Later tonight (Sat., July 5, 2014) at UFC 175, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight title is up for grabs. And for the first time in a very long time, Anderson Silva is not involved. Instead, his teammate, Lyoto Machida, will look to take the title from Chris Weidman, the man who has now claimed and defended the 185-pound title, beating Silva twice in the process.
Machida is no stranger to high-profile fights, carving out a name for himself in the Light Heavyweight division as a dangerous, unorthodox, high-level fighter. He utilized his off-putting style to win a championship over Rashad Evans in 2009, which was followed by the infamously short-lived "Machida Era."
Nonetheless, Machida is a tremendous fighter and athlete; however, that didn't serve him so well in his first title defense against Mauricio Rua, a back-and-forth affair with both fighters having their moments, but ultimately ending with "Shogun" clearly looking the better of the two.
Despite this, Machida was awarded the dubious unanimous decision win, much to the chagrin of Shogun's camp and many mixed martial arts (MMA) fans. Thus, a rematch was booked, and the two were slated to meet once again at UFC 113. Shogun made no mistake in the re-run, quickly dispatching of Machida with a violent knockout victory 3.5 minutes into the first round, cutting the Brazilian's title reign very short.
Machida's second ascent to the 205-pound pinnacle was far less impressive, dropping a controversial split decision to Quinton Jackson and then retiring Randy Couture with a crane kick. Those two fights were somehow enough to bring Machida back into the title picture, and he got his shot at the new kid on the block, Jon Jones. He put up a valiant effort, clearly frustrating Jones through the first round, but ultimately failed as Jones made the necessary adjustments to finish Machida in the second stanza via submission because of a guillotine choke.
As Machida lay in an unconscious heap, it was clear who the better of the two men was that night. Machida had put up what was probably the best resistance against Jones to that date, but following three more fights in the weight class, a rematch would never materialize. After dropping a controversial split decision to Phil Davis, Machida was given the opportunity to fight 20 pounds south, booked against Mark Munoz in the headline fight at UFC Fight Night 30.
Machida showed more of what made him such a fan favorite in his first run at a UFC title, knocking out with a head kick little more than three minutes into their fight. Machida had always been on the smaller side of Light Heavyweight, and now fighting a weight division lower, he looked as sharp as ever.
Following the Munoz fight, Machida took on Gegard Mousasi in another main event fight, this time at UFC Fight Night 36. Mousasi put up a great fight, but Machida left as the clear victor, taking home a unanimous decision win after a showcase of great skill by both fighters.
That leaves Machida where he is now, again taking the role of title challenger against a very strong opponent. Weidman is not only the man who stands in his way to another world championship, but also the man who put an end to the reign of Machida's training partner, mentor and friend.
To add, UFC has painted a picture of national pride for this match up, with "All-American" defending his title against a man devoted to bringing the belt back to Brazil. At 36 years of age, this may very well be the last time "The Dragon" can fight for a title, so he will need to make the most of it.
Indeed, UFC 175's main event has a lot riding on it for Machida, and with emotions flaring, one wonders how it will effect both fighters.
As far as this match up goes skill-wise, it's one of the more intriguing fights we as fans have gotten to see in some time. Weidman's wrestling is his most lauded attribute, but at this point, to call him anything less than an excellent striker is flat out wrong. Machida, too, sports well rounded skills, with a karate/Muay Thai hybrid approach to striking, as well as solid defensive wrestling and submissions.
Weidman's game-planning for his fights has been impeccable, and you can expect his camp to have broken down many of Machida's tendencies and will try to use them against him. Machida is the type of fighter who can definitely adapt to what is put before him, but it will be difficult with a fighter that always comes as well-prepared as Weidman.
The challenge on Weidman's end is breaking down an opponent who is so effective with an unorthodox style.
In the end, this fight boils down to who comes in more prepared to counter what the other presents. Weidman and Machida are two excellent fighters and both are very athletic, and this will be a showcase of the very best that MMA has to offer. Machida has a lot on the line here, but he has a pretty decent chance of coming up big and being one of few fighters to have held titles in two different weight classes.
Clearly, a Machida win would make him a bigger name in MMA history and hold great magnitude in the future of the Middleweight division.