Who Could Challenge Lyoto Machida?
Now that Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida has won the light-heavyweight title, the rest of the division should be put on notice.
Machida’s reign could last as long as he wants. Machida was able to make the former light-heavyweight champion look like an amateur.
Rashad seemed to have had the hand speed, power and movement to rattle Machida; instead Machida was able to use those elements to take the "sugar" out of Rashad's game.
After that dominant performance the question becomes: Is there a fighter out there that can beat Machida or, are we in for an extended ride on the Machida championship train?
Currently, there are about five fighters who could potentially make a run at Machida. Whether they can take the title from him remains to be seen.
In no particular order, these are the fighters who can give Machida a good fight: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Jon “Bones” Jones, Forrest Griffin, and Brandon “The Truth” Vera.
Plus one fighter who, in his prime, could have given Machida a real run for his money. That man is five-time former world champion Randy “The Natural” Couture.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
Quinton ”Rampage” Jackson will, seemingly, get the first crack at the newly crowned champ, which will make for a top-notch Pay Per View event.
Rampage has tremendous one-punch knockout power, some really good head movement, and is as strong as any fighter at 205.
He is a crowd favorite and, on his own, brings in the PPV buys that the UFC loves to see.
In his latest fight he out-pointed an unorthodox fighter in Keith Jardine, which should give him a better understanding on how to fight someone like Machida.
Those are his upsides, but in reality Rampage is a fighter molded for Machida. Rampage is an aggressive straight forward fighter who doesn’t use his wrestling as much as he did when is started out in MMA.
He rarely uses his leg kicks and, although he has very good movement, has a tendency to only use that movement when being the aggressor.
More than likely this fight would end similarly to the Rashad fight, if not ending sooner.
Machida has the power to hurt him, the movement to elude him, and the ground skill to put Rampage on his back and pound on him.
It would be an entertaining fight, but a bad one for Rampage.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua would be a pick for upsetting Machida, but only if we see the 2005 version of Shogun.
His most recent win over an aged Chuck Liddell gives his fans hope in seeing that version, but I personally feel that he is one more fight away from being considered a contender.
He has very good ground skills that could potentially stop Machida, but isn’t necessarily considered a good enough wrestler to get Machida to the ground.
What Shogun does have that scares many in this weight class is speed and one-punch knockout power.
Plus, he has a tremendous chin that should be able to take every power shot Machida would dish out.
That’s not even talking about his devastating Muay Thai skills.
His two weaknesses that would be his downfall would be his cardio and size.
I would think that Machida would try to take the fight past the third round and then turn up the pressure, giving him a last round TKO.
Also, Shogun is, at best, 6’1” and normally is under 205 pounds, so his limited reach would be a big disadvantage if this fight were to occur.
Whoever eventually beats Machida will need a long reach to neutralize the jumping in motion Machida does, and Shogun doesn’t have that.
Jon "Bones" Jones
People may think I’m crazy here, but Jon “Bones” Jones could be a fighter to give Machida fits.
He has very awkward strikes, some very slick takedowns and has the length to keep Machida at bay. Jones is very young and his upcoming fight with Jake O’Brien should give us a real look at Jones' ground game.
Like Shogun, Jones’ cardio is his biggest question mark.
In his most recent fight against Stephen Bonner, Jones looked absolutely gassed by the end of the second round, and ran away for most of the third.
He is still a few wins away, but by the end of next year, if Machida is still the champ, Jones could be one of the few remaining fighters to challenge him.
Forrest Griffin is up there in the contenders talk, and rightfully so.
The former champion gave Rampage and Shogun fits with his solid leg kicks and never—say—die attitude.
Forrest has developed into a very well—rounded fighter with good takedown defense and good boxing technique.
His next fight against Anderson Silva should be a real test for him; and if he were to beat Anderson, I could see a rematch against Shogun for a number one contender match.
He is a big light-heavyweight fighter, rumored to cut down from as big as 230 pounds.
At 6’3” Forrest will have the needed reach in his arms and legs to be able to slow Machida’s attack.
He has good leg kicks and solid punching power to hurt Machida, which makes me think that he could deliver a five—round war for the title.
There are many hang—ups right now for Forrest to get a shot at Machida.
First, there is the fact that the fight with Anderson isn’t going to be a sure win for him. Even if we see him get past Anderson, I think the UFC would like to see a rematch with Shogun.
Secondly, for all of Forrest's abilities, he doesn’t have the greatest of chins. Rampage dropped him in their fight; Keith Jardine TKO'ed him; and Rashad made him flail like a ragdoll.
Third, he isn’t known as the fastest or quickest of fighters. Rashad was worlds faster than him in their fight, which doesn’t bode well for Griffin against Machida.
Brandon "The Truth" Vera
Finally, there is Brandon “The Truth” Vera.
I know you guys are gonna say I’m crazy for putting his name on here, but hear me out on this one.
Remember when Vera was considered the best heavyweight prospect in MMA?
Remember the KO of Justin Eilers, the TKO of Frank Mir, and the beatdown he gave Assuerio Silva?
That Brandon Vera could give anyone at 205 trouble, and I think Vera is coming back to being that type of fighter.
Brandon Vera is tall, long and fast, and if he is in top shape, could be the type of fighter to give Machida the most trouble.
When at top form, he has the best leg kicks and Muay Thai knees in the division. Vera is a former collegiate wrestler and trains with one of the best non-Brazilian teachers in the world in Lloyd Irvin.
Trust me people, this fight would be very good.
The biggest question mark is: Can he continue to look like the fighter from three years ago?
He has had some issues with his cardio, due to having to cut weight, and he, at times, relies too much on his Muay Thai.
In order to beat Machida he'll have to have the total package and my question is: Can he do all of it to achieve it?
A Dream Match with Randy "The Natural" Couture
So after talking to a friend of mine, we came to the conclusion that right now there isn’t any one fighter to that could do the things to beat Machida.
However, there was a fighter who, in his prime, had the one skill that could control the fight with Machida. Randy Couture was that fighter.
Now, the Randy I’m referring to was the Randy that owned Tito Ortiz and destroyed Chuck Liddell in their first fight back in 2003.
That Randy had good head movement, elite level wrestling, and the best Greco clinch in the world. His Greco clinch work and the dirty boxing that normally ensued is the why he could beat Machida.
His ability to control where the fight took place is what gives him the edge.
Now, this fight can never happen because, no matter how much Randy feels like it, he can't still get in there and trade with today’s elite level fighters.
His timing has slowed some, and he doesn’t have the hand speed to touch Machida.
But man, that would have been a great fight. And I think I just found my new article to work on.