Arguably UFC's best main event of 2014—Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida—is perhaps the one fans will most likely skip over.
But this is what happens when Dana White and his establishment go all out to make sure the Fourth of July weekend card is a memorable one.
Call it mission accomplished.
Stefan Struve is on the comeback trail after a heart condition nearly ended his career. Uriah Hall is in a controversial slot and on the hunt to prove he isn't a bust. Marcus Brimage is back to slugging away on his feet after a scary Achilles tendon injury. There's even Ronda Rousey in the co-main event.
So no, the promotional aspect of the title bout has done little to garner hype. But Weidman and Machida are two elite fighters set to put on a show, and fans should be there every step of the way—and get a little cash out of it, too.
Outside of the stellar card, the two men actually partaking in the main event are certainly part of the issue.
Machida is now 36 years old. He remains one of the best strikers on the planet, but there is a certain aura about his age, far removed from the days where he was considered the best in the world. His dropping a weight class to make this fight doesn't help, either.
Then there is Weidman, he of overcoming Anderson Silva twice fame—once by knockout with the champ in full-on taunt mode and a second time by a fluky kick check that shattered the challenger's leg.
|Chris Weidman||Lyoto Machida|
|74 in||Height||73 in|
|185 lbs||Weight||185 lbs|
Based on their track records, albeit Weidman's is much shorter and pristine, the champ will need to close the gap and get Machida on the mat to win. One too many direct shots from a striker like the experienced Brazilian, and his title reign will prove a short one indeed.
For Machida, the approach will probably be one that irritates the casual crowd as he avoids confrontation, instead opting to pick and choose his spots in order to not get taken to the mat.
As the promotion surely wanted, it's a fight that can go all five rounds, or end in quick fashion.
As the lines have continued to show, UFC has done well with its war-of-contrasting-styles main event, with oddsmakers not feeling relatively safe with either fighter.
Jon Anik of Fox Sports 1 provided a look at the updated, day-of odds:
There are simply too many unknowns for bettors to sway the line in either way by a drastic manner. We know plenty about Machida, but at the same time, we don't know how his body is aging or how it will necessarily react to the new class.
Weidman is preparing like it will be the same old Machida, regardless. Per Fox Sports' Damon Martin, Weidman said:
Stylistically, (Machida) is going to be the same as he was at 205. Going down might make him feel a little quicker, a little stronger and maybe give him more confidence. I'm expecting a very confident Lyoto Machida, but I'm going to break his will.
It's a smart approach for a relatively new champ, who brings plenty of questions himself to the betting equation. It has yet to be revealed just how great his chin is, even if he has never been knocked out. The sample size is too small, his reliance on takedowns and submissions too great and his victories over Silva not exactly reassuring.
Let's talk about where it matters the most—the wallet (or any other money-carrying apparatus).
With coin in mind, the safest option is to roll with the champ, even if the payout is rather low for such a marquee event.
For all that is unknown about Weidman, he is the guy who has spent the time leading up to his last two fights preparing for Silva. He clearly performs well against patient southpaws, so the war of attrition on Saturday night will eventually lead to his getting things on the mat.
From there, it's all over. Plus, Weidman has shown vast improvements in his strikes and kickboxing early on in his career, meaning he isn't just some slouch on his feet if forced to stay there. As journalist Josh Gross details, his noticeable size advantage will come into play in all facets, too:
UFC champ Chris Weidman also looks to be in excellent shape. Weidman weighs 185. He's slightly bigger than Machida. Will show more tomorrow.— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) July 4, 2014
As an added bonus, Weidman is younger and quicker. Pinning Machida into a corner of the Octagon at some point is a given, and he has the cage IQ to understand that violent counters are coming his way when that happens.
Taking it all into account, the only smart play is Weidman. Fresher, quietly ring-savvy and desperate to prove doubters wrong and begin his era in full, the American will wind up on top Saturday night one way or another.