Lyoto Machida's new era begins with Randy Couture at UFC 129


The "Machida Era" lasted a grand total of one controversial title defense.

That's because any immediate hopes for an extended Lyoto Machida title reign were ended abruptly at the hands of a determined "Shogun" Rua in the first round on May 8, 2010.

"The Dragon" couldn't catch a break in his next appearance, dropping a controversial split decision to Quinton Jackson at UFC 123 in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

In the fight against "Rampage" at UFC 123, Machida was admittedly overly cautious in the first two stanzas because of his knockout loss to Rua -- his first ever -- in his previous bout. He finally exploded forward in the third with a lightning-quick flurry of strikes in an attempt to finish the fight.

It turned out to be a case of too little, too late. 

Machida, who will look to snap a two-fight skid when he takes on MMA legend Randy Couture later this month, was refreshingly candid with journalists on today's UFC 129 conference call. And he started it off with what exactly went wrong against Jackson last November.

Here's a snip:

"When I look back, one of the things I could have changed was what I did in the third round to Quinton. If I had done that earlier, like in the first or second round, I could have finished the fight."

When pressed about why he couldn't pull the trigger earlier in the fight against "Rampage," the former champ was brutally honest:

"When I came back to fight Quinton, it was after my first loss which was a knockout. I knew Quinton was very explosive and very powerful and I didn't want to take too much risk in the beginning of the fight. I felt I won the first round and the second could have gone either way. In the third round, I felt Quinton might have tired out a little bit and I wasn't as hesitant to pull the trigger. I realize I should have done that earlier and that's what I took from the fight."

If the Black House product falls to the retiring Randy Couture, it would be the dreaded three fight losing streak in the UFC. Machida insists, though, that he's not letting the pressure get to him:

"The pressure always exists. Regardless of the situation, every fight in every situation is different. Whether it's the pressure of defending a title or three losses in a row or facing a legend like Couture ... I'm very well prepared for this fight. I try to block out all the pressure and focus. If you let your mind get away from you, it's just not very good."

With Couture announcing that his fight with Machida will be the last bout of his storied 14-year MMA career, Lyoto was able to describe exactly how it felt to be a part of history and put it into context:

"It's an honor to fight someone like Randy Couture. I feel like Randy has helped build the history of this sport. He helped make it what it is today. Out of respect, I want to give my best to Randy Couture on that night out of respect to him. It's an important part in history to be the last guy to fight Randy Couture and it plays a big part in my own career to have a legend like Randy on my résumé."

One staple of a great fighter is that he learns from his mistakes. Machida related exactly what he's learned about himself during his recent two fight skid and how he's going to put it in the rear view mirror:

"The biggest thing I learned is you constantly need to be changing and be evolving. I might have been coasting on my own abilities and doing what worked before. Everybody's gunning for you. Whether you're winning or losing, you have to constantly be changing."

One door will definitely close on April 30 when all is said and done. It's up to Machida to open the other.

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