by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
Undefeated Brazilian light heavyweight Lyoto Machida was the only fighter at UFC 94, other than wrecking ball Georges St. Pierre, to finish his opponent. And he did it in devastating fashion.
Kind of ironic for a guy who’s gotten a heap of criticism as the essence of boring.
“My goal is to please my fans,” Machida told reporters through his translator and manager, Ed Soares, at the post-fight press conference.
If you asked UFC president Dana White, this moment was coming. Machida came into the Ultimate Fighting Championship at UFC 67 with a number of impressive wins, but he was essentially an untested commodity. After Saturday’s finish, an artful display of speed, leverage, and power, White believes Machida has found his footing.
“If you think back to Matt Hughes, Randy Couture, even Chuck Liddell, any of the guys who’ve been the big stars here in the past 10 years, they weren’t barnburners when they first came into the UFC,” White explained. “It wasn’t like highlight reels and excitement. What happens is guys get into the UFC, it takes them a little while to feel this is their home, they start to get the feel for it, get some fights under their belt. And I said when Lyoto gets that, he’s going to be very dangerous, and I think he’s going to be one of the greatest fighters in MMA. He looks better every time he fights.”
Machida attributed the better showings to his father, who first taught him karate, as well as a new nutrition plan.
“I changed up quite a few things in my training,” he said. “I trained a lot with my brothers and my father helped a lot more through this training camp, on the finer points of my game.”
White again stressed that Machida was “in the mix” for a title shot, though he would not face Rashad Evans next and would probably not get his chance until the end of the year.
Perhaps for the first time, Machida got a hero’s praise from the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. He didn’t give them much of a choice this time.
“I’m just real happy because every time I come out I try to get better and better and try to improve and finish fights,” he said. “And it just makes me feel good when I go out there and do the kind of job that I did, and the fans are cheering for me and get on my side.”