Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida has looked unstoppable in his two-fight tenure at middleweight. Last seen dismantling Gegard Mousasi over the course of five rounds at UFC Fight Night 36, “The Dragon” made a strong case for a title shot by defeating the former Strikeforce champion.
But those plans were put on hold by UFC President Dana White, who wouldn’t confirm that Machida had the next shot. The belt will soon be contested when champion Chris Weidman faces surging No. 1 contender Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort in the main event of May’s UFC 173, and the promotion most likely wants to see what happens there before deciding the next title fight.
After all, with longtime former champ Anderson Silva rapidly recovering from the broken leg he suffered against Weidman at UFC 168, “The Spider” could be leapfrogging Machida, “Jacare” Souza, or even Weidman or Belfort should their bout end with controversy.
Machida knows he can only wait and see what happens. “The Dragon” injured his foot against Machida, but he appeared on tonight’s edition of “UFC Tonight” to detail how fast he has bounced back:
“My foot is almost hundred percent now, because I put a lot of ice, you know, just take a rest. Almost okay.”
It’s good news that Machida will be back to health soon. He looks amazing at middleweight, enjoying a power advantage while maintaining his speed. There are a ton of potentially great fights at middleweight for him, but many of those involve fighting a Brazilian opponent, something that Machida has been against in the past. Now, however, he’s willing to take certain fights against his countrymen:
“I have no problem with this, because I can fight against “Jacare,” against Vitor Belfort. I know he’s Brazilian too, but I am professional, I have to fight, no?”
While he is willing to fight Belfort, he was non-committal about facing “The Spider”:
“But everybody asking about Anderson, but I think Anderson is another situation. He’s a longtime champion; maybe his plane is a different plane right now. Maybe he just wants to do super fights. I don’t know what he does.”
To earn the fight with Belfort, Machida may have to root for “The Phenom” to defeat Weidman come May 24. But while Machida gives Belfort a good chance early on, ultimately he thinks the young champion will prevail:
“The first two rounds he (Belfort) has a big chance, because he’s fast; he’s faster than Weidman, he’s very explosive guy. But, during the fight, I think Weidman has more chance, you know. After third round, fourth round, I think Weidman, he can beat Vitor.”
Rounding out the middleweight discussion, talk shifted back to “Jacare,” who dominated Francis Carmont on the ground to earn a decision right before Machida beat Mousasi. When asked if he thought he deserved a title shot more than the streaking “Jacare,” Machida replied:
“I don’t know, because I just have two fights at 185. “Jacare” has more fights than me, but I can fight against Jacare if everybody wants. I can fight against “Jacare;” I have no problem with that. But I don’t wait for long time just for title, you know. If you have to do one more fight, I can do.”
Machida exhausted most of the possibilities currently surrounding the suddenly crowded UFC middleweight title picture, and he should, as he has a vested interest in all of them.
“The Dragon” will have a huge fight coming up soon, and if it’s not a title shot, apparently that’s okay with him. In the meantime, a showdown with “Jacare” for a No. 1 contender’s spot sounds like an amazing bout.
What do you think?
Photo: Jason Silva for USA TODAY Sports