The fight between Lyoto Machida and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is the most intriguing fight that's come by in a long time. Some say that Fedor's fight with Mirko Cro Cop takes the cake, but for me, this one is it.
Aside from the tactical side of the match, which is extremely interesting itself, the stakes could hardly be higher.
Here is what's at stake at UFC 113, as well as some predictions with technical reasons.
Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio Rua
The light heavyweight title of the world is the most obvious thing at stake in this fight, but it is not everything that's on the line.
The old adage goes that you're not the champ, until you've defended the title. Machida has already defended the title, but he did so in a fashion that didn't win over observers. If you're going to buy into the old adage, Machida might still need to win this fight in order to really be considered a true champion.
If Machida wins this fight, not only will he be the champion, but he'll move his record officially to 17-0.
That level of dominance is almost unheard of in MMA.
His list of victories includes, in chronological order: Stephen Bonnar, Rich Franklin, BJ Penn, Kazuhiro Nakamura, Rameau Sokoudjou, Tito Ortiz, Thiago Silva, Rashad Evans, and Mauricio Rua. Having that kind of scalp collection, along with an undefeated record, should be extremely impressive to all but the most skeptical of observers.
It's better than Fedor Emelianenko's list of accomplishments up until he defeated Cro Cop, in my opinion.
With that in mind, I think that if Machida wins against Shogun tomorrow, he'll have cemented his place in MMA history as one of the greatest fighters of the era, and as a future UFC Hall-of-Famer.
His own legacy aside, Machida is also the last defender of karate. Notable fighters like Georges St. Pierre and Chuck Liddell have come from karate backgrounds, but neither really employ karate as a complete style.
Machida is a karateka from his uniform, to his philosophy, to his stance, to his attacks. Everything about Machida oozes karate, and to his point, he's been successful.
That said, if he loses this fight, people will say that Mmay thai is superior to karate, and that Machida's success to this point has been lucky. History is a cruel beast.
Rua could have arguably won the fight last year, but if he wins tomorrow, actually getting the title will be a big achievement for him.
He waited a long time in Pride for a title shot, and when he first came to the UFC, things didn't pan out as expected. If Shogun wins, he'll complete a remarkable comeback, and further his legacy.
As for the fight itself, I ultimately favor Machida, because the last fight was extremely close, and I feel like Machida has more obvious technical and strategic changes that he can make.
One thing that I am interested in is if Machida will elect to take the fight to the ground. Machida has great defensive wrestling and takedowns, so he should control where the fight takes place, but there are possible reasons why he might elect to stand with Shogun.
The most obvious reason Machida might choose to stand with Shogun is that perhaps Machida has some respect for Rua's dynamic guard game.
Less obvious is the possibility that Machida might feel some pressure to defend his karate style, which has been criticized.
For Josh Koscheck and Paul Daley
The big thing on the line in this match is the title shot with Georges St. Pierre, as well as the exposure that comes with being a coach on the next season of the Ultimate Fighter.
Both fighters would be big underdogs against the champ, but they are also two fighters that have a legitimate chance of beating St. Pierre.
St. Pierre is a better overall fighter than Koscheck, but Koscheck would be tough to finish, and has heavy hands as long as the fight lasts. Because of that, he'd have five rounds to try to land a big fast ball on St. Pierre.
Paul Daley would probably get stopped in two rounds or less by St. Pierre, but he's a true one-hitter-quitter, so if he can smash one of those left hooks into St. Pierre's chin, it could be "Goodnight, Irene."
I favor Koscheck because I think he's smart enough to use his huge grappling advantage to take Daley down and finish him on the floor. He could get caught by a punch, but he is capable of following a game plan, and the game plan is obvious here.
For Kimbo Slice
Slice defeated Houston Alexander, but the fight wasn't very impressive. An impressive win over Mitrione would give Slice some further legitimacy.
Because he's so marketable, more legitimacy means big moolah for Kimbo and for the UFC.
Neither Mitrione or Slice are really complete fighters. Both would probably fail against elite competition. Mitrione is less marketable than Kimbo. His job in this fight is to provide an interesting foil and test for the true draw. A win against Kimbo just means another paycheck for Mitrione.
I actually favor Kimbo Slice here, because he should have the more technical boxing of the two, and the fight is likely to remain on the feet.
For Patrick Cote and Alan Belcher
Cote has been sidelined by injury for about 18 months now. Before then, he was a title challenger on the back of a four-fight UFC win streak and a dearth of true contenders.
Belcher is skilled, but has been a bit unreliable in his performances.
Whomever wins this fight will be put back into the mix of mid-level contenders in the UFC middleweight division.
Belcher has arguably the better submission game, but Patrick Cote has the better boxing, the better wrestling, and the better chin. Because of that, he'll be able to bash up on Belcher until the fight is stopped.
My only concern here is that Belcher might be able to do some damage with his legs.
Ultimately, I pick Cote.
Sam Stout and Jeremy Stephens
Stout and Stephens are two fighters who are going to stick around in the UFC, because they put on fan-friendly fights, win or lose.
That said, if Stout wins, he'll be on a three-fight win streak over three decent lightweights. If he wins this fight, we might need to move Stout from the list of "exciting mid-level guys" to the list of lightweight contenders.
Stout is the better technical striker of the two, and much like Patrick Cote, he has a famously good chin. Stephens will be trying to land uppercuts that he telegraphs from miles away.
I favor Stout to win an exciting striking battle by decision, barring some questionable judging.