Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight titleholder Lyoto Machida notched his second straight win as a middleweight, capturing a clear-cut unanimous decision victory over Strikeforce import Gegard Mousasi in the main event of UFC Fight Night 36 on FOX Sports 1 in Brazil (recap).
Machida (21-4) was the better fighter across 25 minutes of action, showing superior offense -- as well as defense -- both on the feet and on the ground. While a finish would have probably eliminated any and all doubt of his merit as a title contender, going to the scorecards had more to do with the resilience of "The Dreamcatcher" than it did with the Brazilian's cat-and-mouse attack.
Nevertheless, "The Dragon" should be next in line to face the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort, who battle for the "All American's" middleweight belt in the UFC 173 pay-per-view (PPV) main event over Memorial Day Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada (details).
But he had a little help from his friends.
In the UFC Fight Night 36 co-main event, Ronaldo Souza took home a convincing decision win over the hulking Francis Carmont. Following the fight (read about it), "Jacare" confessed to an arm injury in training camp, and also told the promotion he was okay with taking another bout before making a run at the belt.
Any chance of him stealing Machida's spot -- something not out of the realm of possibility with a big finish -- likely dissipated when the third round expired.
But having Souza play second fiddle is only one half of the equation.
Machida's Blackhouse broski, Anderson Silva, is riding the pine for the rest of the year due to his devastating leg injury. With "The Spider" unable to keep the gate, the inmates have been running the asylum, which means Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold are still very much in the running.
And they were both creamed by "The Phenom" in 2013.
That makes Machida the next in line by default (and this only helps), though putting away Mousasi would have been an exclamation point on that statement. In any event, it still reads loud and clear, thanks to the five-round performance that highlighted just how quick and dangerous "The Dragon" has become at 185 pounds.
Is it enough to win him another title? We're probably going to find out later this year.