After losing a close decision to Phil Davis at UFC 163, "Dragon" stepped in for the injured Michael Bisping at 185-pounds. The former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion faced an interesting test in his past training partner, Munoz.
Many gave the massive striking edge to Machida, but the Brazilian brought a well-rounded skillset to the Octagon last night. Munoz looked to combat his foe's talents with his top-level wrestling game, which is regarded as one of the best in all of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Unfortunately or him, he never had a chance to implement that gameplan.
Let's take a look back at how Machida made waves with his successful debut at Middleweight:
Both fighters showed up in excellent shape. Machida promised to have a ton of power a lighter weight class. He showed it early by snapping a few sharp kicks to Munoz' body. Munoz simply wasn't able to get his wrestling working, only notching one failed takedown attempt. He appeared tentative and backed up for the majority of the first round.
That round wasn't destined to end long.
"Dragon" uncorked an absolutely vicious high kick, grazing Munoz' head with his shin and knocking him out cold. Machida showed a ton of class in pulling back from any follow-up shots as referee Leon Roberts swooped in to stop the fight. Machida continued to show respect for Munoz by apologizing to his opponent in his post-fight interview.
Machida's karate prevailed in a big way. The fight was a quick one that didn't feature a ton of action until it was suddenly over. Machida has found a new home at 185-pounds; several potentially great fights await him there. One name that comes to mind is Michael Bisping. If Bisping can return fully healed from his detached retina in the near future, a meeting with Machida could be arranged.
But, he'd better hurry, because "Dragon" took absolutely no damage last night.
An even bigger match up for Machida would be No 3-ranked Ronaldo Souza, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard who was last seen knocking out former title challenger Yushin Okami at September's UFC Fight Night 28. Machida is an excellent test for Souza, while Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva settle their rivalry for the belt at UFC 168 on December 28.
It's scary news for UFC middleweights when Machida confidently stalks down the No. 5-ranked contender with ruthless efficiency.
The loss is horrible news for Munoz, who only recently got back on track after his career suffered a serious downswing after his loss to Weidman in July 2012. He would be matched up well with ranked middleweights Luke Rockhold, Francis Carmont or Constantinos Philippou. With Rockhold campaigning to fight either Carmont or Philippou, Munoz could be fighting the odd man out.
Sadly, however, it appears that Munoz's potential for a title run has all but dissipated. He'll likely become a gatekeeper or sorts at this point. The head kick has proved to be his kryptonite of sorts. He'll now need to shore up his striking defense if he wants to get on a win streak.