faced stiff competition in his recent bouts. A decision loss to Chris Weidman, a knockout loss to Brian Stann and an unfortunate DQ versus Patrick Cote have potentially set him on the chopping block.
This looks to be a striker vs. grappler battle, and that should favor Sakara. The American Top Team member has been working on his grappling for years at an elite camp, and that should pay dividends against Cedenblad.
Prediction: Sakara defeats Cedenblad by KO in the first round.
Norman Parke is the The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes lightweight winner. He defeated Colin Fletcher by unanimous decision to take the crown and then defeated Kazuki Tokudome at UFC 162.
Jon Tuck tried to make The Ultimate Fighter 15, but dropped his fight to get into the house against Al Iaquinta. He made his UFC debut against Zhang Tiequan and moved his official unbeaten record to 7-0.
This is a great test for both young lightweights. It is a perfect prospect bout.
The winner in this fight will be whichever youngster has progressed more since his last outing. I tend to believe that is Parke. He will feed off the crowd, fire off more offense and take the fight to the scorecards.
Prediction: Parke defeats Tuck by unanimous decision.
Jimi Manuwa holds a perfect 13-0 record. He entered with a lot of fanfare, and he proceeded to live up to it with two TKO wins.
Ryan Jimmo had long been on the regional circuit before making his UFC debut, and there was a concern about his fighting style. He won his first fight by KO in a UFC tying record of seven seconds, and then he was in a dog fight against James Te-Huna. Finally, the Jimmo we used to know appeared at UFC 161 in a win over Igor Pokrajac.
Which Jimmo shows up? I think the latter, and that is why he wins.
Manuwa's power will force Jimmo to be more conservative in the fight. He won't want to risk getting clipped, and it will turn it into a lackluster grappler affair until the judges are called to render their final decision.
Prediction: Jimmo defeats Manuwa by unanimous decision.
The co-main event of the evening should be a fun lightweight scrap between Ross Pearson and Melvin Guillard.
Pearson returned to the lightweight division after a failed experiment at featherweight, and he has looked better than ever since coming back to 155. Two straight TKO performances against George Sotiropoulos and Ryan Couture have put Pearson's name back in the fold.
After winning five straight fights to earn himself a place among the elite, Guillard began to falter against the top tier of the division. Losses to Joe Lauzon, Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone and Jamie Varner set Guillard back a ways. Changes in camps did not help either.
Guillard got a KO win over Mac Danzig earlier this year to give the lightweight some more confidence, and that could spell trouble for Pearson.
Pearson is the better technical boxer, but Guillard's speed and power are the ultimate difference. He can end the fight at a moment's notice. And when he chooses to use his wrestling, he can also establish dominance on the ground.
If Pearson can move effectively, he can take this to the cards, or there is always a chance to catch Guillard in a submission. However, that is not Pearson's strongest aspect. Guillard's speed will eventually lead to a vicious KO.
Prediction: Guillard defeats Pearson by KO in the first round.
After a set-back loss to Phil Davis in Brazil, Machida has finally decided to make the move to 185 pounds. In his debut at the weight, he will take on No. 5-ranked Mark Munoz.
There will be questions about Machida's weight cut going in. He was never a huge light heavyweight. All signs point to him making the weight without issue, but until he successfully steps on the scale, no one will know.
If all goes well on that front, this should be Machida's fight to lose. It is a terrible stylistic matchup for Munoz. We have seen Machida time and again win this kind of fight.
What is Munoz's best chance? His big punching power. If he lands one of his hands, it will put Machida to sleep. He possesses huge power in his fists. Machida will need to be aware of that as he leaps in Munoz's range.
Ultimately, I think this a classic Machida fight—utilizing his range and movement to win. With this fight being a five-round main event, it will give him time to finish in the later rounds.
Prediction: Machida defeats Munoz by TKO in the fourth round.