Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
The winner of Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida was granted the first shot at the winner of Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen later this year. So now that "The Dragon" leaves Anaheim victorious, why is it so hard to accept him as the division's number one contender?
Lyoto Machida had the chance to do likewise when he battled Dan Henderson last night (Feb. 23, 2013) at the UFC 157 pay-per-view (PPV) event from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. After all, "Hendo," much like the aforementioned "Reem," was supposed to be fighting for the title last year.
Then, disaster struck.
Friend and part-time teammate Chael Sonnen was able to leapfrog him in line while Machida went out and made his own case for a light heavyweight title shot. True, he was already choked unconscious in his first encounter with reigning division champion Jon Jones, but fared perhaps the best of any challenger to date prior to his second-round misstep.
Is "The Dragon" worthy of a second go-round?
His knockout win over Ryan Bader looked great on the highlight reel, but considering where "Darth" ranks within the division, it did little to warrant a second crack at the crown. But putting away Henderson? That would have made it a lock, much like it did for Silva.
But that's not what happened.
Instead, Machida played it safe, getting on his bicycle every time the "H-Bomb" threatened to detonate. It was 15 minutes of cat-and-mouse, and hardly the kind of statement needed to have fans clamoring for "Jones vs. Machida 2" or (gulp) "Sonnen vs. Machida" following UFC 159. Especially when there's another contender who may be just as worthy.
And who's never fought for the title.
I'm talking about Alexander Gustafsson, who can steal the Brazilian's spot when he welcomes dangerous Strikeforce import Gegard Mousasi to the Octagon at the upcoming UFC on FUEL TV 9 event on April 6 in Sweden. "The Mauler" is 15-1 overall, has assembled a six-fight winning streak (with four finishes) and holds a recent win over former 205-pound champion Mauricio Rua.
UFC President Dana White insists Machida is next in line, but Gustafsson has yet to present his closing argument.
Naturally, the lanky-but-lethal Swede can exit the "mix" just as quickly as he entered it, if "The Dreamcatcher" puts him to sleep on his home turf. But if he wins -- and wins convincingly -- I would much rather see him challenge for the strap than a fleet-footed fighter, 3-3 since 2009, who's already been finished by "Bones."
Machida just didn't do enough at UFC 157 to convince me otherwise.
For more on last night's "Rousey vs. Carmouche" event in Anaheim, including live results, videos, recaps, fallout and more click here.