Two of the top-ranked light heavyweights in the world collided last night (Feb. 23, 2013) as former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida battled former Strikeforce and Pride champion Dan Henderson in the co-main event of UFC 157 in Anaheim, California.
For all the talk about this being a fight between two of the best in the world, the end result just wasn't even close to what many in the fans and media were hoping to see between two elite 205-pounders.
In all honesty, it was probably a good thing this fight wasn't given the main event treatment with two extra rounds.
While the tension was high throughout the bout, it was pretty much a game of cat and mouse between Henderson and Machida for 15 minutes. Henderson, always dangerous with his atomic bomb for a right hand, stalked Machida from the cage center looking to land with power while Machida circled on the outside, threw feints and waited for openings to counter and go on the offensive.
Unfortunately for both men, those moments were few and far between.
Henderson tried to utilize some leg kicks on the outside to create an opportunity to get inside and connect with his "H-Bomb" but he never landed it flush and when that happens, it can get very frustrating, especially when he's facing someone who didn't want to just stand in the pocket and slug it out with him.
And with good reason.
While the action was few and far between, Machida did do a good job of countering and whenever Henderson would lung in trying to connect, Machida would either throw his counter knee or pop him with a short left hand before exiting danger.
Henderson did manage to score a takedown in the third round to steal the frame, but he couldn't do much with his position despite finally having Machida stuck in one place and unable to dance away.
When it was all said and done, the judges ruled in Machida's favor via split decision with three scores of 29-28.
For Dan Henderson, he just never could create an opening to connect with that nasty right hand of his. He stalked Machida for nearly the whole fight but whenever he tried to utilize his gap-closers, he was either countered or he hit nothing but air. Pretty much his only effective strike was his leg kicks and Machida ignored them because he was just trying to set up his right hand with them and they didn't have that much zip on them. When fighting Machida in open space wasn't working, Henderson should have worked harder to get inside and either clinch more often or work for takedowns because he simply wasn't going to hit him with anything significant on the feet if Machida had any room to escape. Lastly, when he finally put Machida on his back, he should have tried to do more, even if it meant risking Machida getting back to his feet because he really needed to try and finish the fight.
Next up for Henderson could be someone like Rashad Evans, who also recently lost a lackluster decision. Also on tap could be the upcoming loser of Alexander Gustafsson vs. Gegard Mousasi or perhaps even a rematch against Mauricio Rua.
For Lyoto Machida, while it wasn't the most entertaining performance, he was simply doing what he always does, which is sit back, wait for his opponent to make a move, dodge it, find an opening and attack. It's not his fault that Dan Henderson fought conservatively and didn't really try to come after him that much. Machida is not the type of fighter who tries to force the issue if a fight isn't going the way the crowd wants and he did his thing last night.
He did a good job of landing his left hand whenever Henderson moved forward, but he just couldn't connect it with enough power to do any real damage. Also, his takedown caught "Hendo" off guard out of the clinch and may have forced the former two-time Pride champion to abandon clinch attacks, which was a big boost to his odds. When Machida was put on his back in the third round, he played solid defense and avoided any significant damage before escaping to his feet and going right back to work. This was a typical Lyoto Machida performance. It takes two to tango and he just didn't really have the right tango partner last night.
Next up for Machida is supposed to be Jon Jones now if Dana White is to be believed but with this lackluster bout, the door is wide open for someone like Alexander Gustafsson to steal the title shot from under Machida's nose should he put on a good performance against Gegard Mousasi in Sweden. If that happens, perhaps Machida would have to fight one more time against someone like Glover Teixeira should he get past Ryan Bader.