Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Lyoto Machida and CB Dollaway will go to war this Saturday (Dec. 20, 2014) at UFC Fight Night 58 inside the Ginasio Jose Correa in Barueri, Brazil.
Machida's put on some seriously stellar performances inside the middleweight division already, win or lose. He'll look to return to form after his close decision loss to Chris Weidman, ideally with a brutal finish of "The Doberman."
Having made significant strides in his overall mixed martial arts (MMA) skill set in recent years, Dollaway is ready to prove that he's an elite middleweight. If Dollaway can take out the former champion, he'll definitely have a position in immediate title contention.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter:
Key Wins: Rashad Evans (UFC 98), Mark Munoz (UFC Fight Night 38), Ryan Bader (UFC on FOX 4)
Key Losses: Chris Weidman (UFC 175), Jon Jones (UFC 140)
Keys to Victory: The Octagon's resident Karate Kid is truly an expert counter striker. By staying just out of his opponent's boxing range, Machida forces his opponent to reach from him. Then, he stops them in their tracks with a heavy left hand, a strategy that has resulted in eight knockout victories.
Take a second look at the names listed in the "Key Wins" section above if you skimmed over it.
What do all these fighters have in common? Well, for starters, each man has been knocked out by Lyoto Machida in less than two rounds. To get more to the point, each man fits the stereotypical build of wrestle-boxer. They've all got powerful takedowns and dangerous punches, which makes up the majority of their games.
Quite simply, Machida has been training for fighters like Dollaway for a very, very long time and is quite talented at disposing of them. His usual game plan -- to circle and feint, land rangy strikes, then counter punch -- will work perfectly against Dollaway, because he's the mold it was designed against.
For Machida, this bout is simply about implementing his game and avoiding any surprises. There's no need to strategize further; Machida is a master of his craft.
Key Wins: Francis Carmont (UFC Fight Night 41), Cezar Ferreira (UFC Fight Night 38), Daniel Sarafian (UFC on FX 7)
Key Losses: Mark Munoz (UFC on Versus 3), Jared Hamman (UFC on Versus 5)
Keys to Victory: In addition to earning All-American status while wrestling for Arizona State University, Dollaway has really focused on developing a strong boxing game under Jose Benavidez Sr. In his recent performances, Dollaway has even played the role of counter puncher, which has allowed him to rock a number of opponents.
One of the biggest changes to Dollaway's striking style is his improved head movement. In this bout, this will be especially important, as Dollaway needs to close the distance without swallowing Machida's left hand.
As Dollaway looks to close the distance, he needs to actively focus on cutting off the cage. To do this, he could attempt to replicate Chris Weidman's success against "The Dragon" by landing kicks as Machida looks to circle.
If Dollaway can trap Machida against the fence, his chances really improve. This becomes even more true if Dollaway lands a takedown off the fence and then manages to pin Machida on the cage once more.
In that situation, Machida will have a difficult time reacting to Dollaway's potential takedown or punches. Considering Dollaway's recently found punching power, things could quickly get dangerous for the Brazilian.
Bottom Line: The consequences of this bout are remarkably similar to the co-main, as both matches consist of a former champion looking for a successful return against an unlikely contender.
Machida cannot afford to lose any fights. He's getting older -- though not showing it in the slightest -- and middleweight is currently crowded with fighters looking to contend, his opponent included. If Machida slips up, it will be much more difficult for him to make his way back to the strap.
On the other hand, a victory here puts Machida back on the path to the title. He'd still need to win more fights, but if he defeated someone like Luke Rockhold after this, he would definitely earn a shot.
Dollaway has quietly built himself into a top fighter. This will be his first taste of the division's elite, and it's about time to find out whether Dollaway will sink or swim. If Dollaway cannot take this bout, it's back to the middle for at least a couple more fights.
Alternatively, Dollaway creates a solid case for a title shot if he can beat or even finish Machida. The list of men to do that definitively is extremely short, and Dollaway would love to reap the benefits of joining it. At worst, "Doberman" sets himself up for a title eliminator bout.
At UFC Fight Night 58, Lyoto Machida and CB Dollaway will battle to determine which man belongs among the elite at middleweight. Which fighter will earn the victory?