After Lyoto Machida knocked out Rashad Evans in devastating fashion to win the UFC light heavyweight title, Joe Rogan famously declared the beginning of “The Machida Era”. After a sketchy first defence and subsequent loss of his title to Shogun Rua, and then a disappointing loss to Rampage Jackson, that declaration seemed just a little bit silly.
The spectacular way in which he finished Randy Couture at UFC 129 has got me starting to believe the hype again though. Couture, like Greg Jackson, is famous for game planning his way to victories, and after back to back losses, it appeared that Machida was not quite the enigma he used to be, and therefore able to be planned for.
But no one could quite plan for what Machida had in store for Couture, not even Captain America himself. Now I’m not saying that a knockout over a 47-year-old man is enough to catapult anybody into a No. 1 contender’s position, but Machida looked back to his best and like he still belongs at the very top of his division.
After being knocked out by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, he clearly looked hesitant against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (who has obvious knockout power), and we all wondered if he would ever be the same. How a fighter deals with his first knockout loss is an oft talked about topic, and can change a fighter’s entire future career.
Pre-fight he talked about how he knew full well he had been too hesitant in the Rampage fight, and that he wasn’t going to be like that ever again. Easy to say, but after having the guts to go for such an unusual kick against such a veteran Machida essentially forced us to believe him.
So now that he has his karate mojo back, this is the perfect time for him to call out champion Jon Jones and start another run for the title. This should get him a decent amount of attention seeing as pretty much nobody else seems to want to do it. Since Jones won the title, the light heavyweight division, which is widely regarded as one of the most talent rich in the UFC, has been eerily quiet of late. Even current No. 1 contender, Rashad Evans, doesn’t really want to fight him. And with Jones out of action while he addresses a hand injury, and a first defence against Evans (so long as he gets past Phil Davis), this gives Machida time to rack up a few more wins, get some real momentum back, and challenge for the title again.
Stylistically, it is also an intriguing match up. So far Jon Jones has faced opponents who weren’t too difficult to figure out from a game planning point of view, but an on form Machida is still certainly a tough nut to crack, which Couture found out in painful fashion. Just ask his wayward tooth.
Jones hasn’t proven that he has the power in his hands like Shogun and Rampage have, so Machida would be able to approach it like he did with Couture and not have to worry too much about taking a punch or two. And then we can’t forget that Machida is a black belt in jiu jitsu under the Nogueira brothers if Jones were to get a hold of him and take him down.
With Machida’s Blackhouse teammate, Anderson Silva, not wishing to go up in weight to challenge Jones, this is the closest we might ever get to something like that match up. One is a high level grappler, the other an elite wrestler, and both are very unorthodox strikers. So long as Machida can get another winning streak going both would enter the fight with a lot of confidence and I just can’t see that being a boring fight. Especially as Jones seems physically unable to be in a boring fight these days.
Besides, we all know Greg Jackson may be able to create the best game plans in MMA for Jones, but who knows what kick Steven Seagal will teach Machida next?