Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida became a household name in the MMA community by dispatching opponents with his lighting fast reflexes and uncanny ability to control the fight-pace inside the Octagon.
For the longest time – even when he was serving as champion – fans and pundits, alike, would constantly harp on Machida’s physique and would constantly question the Brazilian about a potential move to the middleweight division; a division that most thought he would excel in, seeing that Machida was never as “cut” as some of his other fighting brethren.
With Michael Bisping being forced out of his planned showdown with Mark Munoz at UFC Fight Night 30 in Manchester, England, the door was opened for a replacement. Luckily for Machida, he had been planning a move to the middleweight division after his most recent defeat to Phil Davis back in August, and he willingly accepted the fight against the “Filipino Wrecking Machine.”
The former training partners, and current friends, met in the main event on Saturday night inside the Phones4U Arena in Manchester, and round one began like most Machida fight do: with a ton of patience being shown by Machida and the viewing audience, alike.
The first significant strike hadn’t even landed until roughly two full minutes had expired. It was a body kick, and it was sprinkled with a bit of foreshadowing of things to come.
As Machida employed his karate style and lead Munoz around by a string, the crowd in attendance was growing visibly restless. This was a prototypical “Dragon” fight and all we were getting was a display of leg kicks and body kicks by the former champion.
Munoz tried a trip takedown during the round, but it was easily shrugged off by Machida; in fact, it didn’t even look as if Munoz was able to put his hands on him.
As Munoz tried to match Machida’s patience, there was a lull in the action. Then there was another body kick that sent a “snap” throughout the arena.
And then Machida struck.
It was a lightning-fast head kick that was partially blocked by the former Oklahoma State wrestling standout, but even with his hand covering the impact, it didn’t matter. Mark Munoz was out, and Lyoto Machida was huddling over his friend in a sincere moment of fighting sportsmanship.
Machida could have put a more severe beating on his downed opponent, but that’s not the man he is. He showed the respect that Munoz deserved, both as a friend and as an opponent who had accepted a fight with such a dangerous fighter on short notice.
The end officially came via knockout at 3:10 of the first round for Machida. Post-fight, he talked about the difficulty of fighting such a dear friend.
“It’s very hard for me, because Mark is a good friend for me,” said Machida with a slight look of concern riddled across his face. “But as a professional, I don’t think about that, I just do my job. But now that’s all over and the friendship keeps going. Mark, thank you for fighting me. Sorry about that my friend, but it’s a job.”
Speaking of fighting friends, it was Anderson Silva, the former middleweight champion of the world that kept Machida from moving down to 185 sooner. The two have known each other for years, and as long as Silva was champion, Machida saw no point in moving down in weight, as he would never be fighting such a dear friend for his title.
With Silva’s historic loss to Weidman back in July, Machida’s path to 185 was now clear, and the Japanese-Brazilian stand-up wizard made the decision to jump ship to the middleweight ranks.
And as far as he’s concerned, that is where he will remain.
“Yeah, I will stay at 185” said the 35-year-old veteran. “But my bosses Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta are my bosses, if they ask me to fight at 205 again I will. “
Weidman vs. Silva 2 is slated for UFC 168 on Dec. 28 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. If Weidman can dispose of Silva once again, fans can expect to see “The Dragon” in a title match with the “All-American” sooner rather than later.
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