In the main event of UFC 104 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles CA, Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida will attempt to become the first UFC Light Heavy Weight Champion in two years to defend his title.
The last man to do so was Quinton "Rampage" Jackson when he defeated Dan "Hendo" Henderson and unified the UFC and Pride belts. This was a significant event in MMA history as the unification of the LHW titles of the two most recognizable fight leagues on the planet was at hand.
Since the title was unified no one has defended it once.
It would appear as of late that for a LHW champ holding on to this belt is easier said than done. "Rampage" was only able to defend it the one time. This observation is a strong testament to the depth and danger of the waters in the division lately. Many predators are lurking.
"Rampage" lost his title after one defense to the always-game Forrest Griffin. It was a hard fought battle that left many fight fans divided as to how it played out. In the end a unanimous decision for Griffin did not sit well with some fans but many believed in the outcome. Regardless, "Page" passed the torch to Griffin.
Next on tap for the newly crowned champion was a fight with undefeated and fellow Ultimate Fighter winner "Suga" Rashad Evans. In a fight that saw Griffin looking very strong out of the gates, eventually saw "Suga" land a devastating blow that dropped the champ. A short ground and pound lesson later and Rashad had won his title. Glory is fleeting as he would soon find out.
After quite a bit of confusion and speculation as to who would fight Rashad for his title, his fate changed drastically. What was originally thought to be a lock for some "black on black crime" as "Rampage" called it, "Page" was supposed to face off with Rashad for another chance at what was once his belt.
This sport is an unpredictable one, and circumstances led to the "Rampage" vs. "Suga" fight to fade into the background. As fate would have it, the next man in line was the also undefeated Machida.
Unfortunately for Rashad, that fate brought with it the end of his short-lived title reign. When the two undefeated fighters clashed someone's "0" had to go. Rashad was handled by Machida and knocked out decisively in the second round. Machida has made his statement in this sport.
Can he become the first champ in the division to defend that belt in over two years? Will the pressure of not only his perfect record, but the weight of UFC gold be too much for the "Dragon" to endure? Odds are one thing but this belt seems to have a mind of its own lately.
The last man to defend it more than once was Chuck "The Iceman" Lidell and his last defense was in '06. He on the other hand, became quite acquainted with the strap he held so dear, and he defended it with a ferocity the division has not seen in some time. That may all be about to change.
"The Dragon" is quite obviously a different breed of fighter that really has earned his place as MMA elite. What started as a career marred with speculation as to his ability to excite and lure fight fans, has turned into speculation as to who will eventually best this crafty and unique fighter. Greatness is forever, and the Dragon truly is a great fighter.
The answer by the UFC has been to pit him against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. "Shogun" is no stranger to long time fight fans, and more recent casual fans may recall his decimation of the before mentioned "Iceman" Lidell.
"Shogun" has been showing an increased comfort in the UFC and if he can somehow show he is still the warrior he once was in Pride, there is no telling how this fight will go. His hunger and desire is lethal, and ever increasing as he progresses in the UFC. Alas the past is no indicator of the future in this sport. So time will tell.
One thing is certain, many will tell you that to be a true champion, you must at least defend the title once. Sometimes that aspect in itself can be more difficult than earning it in the first place. Nothing comes easy in this sport. Not even for those with perfect records and seemingly mystical fighting abilities.
There is no doubt that Machida will bring his best with him into that cage Oct. 24. Rua will more than likely reciprocate with the best "Shogun" the UFC has seen thus far. The question still remains, will Machida be the first in two years to enter the cage with his title and leave with it just the same at the end of the fight?
Glory is fleeting, hunger and desire is lethal, and greatness is timeless. Time will tell which of those theories plays out at UFC 104.