There are many potential suitors for "The Dragon," but who will be at the center of his next move?
In a "Knockout Of The Night"-winning performance, Lyoto Machida made quick work of his friend, Mark Munoz, who succumbed to a headkick by the Brazilian in the first round (watch full video highlights here).
Making his Middleweight debut, Machida looked outstanding physically prior to the fight (see side-by-side here) and eventually inside the cage, too. He was able to circulate faster, as he was lighter on the feet, yet still possesses the same power with the ability to finish a fight against nearly anyone when he hits him clean.
Now, this is where it becomes interesting for the former Light Heavyweight champion.
Although an immediate title shot against the winner of Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva at UFC 168 seems a bit unreasonable (maybe not after this), he is not far away. This may upset the Machida nonbelievers, who may think he is either overhyped or given title shots too generously; however, he immediately inserted himself in the Top Five of his new home after one fight.
Maybe some question the legitimacy of his opponent, Munoz, and that Machida being heavily favored, needs a tougher test to establish himself as a title contender at 185 pounds. The truth is, Munoz never troubled Machida and "Filipino Wrecking Machine" was stopped faster than he has ever been in his entire career.
He could face Michael Bisping, the fighter he replaced in the main event because of the European suffering an eye injury, and it would be a decent fight. Bisping has been unable to obtain a title shot in the promotion to date despite chasing one for a while now. Machida may need a tougher opponent, which is not to say "The Count" is not tough. It's jus that for someone who has been longing for a title shot for the duration of his UFC tenure and has not earned it yet, Machida may look better against a more accomplished opponent.
There is talk of an anticipated bout with Vitor Belfort, but he hands his hands full with Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32 (and even if it would make sense for Machida to face the winner of that fight, nobody wants to see Machida duke it out with Henderson again ... at least not any time soon). Regardless, with Belfort's topsy-turvy demands and the controversies that revolve around him and his TRT usage when it comes to being licensed in the United States, it may be risky to book a fight with title implications if that title fight cannot happen in Brazil.
Anyway, he already has a fight.
Gegard Mousasi, who has not been seen or heard since his win over Ilir Latifi at UFC on Fuel TV 9 earlier this year in April (apart from petitioning a fight with Belfort) could be another great option for Machida. "The Dreamcatcher" has fought all over the world in Strikeforce, Dream, K-1, PRIDE FC and Deep, and his toughness and durability would pose potential problems for "The Dragon."
Then, there's a fellow Brazilian by the name of Ronaldo Souza.
"Jacare" has finished all six of his latest opponents by stoppage (in UFC and Strikeforce), and he looked outstanding in his latest victories against Yushin Okami and Chris Camozzi, not letting either of them see the second round.
Souza is in a familiar place when it comes to his fellow Brazilian counterpart -- he is more or less one win away from being considering the next title challenger and this would be a perfect title eliminator fight. Book that fight in a headlining slot in Brazil, and watch the sparks fly.
Whatever is next for Machida, one thing is for sure: He proved that he can still be a dangerous and dynamic force in his new division, and that when he is on his game, he looks like one of the world's best fighters. With a controversial loss to Phil Davis at UFC 163 now erased from his memory, he can focus on what he needs to do to compete for a title in the weight class below the one he was fighting at for so long.
With a performance identical or at least close to the one we saw at UFC Fight Night 30 against Munoz, that shot would not be far away.
For complete UFC Fight Night 30: "Machida vs. Munoz" results click here.