No UFC fighter knows better than Lyoto Machida how quickly an aura of invincibility can vanish.
In 2009, Machida was dubbed "Invincible Champion" by many, but by 2010, he found himself back at the drawing board.
It's now 2011, and "The Dragon" is in desperate need of a victory.
After putting together a masterful streak of seven consecutive octagon wins, Machida has faded. He now finds himself clinging to contention for a title that seemed to be his just yesterday.
One of the most controversial wins in company history over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, followed by back-to-back losses, first in a rematch with Rua and then to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, have accelerated his fall from grace.
His record shows only two losses, but it's three as far as anyone interested is concerned—three in a row after 16 straight wins.
So, how does Lyoto Machida get back on track and rescue his legacy while he still can?
Couture has thrived on a career of being counted out and is comfortable in the underdog role, which he will again embrace at UFC 129.
It's Couture who has nothing to lose and Machida who has everything to lose in this fight.
Couture is 48-years old and fighting his final battle for the promotion, while Machida is less than a year removed from his reign as light heavyweight champion.
Make no mistake, Randy Couture is an all-time great in this sport, but on paper this matchup overwhelmingly favors Machida in all areas.
If Machida is unable to capitalize on that, he'll still be able to find work in the promotion in the future, but will have no business contending for the title.
Machida remains one of the most spectacular talents in the UFC, possessing unorthodox karate stand-up, a jiu-jitsu black belt and very underrated grappling skills.
His only problem is that he hasn't been able combine all of the elements and dominate his opponents, like he should be able to.
Beyond that, it seems he fights too cautiously for too much of the fight and doesn't start attacking until it's too late, as was evident in his fight with Jackson at UFC 123.
Some will suggest that Rua revealed the blueprint on how to dismantle Machida in their first meeting and that he's since lost his edge.
While no one knows for sure, it is certain that UFC 129 will answer a lot of questions about Machida's future.
So here lies "The Dragon," nestled at the bottom of the top of the pack in a do-or-die situation.
If he loses this fight, it's likely he'll never regain the title, especially considering the logjam at the top of the division, led by newly-crowned champ, Jon Jones.
However, if we happen to see a reinvigorated, more confident Machida, who utilizes all of the weapons in his arsenal, Randy Couture might as well start his retirement party now.
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