Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida is horrifyingly good, but he does not deserve a middleweight title shot just yet.
At UFC Fight Night 30, Machida needed just three minutes to send Mark Munoz to an early slumber upon the Octagon's canvas with a perfectly placed head kick.
The first-round finish was impressive, and it showed that Machida's decision to drop to 185 pounds was wise. He did not seem to suffer any ill effects from the weight cut, and his overall skill set is just as devastating at middleweight as it was at light heavyweight.
After defeating Munoz, the No. 5-ranked middleweight according to UFC.com, The Dragon deserves a step up in competition in his next outing. A title shot is easily justified, but some divisional leapfrogging would ensue, and divisional leapfrogging is bad, OK?
Right now, Machida's official position in the middleweight division is unclear.
A top-five ranking is certain, but is he No. 5? No. 4? Perhaps he's as high as No. 2, just outside the top challenger, Anderson Silva.
What I do know is that the other undisputed inhabitants of this top five, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Vitor Belfort, each deserve the next crack at the middleweight title after Silva more than Machida.
They have proven themselves in the division. Both men have finished their last two opponents inside the Octagon, with Belfort knocking out Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold, and Souza submitting Chris Camozzi and knocking out Yushin Okami.
Either one of these resumes is more impressive than a knockout over Mark Munoz, a loss to Phil Davis and a lackluster win over Dan Henderson.
Let's not forget, Munoz had been knocked out from a head kick before—from Matt Hamill, no less—so it's not like "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" was some insurmountable foe inside the Octagon. Against Souza or Belfort, Munoz would come in as the underdog, and I wholeheartedly believe he would lose each of those fights in similarly devastating fashion.
Jacare would tool him on the ground, and Belfort would knock him out in similar style.
Personally, I rank Munoz below Bisping, Rockhold and Okami and above Camozzi when comparing the top dogs' recent hit lists.
Machida's victory was impressive, but if Souza's and Belfort's successes did not earn them title shots, The Dragon's win should not, either.
He is "fresh" and "intriguing," but these qualifiers do not warrant a title shot.
Machida could very well defeat either Weidman or Silva—realistically, he can beat anybody in the world at 185 or 205—but the fact remains that two men have done more inside the middleweight division recently.
Instead of a championship fight, Machida needs to fight either Souza, Bisping or Belfort (if he defeats Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32).
The winner of that fight, then, will have a real, legitimate claim for a title shot.
Until then, The Dragon must rest. He still has work to do.
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