A month has passed since the UFC 112 which took place in Abu Dhabi, and the talk has gradually, and finally shifted from the inconsiderate tactics of a certain champion to the most anticipated rematch in recent history.
The rematch between the UFC's light-heavyweight champion Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida and former PRIDE Grand Prix winner Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
In their first fight, at UFC 104 in Los Angeles, both warriors carefully plotted and executed their attacks inside the cage.
The fight was literally a human combat version of chess. With a Shogun leg kick, Machida countered with a punch to the face. With a Machida leg kick, Shogun countered with a kick to the ribs, etc.
Back and forth through all five championship rounds, with every round being as close as it can get, the competitors waited patiently for the official announcement from Bruce Buffer.
With a plethora of landed leg strikes, Shogun, as well as the Los Angeles crowd, were certain that there would be a new world champion, but they thought wrong.
Lyoto Machida claimed his first title defense in the most controversial decision of 2009. Even UFC president Dana White believed Shogun won. So much so that he made the rematch official shortly after UFC 104.
Now, nearly six months later, here comes Machida vs. Rua: Round Two.
Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio Rua
Enough time has passed now for Shogun Rua that the original heartbreak from the result of his first championship fight is gone with the wind. But that type of disappointment never completely fades.
In his first fight with Machida, Rua felt that he was ahead on points with his never-ending series of kicks. As the fight progressed, Rua appeared to take fewer chances, even with Machida's legs battered and bruised.
Taking a chance can cost you the win, but in Rua's case, the nerves preventing the chances from being taken cost him in the end.
Don't expect those nerves to make an appearance in this fight. Even though Rua will be completely focused on the task at hand, the three judges from UFC 104 will be loitering in the back of his mind.
Shogun will probably come out in a similar fashion as his last strategy. He'll likely use the leg kick to find the range and timing of Machida, and from there he'll throw in combinations off of the kick, digging deeper into his Muay Thai arsenal as the fight progresses.
It was effective in the first fight, but Machida is way too smart for that game plan in this second fight. That's where Rua will come in a bit more aggressively, a Shogun Rua of old... so to speak.
With Rua being as smart as he is inside the cage, he won't get reckless with it either. It's likely that he switches between being the typical Muay Thai stalker to being the destructive brawler from his old days.
Then again, being aggressive against Machida usually spells disaster, doom, and apocalypse in one short breath.
It's possible that Rua tries to take the champion down to the ground, but he failed to do that on numerous occasions in the first bout, so who knows?
Lyoto Machida has been a tough riddle to crack. People will say that Shogun presented the answer in their first fight, but they are fooling themselves.
The light-heavyweight champion left Los Angeles feeling bruised and battered in the legs and ribs, but also with the mind still intact.
It is in this writer's belief that world champions in combat sports are so great because of not only their natural athletic abilities, but their sharp, endowed minds, and Machida is just a step ahead of most fighters in that area.
Like Rua, Machida will come in with a similar, yet evolved attack.
Fans will still see the elusive footwork and lightning-quick leg strikes, but the champion will be weary of the brutal kicks of Shogun. Expect more feints (yes, more) from Machida to avoid the legs, which subsequently opens up more counter hooks for the champion.
While the openings will be there, Machida should be patient in this fight. Exchanging with Rua could be bad news, as he has a mean little counterpunch of his own.
That being said, Machida shouldn't be gun shy either. There's no need to fear the takedown of Rua, considering that Machida's base is tremendous from his years of Karate and Sumo.
Machida will stick to a much more elusive strategy in this fight, which will at some point frustrate Rua, leaving him steamed and unbalanced in his attack.
This fight won't be a repeat in any way, but it's traveling along on a nearly identical path. All five rounds will pass and it will go to the decision, where Lyoto Machida will retain his championship as he outpoints Shogun Rua once again.
Winner: Lyoto Machida
Paul Daley vs. Josh Koscheck
Identity crisis: distress and disorientation (especially in adolescence) resulting from conflicting pressures and uncertainty about one's self and one's role in society.
This describes Josh Koscheck down to a tittle (tee).
Koscheck came into the UFC is a very accomplished NCAA Division I wrestler and showcased his skills by winning seven of his first nine UFC fights.
Then he fought Dustin Hazelett at UFC 82 and scored a knockout victory. Needless to say, the crowd went nuts, causing the pride that came with it to sink deep down into the brain of Koscheck.
There, front and center of Koscheck's brain, the knockout glory sits, willing and anxious to rear its ugly, yet beautiful face come fight time.
While Koscheck, and well...the rest of the world know that the smartest move against Daley would be to take the guy down, that knockout glory will tug at the cerebral cortex until Koscheck folds and starts swinging for the fences.
Them Brits sure know how to talk up a fight, and with the brash talk of Daley adding fuel to the fire, it's hard to believe that Koscheck will think things through in this fight.
The plan of Daley is quite simple, yet he does it so well. He basically comes in with an aggressive form of that fancy new term "sprawl and brawl."
His sprawl is underestimated, so the freakishly strong Daley will look to shrug off all, if any, takedown attempts in the fight and unload a hook on the exit.
As Joe Rogan has proclaimed many times, Paul Daley is possibly the most technical and effective boxer in the entire UFC organization, and it's hard to disagree.
His combinations are so fast and seamless, and they connect with the same type of power that most guys only possess in their "one big punch."
Look for Daley to goad Koscheck into a stand-up brawl, where the much more technical striker puts the other fighter to sleep. Daley wins by knockout in the second round, amusingly by his famed left hook.
Winner: Paul Daley
Jeremy Stephens vs. Sam Stout
With the give-all attitude of both fighters, this bout has the potential of stealing the entire show.
Jeremy "Lil' Heathen" Stephens especially comes in with the youthful crowd-pleasing display of aggressive striking, knowing that there's big money in those lovely "knockout of the night" bonuses, which he has won twice.
He'll look to keep Stout guessing with a few hand combinations and a couple of leg kicks, but don't be fooled. Stephens is looking for that hay-maker with bad intentions written all over it.
However, when Stephens finds an opening, he usually gets reckless with it and succumbs to a takedown attempt.
While he can hold his own off his back, Stephens should avoid being on his back at all costs, as this is the one area where he struggles from the most and where most of his losses have come from.
Stephens wants this fight on the feet, and it just so happens that Sam "Hands of Stone" Stout prefers the same type of fight.
Since joining the UFC, Stout hasn't been the finisher he used to be, but one thing is for certain: he does bring in "fight of the night" material with his attack.
Stout is always game for a slug fest and will be getting another one with Stephens. Luckily for Stout, in addition to having hands of stone, he also has a chin made of granite.
The young Canadian can take a punch with the best of them, but he can also dish out punishment as well, so don't let his string of decisions fool you.
With both guys being nearly impossible to knock out, the winner will likely be the one who cops out on the striking war and shoots for the takedown. But then again, maybe they're both content with slugging it out to the crowd's content.
Either way, it will be a decision victory. With the support of Xtreme Couture, it will most likely be Stout with his hands raised in victory.
Winner: Sam Stout
Kevin Ferguson vs. Matt Mitrione
Let's be real, this fight is only here because of money. Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson's name value is sky high despite being a mediocre fighter.
How so many YouTube fanatics think that beating up chumps with little to no skill in somebody's backyard translates into professional cage fighting is beyond the realm of any rationalized thought.
Giving credit where it's due, the man can brawl, but he isn't a god inside the cage. In fact, he's far from it. Even Kimbo Slice knows this, but so many fans are still clinging to their fantasies.
Other than his devastating hands, Kimbo Slice really doesn't offer too much resistance in MMA's most elite promotion.
His knees are shot, which hinders his wrestling ability severely, as well as his mobility. What's worse is that fighters know this, so pile on the leg kicks everybody, just watch out for them hands.
Oh, and you get Kimbo Slice on his back, and the fight is all yours. The game-plan is there for Matt Mitrione, but let's see if the man known as "Meathead" takes advantage of it.
Mitrione loves to strike despite being fairly inexperienced at it. He has shown that he puts a little bit too much into every punch, draining his stamina along the way. Let's see if his recent move to the Duke Rufous Academy tightens up his technique.
With a reach advantage and heavy hands, it would still be wiser for Mitrione to take Kimbo Slice to the ground.
Mitrione's years as a defensive tackle in the NFL mixed in with his MMA training regimen should be more than enough to rip the weak knees of Kimbo out from under him.
If Mitrione wrestles Kimbo to the ground, his chances of winning increase dramatically because Kimbo struggles off his back against larger fighters. With this attack, Mitrione wins by third round TKO.
Winner: Matt Mitrione
Alan Belcher vs. Patrick Côté
Patrick "The Predator" Côté is set to make his UFC return after a year and a half layoff due to a lingering knee injury.
Out of action since UFC 90, where Côté lost the title fight against Anderson Silva due to the injury, "The Predator" looks reestablish himself among the new breed of spider bait.
One factor for Côté will undoubtedly be the ring rust. Anybody can say that they won't be affected, but that much time out of competitive action will take its toll.
His hands should help him out though, Côté throws very quick combinations from the hip and with the type of power to put people in a daze.
However, one thing to look for is the mobility of Côté. It's hard to see him having the same type of speed and movement after two knee surgeries.
Another factor may be how well Côté's right knee can handle a kick from the legs of Alan Belcher.
Since joining the Duke Rufous Academy, the striking of Belcher has improved tremendously.
His combinations are a lot more fluid than they were when he first joined the UFC, and his kicks went from effective to bone-bruising effective. Straight from the hip, Belcher just wings those legs out there faster than his opponent can even react.
So, Belcher's striking isn't all that bad, either. It may not be as technical as Côté's, but it is just as powerful and dangerous.
One thing that is a disadvantage for Belcher is his tendency to always push forward. He takes a lot of punches in the process, but lucky for him, he has an iron chin: actually, both fighters do.
The advantage for Belcher comes in the form of grappling. Although the fight may never make it to the ground, Belcher definitely holds the advantage there.
He is a brown belt in Jiu Jitsu and is sly on the ground, transitioning through the slightest of openings and hitting reversals like he was a black belt.
But as stated, that's even if the fight makes it there.
With both fighters bearing iron jaws and a desire to brawl, it's tough to see this fight being anything other than a decision. However, with the ring rust of Côté, Belcher will score a TKO victory over a faded opponent in the third round.
Winner: Alan Belcher
Joe Doerksen vs. Tom Lawlor
Winner: Tom Lawlor
Marcus Davis vs. Jonathan Goulet
Winner: Marcus Davis
T.J. Grant vs. Johny Hendricks
Winner: Johny Hendricks
Joey Beltran vs. Tim Hague
Winner: Tim Hague
Mike Guymon vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida
Winner: Yoshiyuki Yoshida
Jason MacDonald vs. John Salter
Winner: John Salter