Bisping or Belfort? Lyoto Machida Cro Cops Mark Munoz at UFC Fight Night 30, anoints himself top five middleweight contender

Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Munoz got a kick out of Lyoto Machida's middleweight debut, one that likely gives "The Dragon" a spot in the top five of his new division. Should he fight Michael Bisping, or perhaps Vitor Belfort?

Before he made his 185-pound debut against Mark Munoz at the UFC Fight Night 30: "Machida vs. Munoz" event, which took place on Sat., Oct. 26, 2013 from the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester, England, former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida was ranked No. 6 in the world at 205 pounds.

At middleweight, he likely No. 5.

That's because "The Dragon" was on fire across the pond and nearly kicked "The Filipino Wrecking Machine's" head into the third round in the latter half of the opening frame (watch the video replay here). Munoz was cautious in his attack and even threw a glove up to protect his melon.

Didn't matter.

It was clear from the first couple of leg kicks that Machida was too fast for the former collegiate wrestler, who never had much of a chance to get their scrap to the floor. The Brazilian did what he always does, but this time appeared to be much lighter on his feet.

And that's bad news for the rest of the division.

Whether or not Munoz was a credible contender at 185 pounds is debatable, but he was still ranked No. 5 in the official UFC rankings (see them here). Machida likely takes over that spot, but still trails a trio of fellow countrymen in Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort and Ronaldo Souza.

Then we have the curious case of Michael Bisping.

"The Count" has claimed squatter's rights to the fourth position, despite going just 2-2 in his last four appearances and not finishing an opponent since pounding out Jason Miller in late 2011. You can argue that Machida's previous accomplishments warrant a spot higher than Bisping.

Unless you don't think he's done enough in his new home to go any higher than five.

The obvious resolution is to just have Machida and Bisping slug it out to see who is the better fighter at 185 pounds. The Brit was already asking for the winner while recuperating from an uncooperative eyeball, and once that thing gets itself back in working order, can set its sight on the soft-spoken interloper.

But that's for UFC matchmakers to decide.

Machida has also left the door open for a return to light heavyweight, though I would imagine there isn't a plethora of meaningful fights for him at the moment. UFC President Dana White has been teasing a future face off against Vitor Belfort and that can happen in either division.

In fact, it almost happened at UFC 167.

No matter who he fights, the fact that he won his middleweight debut -- and won it in devastating fashion -- makes him the division's x-factor. It's probably a little early to dub this the "Machida Era" (version two), because we all saw how the first one turned out.

Still, it's hard not to look at the top five fighters in this division -- outside Brazilian broski Anderson Silva -- and not think he has a legitimate chance against any of them.

Right leg hospital, left leg title shot.

For more on UFC Fight Night 30, including news, results, highlight videos, reactions and more, hit up our "Machida vs. Munoz" live story stream by clicking here.

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