UFC 129: Whats Next for Lyoto Machida If He Falls to "The Natural?"

Tim DaveyContributor IIIApril 27, 2011

Happier Times: Lyoto Machida has suffered setbacks since capturing the light-heavyweight belt.
Happier Times: Lyoto Machida has suffered setbacks since capturing the light-heavyweight belt.

When Lyoto Machida enters the Octagon to square off with Randy Couture at UFC 129, he will be under more pressure than he has been under in his career to date.

After two losses in a row (the only two of his career), “The Dragon” finds himself in the unfamiliar situation of needing a win to stay in his divisions elite.

So, whats next for the former champion?

If Machida is able to beat Randy Couture then he will face a high-quality opponent and will not be far away from another title shot. An especially dominant victory could even result in him being thrown into a title eliminator fight later this year, such is the goodwill he built during an eight-fight unbeaten start to his UFC career.

Quentin Jackson, Phil Davis and Rashad Evans are all currently closer to a title shot than Machida. However, if he defeats “The Natural” then he should leapfrog the loser of the upcoming Evans/Davis bout.

On the flip side, Machida will slip right back down the food chain if he loses to “The Natural.” For most other fighters a third straight loss would mean finding a new employer, but this should not be a worry for Machida. Given the quality of the fighters to defeat him and the controversy surrounding his loss to Jackson,Machida will surely receive one more chance even if he loses. But the road back to the belt will be a long one, perhaps too long, and he could surely not expect to face a high ranking opponent if he loses to Couture.

On Saturday, Lyoto Machida will step into the cage for a fight that will define the rest of his career. If he can spoil Randy’s retirement party then he will be right back in the mix for a title shot, but a loss will probably see him relegated to gatekeeper status for the remainder of his days in the UFC.

The significance of this fight will not be lost on the former champion, so expect him to bounce back to his best and put on a stellar display.