Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida rejuvenated his career by moving down to middleweight to face friend and former training partner Mark Munoz in the main event of last October’s UFC Fight Night 30 from Manchester, England.
Knocking “The Filipino Wrecking Machine’ out with a first round headkick, “The Dragon” kicked off a new chapter in his storied career. He followed his debut up with a convincing five-round decision win over tough No. 6-ranked competitor Gegard Mousasi at UFC Fight Night 36 in February.
The big win opened the door for him to step in to face Chris Weidman in the main event of this weekend’s (July 5, 2014) UFC 175 after Vitor Belfort was pulled from the bout due to drug testing issues. Despite Weidman’s momentum from beating Anderson Silva twice and his status as a former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, Machida has made a career off of beating high-level wrestlers.
As for his gameplan to beat Weidman, Machida offered up a strategy in a recent interview with MMA Fighting. Not surprisingly, Machida believes his elusive karate stylings will rule the day:
“Distance and technique. It frustrates a lot of the wrestlers because they focus a lot of the time to get their hands on him and to try to get close and to try to take them down, but my style and my strategy is to keep my distance, to use my distance well and to attack.”
Machida has drawn a ton of criticism for his counterstriking style in the past, a dynamic that won him many bouts but also caused him to lose some close decisions that may have been swayed by his backward movement. He appears more aggressive at middleweight, but that may not be the best course of action against Weidman. “The Dragon” voiced his respect for Weidman’s skills, but said he can only worry about what he can control:
“Chris Weidman is a tough guy, he’s well rounded. He’s known for being a wrestler, he’s very good on the ground, he can knock people out standing up. But I’m not too worried about Chris Weidman’s strong points. I’m focused on what I do well and that’s what I’ll focus on when I’m in the Octagon.”
In terms of overall skillset, Weidman may be one of the most well rounded combatants Machida has ever faced in the Octagon (aside from Jon Jones, of course). Yet the champion will always have that air of doubt surrounding his two bizarre wins over Silva. That means the pressure is on to defeat Machida.
And while the challenger acknowledges that Weidman has earned everything he has, he can’t help but deny the controversy of his last victory at UFC 168:
“It’s hard to base everything off those fights. Every fight is a little bit different. There was a lot of controversy, I’m not taking anything away from Chris, but the controversy on how he won the second fight, he got hurt. But nothing away from Chris, I respect Chris Weidman and I’m going to try to get that belt.”
Indeed it is hard to base everything off of those fights, but we’re going to find out a lot more about Weidman when he faces a challenger that absolutely will not be clowning around on Saturday night. Can he silence his critics by defeating the puzzling Machida?
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