Lyoto Machida is indeed the next Royce Gracie. I know it seems as if I'm clueless about the topic due to the fact that the two fighters have completely different fighting styles and are from different eras of MMA.
While they may differ in weight class and fighting styles, they have one major thing in common; When all is said and done, both fighters will have changed the face of MMA.
When Gracie entered the UFC 1 competition, there were no weight classes and the event was a glorified bar fight. No gloves were used, no weight classes present and no rounds.
Fighters had to fight multiple fights in one night and some ended very brutally. While the UFC was supposed to showcase all different styles of fighting, there were really only two types that night. Gracie jiu-jitsu and "everything else".
Gracie beat men twice his size in weight and he did so without throwing a punch in most matches. He would simply allow the opponent to take him to the ground and cause incredible submissions that no one at this point in time had ever seen.
To this day, Gracie's UFC 1 fights affect every fighter stepping into the octagon. It's almost mandatory now for fighters to have a competitive ground game and submission arsenal.
Lyoto Machida will also make his permanent mark in the UFC by proving the effectiveness of his style of fighting. Through the years of MMA there have been very few who used A karate background as there base for fighting techniques and been successful. Machida works with the same frame of mind as Gracie in the fact that he wants to take as little damage as possible while still being an effective offensive fighter as well.
Machida's unique stance makes him a very difficult target to hit, while his extremely accurate use of both hands and feet make him a great striker as well. He's stirring up the world of MMA currently and has some believing that he could be a undefeated champion for many fights to come, all because Machida is doing exactly what Gracie did in the past.
He has brought a unique and disciplined style to MMA that fighters are not prepared to deal with nor are they comfortable with. Just take a look at the Tito or Rashad fight and you'll clearly see both fighters had no answer for Machida's use of Karate.
It is in this way that Machida will be the next Royce Gracie and effect MMA and the UFC for years to come.