by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
UFC president Dana White on Saturday night, during the Ultimate Fighter Team U.S.A. vs. Team U.K. Finale telecast, announced that UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida would make the first defense of his new belt against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
“The next title shot is going to be Machida vs. Shogun and the fight is going to be at the Staples Center (in Los Angeles), Oct. 24,” stated White, announcing the UFC 104 main event.
Machida became the current champion by knocking out Rashad Evans at UFC 98 in May. The win bumped up his record to a perfect 15-0 (seven straight in the Octagon), and the knockout helped to knock the monkey off his back. He had long been labeled as a “boring” fighter, but now has back-to-back knockouts – over Evans and Thiago Silva – and a second round submission of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.
“Chuck Liddell was no barn burner, Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, none of those guys were knocking people out and having exciting fights when they first came in,” commented White about the stigma attached to Machida’s style. “I knew that it would be a little bit of a process before Machida felt at home.”
Shogun, once ruling the roost in the light heavyweight division, quickly fell from grace when he made the move to the UFC. His first time in the Octagon, he lost to Forrest Griffin at UFC 76, then was heavily criticized for a lackluster effort in his TKO victory over an aging Mark Coleman at UFC 93. His last time out, however, Shogun may have sent former champ Chuck Liddell sprawling into retirement with a stunning first round TKO.
“A year and a half ago, people were saying this guy is the best light heavyweight in the world. He’s still the same guy. What you have to understand is, he had a long layoff. He had a couple of knee surgeries,” said White, explaining Shogun’s struggles. “He looked good in the Liddell fight. The key to Shogun is keeping him busy.”
UFC 104 marks the promotion’s first time back at the Staples Center since Matt Hughes and Royce Gracie headlined UFC 60 on May 27, 2006.