UFC Fight Night 30: Hello MMA World, Meet Lyoto Machida 2.0
On Saturday, UFC Fight Night 30 was different.
All of it.
Maybe it was the afternoon fight card for North American viewers or the naturally raucous sounds of a Manchester, England crowd making things a little more boisterous than usual.
Perhaps it was the new entrance music or the leaner, fitter version of Lyoto Machida that stepped into the checkpoint next to the Octagon.
But it was definitely different, and it took less than two minutes for everyone to see just how different.
Machida, moving as swiftly and sharply as he ever has, used his offense sparingly in an effort to gauge his pal-turned-opponent Mark Munoz and his movements around the cage. A few body kicks to get his distance, a few neatly cut angles, and that was it.
The former light heavyweight champion, who was considered unbeatable as recently as 2009, flicked a quick head kick and caught his man flush, securing a successful middleweight debut in the process.
For a guy whom people often complain about for being boring, the finish marked his third such spectacular (T)KO in his past four wins. At 205 lbs, Machida decimated Randy Couture with a crane kick and Ryan Bader with the stiffest of left hands. The Munoz KO marked the eighth of his career.
He's only 4-4 since a 16-0 run started his career, but losses to Phil Davis and Rampage Jackson were anywhere from questionable to insane depending on whom you ask, and there's no shame in losing to Jon Jones. It's plausible for us to live in a world where Machida is leaving England 22-2, with his only losses coming in title fights.
Yes, he's tactical, and no, he's not going to chase guys in hopes of a highlight-reel finish. But if you give him a chance, he'll give you one anyway using his own methods.
Now at middleweight—the class that many felt he should have been occupying all along—Machida has the chance to end his career on the highest of notes.
Win or lose at UFC 168 in his title rematch against Chris Weidman, friend and training partner Anderson Silva isn't going to be around forever.
If Weidman wins that fight, Machida might be the toughest test for the young (would-be) champion, given his blend of technique, focus and patience and need for only a single shot to end a fight.
He actually may be more dangerous than Silva.
With that reality in place and the fact that he obliterated one of the best guys in the world without breaking a sweat at UFC Fight Night 30, this new Machida has plenty of avenues to take.
Top contenders like Michael Bisping or Vitor Belfort could work, as could others in the Top 10 like Luke Rockhold or Costa Philippou, if the UFC wants to build Machida more slowly.
But make no mistake, this new Machida is different. This is Machida 2.0, and he proved on Saturday that he's an immediate title contender at 185.
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