Tonight's UFC 140 in Toronto will mark the second title defense of current UFC Light-Heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
As 2011 comes to a close, the top dog in the 205 pound weight class will attempt to end a highly successful year on a high note. Jones went from a relative unknown prospect within the division to one of the UFC's most talked-about stars, easily defeating former champion Shogun Rua back in March.
Jones followed up the biggest win of his career by becoming the first person in the UFC to finish Rampage Jackson at UFC 135 to retain the belt.
Standing in his way is former champion Lyoto Machida, a karate master and quite possibly the toughest test of Jones' career.
Despite being 1-2 in his last three fights, Machida poses a serious threat to Jones' title reign as the Brazilian possess a style that could possibly derail the youngest champion in UFC history.
Machida has a real chance at taking the light-heavyweight crown back for a multitude of reasons.
First and foremost is his deep background in Shotokan karate. A high-level black belt in the art and having trained his entire life under father and karate master Yoshizo Machida, the way Lyoto carries himself in the ring is something that Jones has never faced before.
Analysts for weeks have been talking about how this fight will be determined by who controls distance. In the past, Jones has been the controller, using his 84.5 inch reach to keep guys like Brandon Vera, Rua and Jackson at bay.
However, Machida is a fighter who loves to play the distance game as his stance keeps his head further back than traditional MMA fighters, making it harder for opponents to hit him.
Because of Machida's stance and elusive footwork, Jones will, for the first time in his career, have to use tools other than his distance to control the stand-up portion of the fight. Machida has the uncanny ability to dash in and out on his opponents, a tactic that should help in nullifying Jones' reach.
Although quite adept at the striking game despite only having a few years training in the various arts under his belt, Machida will have the advantage here. If he can identify and counter Jones' funky moves, the karate ace has a real chance of taking back the belt.
His in-and-out style mixed with his kicking prowess will be a real test for the champion who has only faced one top kickboxer in his career (that being Rua).
Where Jones will have the best shot at defending his title will be in the ground game.
Jones is a decorated wrestler and is a skilled submission artist, a combination Machida has yet to see since making his UFC debut. If Jones can get the fight to the ground and watch out for his opponent's submissions, it should be an easy night for the champion.
If Machida wants to put himself in the best position to win, he must defend each take down and use the distance game to his advantage as the stand-up arena is the only aspect where I envision the karate master having an advantage.
Be sure to stay tuned to Bleacher Report for all things UFC 140. B/R is your home for complete coverage of the December 10 fight card, from pre-fight predictions to in-fight coverage, results and post-fight analysis.
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