With his highlight-reel knockout over Mark Munoz last Saturday at UFC Fight Night 30, Lyoto Machida became a major player in the UFC's increasingly competitive middleweight division.
Despite the victory being his first showing at 185 pounds, "The Dragon's" credentials as former light heavyweight champion and status as one of the most unpredictable strikers in MMA factored into the 35-year-old Brazilian landing on the middleweight title radar.
Following his showing in Manchester, England, the MMA world was abuzz with potential matchups for the Team Black House fighter's next challenge. UFC president Dana White weighed in on the matter during the post-fight press conference, suggesting he would like to see the "Machida karate" master face former light heavyweight champion and two-divisional threat Vitor Belfort in his next bout.
"The Phenom" is slated to face Dan Henderson in his next showing at UFC Fight Night 32 on Nov. 9. If the 36-year-old Team Blackzilians fighter defeats "Hendo" in their upcoming tilt, his red-hot status would continue its upward trajectory, and a bout with Machida could be made.
Machida has shown interest in the fight, telling Guilherme Cruz of MMA Fighting that Belfort is the best possible option for him at this time because of the former title challenger's place in the divisional rankings.
While The Dragon wants the fight to happen, his camp doesn't believe Belfort would accept the bout. Machida's manager Jorge Guimaraes told UFC Tonight's Ariel Helwani that Belfort would decline a bout with his fighter because the stylistic matchup wouldn't favor the MMA legend.
With talk of the potential matchup heating up, Belfort's stance remains unclear, as he has yet to comment on the situation. He is preparing for his upcoming bout with Henderson—which is a rematch seven years in the making—and it is unlikely he will speak about the possible Machida fight until after UFC Fight Night 32.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.