Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida divided opinions when he joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Some fans were intrigued by his style, while some found it boring.
A karate based, counter fighting Brazilian, who couldn’t be touched. Machida looked phenomenal in the early stages of his UFC career, winning his first eight fights, winning, and defending the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship once.
His first loss came via first round TKO in a rematch against Shogun Rua. He then lost a controversial decision to ‘Rampage’ Jackson straight after. Following a highlight reel crane kick KO of Randy Couture, he fought for a title again, but was choked out by Jon Jones in the second round of their bout at UFC 140. He rebounded by dispatching of Ryan Bader easily, before defeating Dan Henderson by decision. In his next outing, he faced Phil Davis, but after an impressive showing, he lost via highly controversial decision.
Following the defeat, “The Dragon” decided to make the move to middleweight, a career choice many had thought would benefit him for years. He handily stopped Munoz, winning via first round head kick KO, before defeating Gegard Mousasi over the course of five rounds. The Brazilian was then given the opportunity to fight Chris Weidman for the middleweight strap, but after a five round war, Machida was on the wrong end of a decision.
He then stopped CB Dolloway in his home country with a body kick just 62-seconds into the first round. In his last two outings, Machida has been stopped both times. The first was a submission loss to Luke Rockhold, and the second was a TKO loss to Yoel Romero.
Days before his rematch with Dan Henderson was set to take place, Machida was pulled from the bout and suspended by USADA after he listed a supplement he was taking, which turned out to be on the banned list. A while later, it’s finally time for him to return.
He fights Derek Brunson in the headliner of UFC Fight Night 119 in his next contest, on October 28, but at 39-years-old, he doesn’t have long left, so we’re here to look at the future of his career.
Firstly, Machida has Brunson in his way next month, but assuming he wins that fight, which I think he will, he is in a peculiar position. Brunson was riding a five fight win streak with four first round KO wins before his loss to Robert Whittaker, who is now the Interim UFC Middleweight Champion. Following that, he faced one of the greatest of all time, Anderson Silva, but after three rounds was on the wrong end of a controversial decision.
In his last bout, he managed to get back into the win column with a first round knockout win over Dan Kelly. Two fights ago, he was in title contention, but after back to back losses and a win over a fighter not considered a threat to the title, Brunson is in a strange place in the division.
With a win here, Machida could definitely be considered for a title shot; it probably wouldn’t be deserved, but you can never say never with the UFC. Ideally, I would like to see him fight Brunson, and if he wins, maybe fight the loser of Luke Rockhold vs. David Branch?
Branch is ranked #9, two lower than Brunson, #7, while Rockhold is ranked #3. Maybe it is a little bit strange taking a step back after a win, but it’s unlikely Machida will be able to make another title run, age and circumstances of the middleweight division considered.
Another potential option for the Brazilian is a match-up against the loser of Kelvin Gastelum vs. Anderson Silva. Only catch with that is the fact he and Silva, the former middleweight kingpin, have trained together, and are longtime friends.
If Machida is to lose to Brunson, I can’t help but think it’s time to start thinking about retirement. Three straight losses would be a first for Machida, plus, the losses against Rockhold and Romero were very brutal, and probably taxed him a lot.
If he is opposed to retirement, or would like to go out with a victory, I would suggest giving him a fighter near the bottom of the top 15, or even an unranked guy; The middleweight division has some killers from #10 to #15 including Thiago Santos, Uriah Hall, and Tim Boetsch.