This Saturday night sees UFC 98, featuring one of the most intriguing fights in recent memory, arguably UFC history; The Champion, 'Sugar' Rashad Evans Vs. The Challenger, Lyoto 'The Dragon' Machida for the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship.
The significance of this fight should not be underestimated. One man will walk out of the octagon not only with the title but with the other man's undefeated streak.
The winner will also, quite likely and quite rightly in my opinion, be considered the No. 4 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, behind the much lauded trio of Fedor, Anderson Silva and GSP.
That's a hell of a lot at stake.
Many MMA fans will tell you an undefeated streak is nice but not hugely important in the grand scheme of things, however in the case of Mr Evans and Mr Machida - I beg to differ. Before I tell you why, I want to look at both fighters records.
The Champion, "Sugar" Rashad Evans has gone from strength to strength since winning The Ultimate Fighter and it's clear his confidence has skyrocketed. He possess a 13-0-1 MMA record, going 8-0-1 in the UFC.
A draw with Tito Ortiz was sandwiched between wins over Stephan Bonnar, Jason Lambert (who was riding an 8 fight win streak at the time), Sean Salmon (with a highlight reel head-kick finish), Michael Bisping (taking his undefeated streak in the process), Chuck Liddell (with another highlight reel KO) and Forrest Griffin (for the title itself).
Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida holds wins over such luminaries as Stephan Bonnar, Rich Franklin, BJ Penn, Sokoudjou, Tito Ortiz and Thiago Silva. His record reads 14-0 in MMA and 7-0 in the UFC.
So, both records are equally impressive with comparable star names on either side but what does that really mean to this fight and each fighter in general.
Well, it's no secret that winning breeds confidence and Rashad Evans, in particular, has benefited hugely from his streak. He has grown as a fighter in every aspect since his TUF days.
Rashad is clearly a confidence fighter and having that confidence knocked by a defeat may cause him to question his ability—which is never a good thing. It'll be very interesting to see how he reacts when the inevitable loss finally occurs. Maybe not against Machida, but it will happen sooner or later.
Machida, on the other hand, has a very disciplined fighting style coupled with unwavering self-belief, this despite the fact casual fans care little for his tactical/boring *delete as applicable* approach.
If Machida were to come up short, and that unbeaten run lost, would he question that self-belief? Would he bow to the pressure to be a more exciting fighter? Would he change his approach and style? Without doubt, he'll question something.
A loss for either man could set him back...big time. That's a lot pressure to take into a fight and could well affect the way either man approaches the bout. Add that to the fact it's Evans first title defense and Machida is in his first title match, in any organisation, and you have a recipe for uncertainty.
So, it's The Champion, "Sugar" Rashad Evans Vs. The Challenger, Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida for the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship....and so much more.
Oh, and for the record, I fancy Lyoto Machida by decision but wouldn't be suprised by any potential outcome, other than Evans by submission!