Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida recently made his successful debut in the middleweight class when he destroyed friend and former training partner Mark Munoz with a first round headkick at UFC Fight Night 30 last October.
It was “The Dragon’s” first finish since he knocked out Ryan Bader back at UFC on FOX 4 in August 2012. Machida’s next two fights were pair of lackluster decisions, one a controversial (and boring) win over former Pride champ Dan Henderson, the other a highly controversial unanimous loss to Phil Davis at UFC 163 last August.
The bouts had critics coming out of the woodwork to blast Machida’s elusive karate-based style, labeling it more avoiding the fight than anything else. Right or wrong, the simple fact remains that if you focus on counter-punching but never find an opportunity to nail your opponent, you’re going to be hard-pressed to win a decision while moving backwards for an entire fight.
That criticism apparently got to Machida, who moved down to 185 pounds after the Davis fight, seemingly enjoying a sizeable power advantage in the process. Machida will now face Gegard Mousasi at February 15’s UFC Fight Night 36 in Jaragua du Sol, Brazil. Heading into his main event tilt with against the former Strikeforce champ, “The Dragon” recently spoke up to MMA Junkie Radio to detail his shift in focus:
“I want to do well for my fans, I want to do well for my promoters, and I just want to improve. There’s always that pressure. I just listened to my fans, and I’m always trying to improve and bring something to them because I want to listen to people who want to see me do well. The knockout really happens when there is an opportunity. I always try to adapt to each opponent. You always have to have new tricks, and there’s always got to be something new. I’ve been following Mousasi throughout his career and when he was fighting in Japan. He’s a great fighter.”
From the sound of things, Machida is willing to fight outside of the box and look for new opportunities to produce highlight reel knockouts. After all, you’re only as good as your last fight in the UFC, and Machida needs to keep racking up finishes if he wants to rise to the top of the very tough UFC 185-pound arena.
Mousasi recently said that he’s looking to lock up a title shot against Machida, and he definitely has the skills and experience to do so. He’s never been knocked out, so Machida has his hands full in trying to put “The Dreamcatcher” to sleep.
We’ll find out who Machida or Mousasi will potentially face for the title when Chris Weidman squares off with Vitor Belfort at UFC 173 on May 24. An impressive win UFC Fight Night 36 could see either fighter emerge as the next contender for the belt.
But there’s always the possibility of the under-the-radar Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza sneaking into that spot if he can notch a third straight finish in three UFC bouts. He’ll have his chance to do so right before Machida vs. Mousasi when he faces the dangerous Francis Carmont in co-main event of UFC Fight Night 36.
And with former longtime champ Anderson Silva’s recovery reportedly going unbelievably well, there’s always the possibilty of “The Spider” returning to fight one of the top contenders (or even the titleholder) before the end of the year. What does the future hold for the stacked UFC middleweight division?