First impressions are crucial, and Lyoto Machida made the most of his middleweight debut at Fight Night 30.
The former light heavyweight champion scored an impressive first-round knockout over resilient opponent Mark Munoz on Saturday night in Manchester, England. Although "The Dragon" is notorious for getting out to slow starts, he bucked that trend against Munoz as he walked down the "Filipino Wrecking Machine" from the get-go.
After landing several kicks to the body, the 35-year-old Brazilian went upstairs and uncorked a powerful kick that put Munoz on his back and ended the fight. While the quick finish didn't provide much time to see the full range of Machida's skills as a middleweight, it was enough time to see he is going to be a serious threat for the 185-pound title.
While many believe he should have been competing at 185 for years, his close relationship with recently dethroned middleweight king Anderson Silva prevented him from dropping down a weight class. But with "The Spider" losing his title to Chris Weidman at UFC 162 in July and being the subject of retirement talk, Machida appears to be changing his mind on making a title run at middleweight.
Although he has shrugged off the idea of a potential clash with Silva in past interviews, the Brazilian karate master knows that committing to a run at the 185-pound strap could mean facing his friend and teammate. The former 205-pound titleholder spoke to Gareth Davies on the post-fight show that aired on Fox Sports 2, addressing the issue of potentially fighting Silva.
Yes, for sure if it was for the title. I said I want that belt, and I want the belt then I have to chase the belt. But I don't know who I want to fight next. It's very hard to say but I want to be the champion for sure. I want the belt. I just put everything in Dana White's hands. Even if he asks me to fight at 205 again I can do that.
With the Silva vs. Weidman rematch set for UFC 168 on Dec. 28, there is a lot of time to see how things will play out. Even with his impressive victory over Munoz, Machida's place on the title radar is far from concrete. He could be tapped to go in a number of directions, as other top-ranked fighters' schedules will open up over the next few months.
One potential opponent who would make a tremendous amount of sense in the divisional picture is Michael Bisping. "The Count" was originally slated to face Munoz at Fight Night 30 until an eye injury forced him out of action. Machida was tapped to take his place.
The UFC is scheduled to return to the U.K. in March 2014, and if Bisping is healthy enough to make the card, Machida would be excited to welcome him back to action.
"Yes, that is a great matchup," Machida answered when asked about fighting Bisping. "That is a great fight for me. If Bisping accepts that fight it would be great...especially in Manchester."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.