Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida both culled big victories tonight in Jaragua Do Sul, Brazil.
Exiting the Octagon this evening with a pair of unanimous decision victories, the duo of Brazilian middleweights each advanced their individual title causes in the UFC’s 185 pound division. As such and with their UFC Fight Night 36 wins in hand, the combination now stand shoulder to shoulder on the precipice of a title shot.
The question now becomes, what’s next for Souza and Machida.
With the pair ranked numbers three and four respectively, and number two ranked Vitor Belfort fighting champion Chris Weidman for the middleweight belt at UFC 173 on May 24th, and number one ranked Anderson Silva out indefinitely with a broken leg, there’s not much wiggle room in terms of what the brand can do with Souza and Machida, other than the obvious, which would be to have the pair fight.
If this turns out to be the case, and as neither Souza nor Machida sustained any meaningful damage tonight, or at least none that we know of, it would be reasonable to speculate that the promotion will assign the deuce to the UFC 173 card.
In considering the fight and the date, it would make a lot of sense for the brand to place Souza and Machida on the May 24 card and for two very good reasons.
First, the card has no other fights assigned to it other than the Weidman / Belfort title match. As such, there’s plenty of room on the card to place the bout.
Second, the UFC couldn’t find a better match to place in the co-main slot and have act as a lead-in to the middleweight title fight, than Souza vs. Machida. It’s tailor made for UFC 173. To the point, the addition of the pair to the card would add a great deal of weight to the evening.
As such and with the four fighters lined up for the night’s sort, it would mean that by the end of the evening fans would not only know who the middleweight champion was, but also who his next fight would be against.
Simply put, Weidman vs. Belfort with Souza vs. Machida as the co-main fight is a card that’s easy to for the UFC to sell and it makes a lot of sense.
That said, the brand might elect to not waste Souza and Machida on one another and instead, simply look to hand one of them a title shot post UFC 173 and farm the other off on another fight and hope that they win again.
If this proves to be the case and based off of tonight’s performances, chances would be good that the brand would give Machida the nod over Souza and subsequent to that, give Jacare either the winner of Michael Bisping / Tim Kennedy (April 16) or the winner of Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Boetsch (April 26).
As to which choice fans might prefer, it could well be a toss-up. On the one hand Souza vs. Machida at UFC 173 would be a great fight and a great addition to the card. However, to separate the pair and set the wheels in motion for both to try and claim the middleweight belt is also a tempting proposition. And if this proves to be the case and the UFC does declare Machida to be the next title challenger, then watching Souza do battle with either Bisping, Kennedy, Rockhold or Boetsch might not be a bad consolation match.
That said, odds are probably pretty good that the brand will match Souza and Machida, and that they’ll look to do it for May 24th.