UFC 175: 4 Fights for Lyoto Machida to Take Next

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2014

UFC 175: 4 Fights for Lyoto Machida to Take Next

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    In perhaps the most gutsy performance of his storied career, Lyoto Machida fell to middleweight champ Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC 175 on Saturday in Las Vegas.

    Despite the fact that Weidman beat him at his own game, the former UFC light heavyweight champ could hold his battered face high at night's end, knowing that he didn't regress in defeat.

    The UFC's brass will surely pit The Dragon, who hasn't faced an unranked opponent since 2007, with yet another top-flight foe in his next bout.

    Here are four fights for the 36-year-old Brazilian to take next.

Tim Kennedy

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    He's not quite primed for a title shot, but sixth-ranked middleweight Tim Kennedy seems ready for a challenge like Machida.

    In his nine fights with Zuffa, Kennedy has tasted defeat just twice (Ronaldo Souza and Luke Rockhold), and in both instances, he held his own in decision losses.

    Kennedy, who's riding a four-fight winning streak, poses a threat to any middleweight with his well-rounded game, fearless mentality and never-ending gas tank. After besting Michael Bisping in April, he solidified his status as a bona fide contender. A win over Machida, however, would catapult Kennedy into another category.

Luke Rockhold

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    While he seems like a reasonable foe for Chris Weidman in his next title defense, fifth-ranked middleweight Luke Rockhold probably still needs one more significant win to earn his first UFC title shot.

    And because of the show he saw Machida put on against Weidman, Rockhold must know that a win over The Dragon would give him the inside track to ultimately getting to the champ. 

    Aside from a TKO loss to Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut, Rockhold, a former Strikeforce middleweight champ, has looked unbeatable under the Zuffa umbrella.

    He rebounded from his disappointing loss to Belfort with exciting wins over 10th-ranked Costas Philippou (TKO) and 14th-ranked Tim Boetsch (submission) in his last two fights. The wins improved his record to 12-2 overall and 11-1 in the Zuffa banner.

Yoel Romero

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    Reinhold Matay/Associated Press

    Granted, 11th-ranked middleweight Yoel Romero would have to welcome a major spike in competition, but if the 37-year-old Cuban intends to make a run at the belt, then he needs to do so now.

    Although the former Olympic freestyle wrestler didn't take his first pro fight until 2009, Romero has looked awfully sharp in his first four fights with the UFC. He won his first three fights with the company via KO/TKO before outlasting the budding Brad Tavares for a unanimous-decision win in April.

    Lack of experience aside, Romero possesses tremendous punching power and top-flight wrestling chops, and in terms of style matchups for fans, he probably represents the most tantalizing opponent for Machida.

Vitor Belfort

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    Andre Penner/Associated Press

    Vitor Belfort may publicly campaign for a title shot more than any middleweight, but truth be told, the second-ranked Brazilian has no idea what type of future he'll have in the sport until he clears his licensing issues. 

    Belfort has been on the shelf since the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned testosterone replacement therapy, a treatment that "The Phenom" used in his last three wins.

    Belfort definitely had leverage when asking for a title shot following his latest win, a KO victory over Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32. But that win came in November, and several middleweights who don't have licensing issues have since emerged as legitimate contenders.

    It appears like there's no end in sight to Belfort's licensing problems with the NSAC. Therefore, it seems obvious that at the very least, The Phenom will need to best a top-five ranked middleweight upon his return before getting a title shot.