UFC Fight Night 36 saw Lyoto Machida utilize his speed and unorthodox striking to defeat Gegard Mousasi by unanimous decision.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion has a middleweight title shot in mind, but in the UFC, nothing is certain. There is a lot of time before we get to that potential title shot against the winner of current champion Chris Weidman or Vitor Belfort.
Also, Machida was seen in an air cast after the bout, and the Brazilian told Karyn Bryant on Fox Sports 1 that he may have broken his foot in the fight. All of these factors could play into what the UFC does with the title hopeful next.
There are a few options for Machida, and here are three fights the UFC should be thinking about lining him up for:
Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort Winner
This is the obvious choice. The win over Mousasi should line Machida up for a title shot.
Both fights offer the UFC the biggest return. Machida is one of the biggest names in the division, and there are compelling storylines against both Weidman and Belfort.
Machida is teammates with Anderson Silva. That makes his potential fight with Weidman very interesting. What can Silva tell Machida about Weidman? Would that fight give Machida even more motivation? That fight is a better fight to sell to the public than any other currently in the division.
As for Belfort, he and Machida used to be teammates. This would be a monster fight in Brazil.
The UFC should pencil in Machida for the title shot. It is what makes most sense.
Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy Winner
On the off chance that the timing does not work for a Machida title bid, the winner of Bisping vs. Kennedy is their next best bet.
Most fans, and the UFC, would anticipate a fight with Bisping more than Kennedy, but it depends on who walks away as the winner later in 2014.
Jacare Souza is next in line after Machida. If Machida can't go after the gold then Souza will, and that takes away one more option for the UFC. That only leaves Bisping as a top-five ranked opponent for Machida.
This fight would be a suitable back-up just in case Machida can't contend for the belt.
Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Boetsch Winner
Rockhold and Boetsch are expected to reschedule their bout that had been scrapped from UFC 166 due to an injury to Rockhold.
Looking at the rankings, if the above two fights cannot happen for Machida, then this is just about the only option for the UFC. Other than the winner of this bout, the UFC would be left with fighters outside of the top 10 who shouldn't be fighting Machida. Neither Rockhold or Boetsch are that enticing of an option, but it is what would be left on the table.
It would make more sense for “The Dragon” to sit on the sidelines and wait, but he is a fighter who accepts who the UFC gives him.
The UFC should go with Machida as the next challenger, but just in case, they do have a couple of back-ups that would make do. But the UFC shouldn't be in the business of simply making do.