Is Lyoto Machida the number one contender? Depends on who you ask.
Saturday's UFC 163 pay-per-view (PPV) event, which emanates from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, features a Light Heavyweight co-main event between Lyoto Machida and Phil Davis, who are both looking to earn a shot at the winner of Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson, who fight for the 205-pound title later this year in Toronto.
Will the winner get a crack at the crown?
There seems to be a bit of a discrepancy between the UFC brass as to who will actually line up opposite Jones (or perhaps "The Mauler") following the Machida vs. Davis title eliminator bout this weekend.
Today at the UFC 163 pre-fight press conference, International Executive Marshall Zelaznik -- who was emceeing the festivities due to an absent Dana White -- introduced Machida to the Brazilian contingent with the following description:
'Introducing the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida. He's 19-3 in his career and is the light heavyweight number one contender. He knows with an impressive victory over Phil, that there will be no question that he is the next contender and challenger for the belt.'
While he was clearly attempting to tell the truth, the statement that Machida is "without question" the next contender for the 205-pound belt seems to be up for debate. White also addressed the topic in his post N.Y. media scrum yesterday and had a less optimistic take.
But puts most of the blame on "Bones."
"Well, Jones is fighting Gustafsson. I don't know. We'll go from there. The problem with the Machida thing is, Jones wants to fight new guys. He beat him. He choked him unconscious. That's some of the problems you run into with these champions that have gone on these long spells. He's up here talking about he wants to fight (Daniel) Cormier, he wants to fight Glover Teixeira. He wants to fight new guys. We'll see what happens."
Both executives have good points.
Zelaznik is speaking on behalf of what probably should happen. Following the most boring fight of all time -- Machida against Dan Henderson -- in which Lyoto came out on top, "The Dragon" will be looking to finish a young fighter in Davis, who hasn't yet had a crack at Jones.
If Machida does win, it leaves him atop the hill of light heavyweight fighters who Jones has already beaten.
White obviously has Jones (and UFC's) best interests at heart, because to be quite frank, who (besides the homers) truly wants to see Jones fight Machida again? Especially with the proposed heavyweight super fights still on the horizon.
Jones is quickly becoming the biggest asset in the company and White is looking to capitalize on his success. You can't blame the champion for not wanting to retread past foes and become stuck in trilogies at this point of his young career.
Whatever the outcome, Machida has to win on Aug. 3. Not via split decision, but by handily taking care of Davis. Then the real question will be answered of who Jones should fight.
Or wants to fight.