There's no disputing that Lyoto Machida is one of the most renowned mixed martial artists to ever step inside of the Octagon.
But The Dragon has come a long way since dominating the 205-pound scene for multiple years, combining unorthodox attacks and legendary counter striking to dismantle some of the best fighters in the business.
Having lost two of his last three, including a title fight opposite undefeated Brazilian assassin Chris Weidman and a one-sided beatdown at the hands of Luke Rockhold, Machida came into Saturday's main event bout opposite Yoel Romero at UFC Fight Night 70 in desperate need of a victory.
As arguably the most accomplished wrestler to ever compete under the Zuffa banner, the athletically clad Romero poised a unique threat to the Brazilian.
And in dramatic fashion, the 38-year-old Cuban steamrolled Machida and ended his bid for middleweight redemption via a third-round knockout.
Here is what we learned Saturday night as Romero officially cemented himself as a bona fide title contender:
What We'll Remember About This Fight
It took Romero nearly two full rounds to even attempt a takedown, let alone drag Machida to the canvas.
But once he found himself in top position, Romero rained short elbows in bunches that ultimately left the former UFC champion incoherent.
However, the even more interesting takeaway from this bout is that Romero didn't even need to finish the fight the way he did.
On the heels of patient striking, timely in-and-out pursuits and overall creativity, Soldier of God was able to thwart the usual effective countering of Machida.
In turn, Machida's only worthwhile offense included circling leg kicks and the occasional body blow.
Needless to say, the blistering knockout was Romero's exclamation mark on the last 26 months, in which he went 6-0 with five spectacular finishes.
What We Learned About Machida
At 37 years of age and countless wars inside of the cage, a 1-3 record over his last four bouts may be enough to consider Machida officially done.
While his skill set is extremely unique and often efficient enough to ward off offensive dynamos, it seems as if the Brazilian can no longer rely on his speed and precision.
It's a hard reality to bear, but Machida needs to make major adjustments heading into 2016 if he wants to remain on the outskirts of the Top 5 (assuming he drops down after this loss).
In any case, he was unable to utilize his counter left and at times seemed to mask his inabilities by uncharacteristic showmanship.
What We Learned About Romero
It may have taken Romero longer than expected to truly get going on Saturday night, eating an abundance of leg kicks in the process, but boy did he make up for lost time.
When it mattered most, whether in close quarters or as Machida reached for counters, Romero's athleticism allowed him to make the correct adaption to avoid damage and inflict his own.
The fact that he didn't have to rely on his wrestling (which is arguably the best we've ever seen) to stifle one of the best all-around pinpoint strikers of the past ten years suggests that Romero's evolution is firing on all cylinders.
If he can maintain his tactical approach and he even opts for more takedown attempts in order to open his striking moving forward, there's no telling how dangerous Romero can become on his feet.
What's Next for Machida
Like other fallen stars, such as Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Dan Henderson, Machida will have the opportunity to fight until he doesn't want to compete anymore.
But considering he's been finished decisively in back-to-back appearances, The Dragon may need a little time off to redefine his aging Octagon skill set.
When he returns, noteworthy middleweight draws like Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping could be waiting in the helm.
Not to mention that a historic showdown with Anderson Silva would serve as a perfect pardon from the sport for both Machida and The Spider.
What's Next for Romero
There's only one matchup to make for Romero, and that is a long-awaited bout with No. 2 ranked middleweight Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.
It's a fight that has already been scheduled twice, but it ultimately has fallen through on the heels of bad health.
It is the most obvious No. 1 contender's bout out there in the division and a classic collision of wrestler vs. grappler.
On paper, Souza's experience makes him the early favorite, but Romero's showing opposite Machida proves that he can adapt to almost any fight style.
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