Just a few years ago, it was Lyoto Machida sitting atop the UFC light heavyweight division after his incredible knockout victory over Rashad Evans. “The Dragon” was undefeated and expected to carry the UFC belt into the next few years.
However, after claiming a controversial decision win against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, the two were paired in an immediate rematch. Rua knocked out Machida, and the once invincible fighter seemed to have lost his edge. A defeat at the hands of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and some said Machida could be released from the UFC.
That sense of urgency was on full-display when Machida delivered a front kick that knocked Randy Couture out at UFC 129 and boosted “The Dragon” right back into title-contention at 205 pounds. Now, thanks to an injury to Evans, Machida will be the next man to face current UFC champ Jon Jones at UFC 140 in December.
Age and experience have helped transform Machida into a different fighter than the one that KO’ed Evans and dropped Thiago Silva in back-to-back 2009 fights.
“I am a complete man now that I’m 33. I’m not a 22- or 23-year-old kid anymore,” said Machida, in an interview with Sherdog.com recently. “What changed most for me was my maturity and the experience I gained. It’s something subtle that people don’t see easily, but you feel the change. You acquire things you couldn’t even imagine.”
Figuring out how to defeat Jones, who has stopped Jackson and Rua already this year, will be a challenge for Machida. However, it is one that he is looking forward to solving.
“I have a lot of trust in my skills against any fighter. I won’t change what people have seen, and I’d rather show them in the Octagon instead of talking about it beforehand. I’ll spend a lot of time studying him and find the best way to stop him,” Machida said. “I can get Jones to the fifth round. I believe in myself, in what I’m doing and in my teammates.”
UFC 140 takes place December 10 from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.