Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight strikers Lyoto Machida and Eryk Anders will clash TONIGHT (Feb. 3, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 125 inside Arena Guilherme Paraense in Belem, Brazil.
This very well may be the last stand of “The Dragon.” Recent years have not been kind to Machida, as the Brazilian enters this match having lost three straight via knockout with a two-year layoff sandwiched between defeats. UFC has done the former champion no favors either, matching him with yet another hard-hitting Southpaw. Anders is a very talented and athletic prospect who has risen quickly through the ranks, showing serious knockout power in his short career.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Rashad Evans (UFC 98), Gegard Mousasi (UFC Fight Night 36), C.B. Dollaway (UFC Fight Night 58), Ryan Bader (UFC on FOX 4)
Key Losses: Chris Weidman (UFC 175), Derek Brunson (UFC Fight Night 119), Luke Rockhold (UFC on FOX 15), Yoel Romero (UFC Fight Night 70), Jon Jones (UFC 140)
Keys to Victory: Machida is among the craftiest fighters to ever compete. A Karate master with excellent counters, Machida frustrates opponents constantly until they give him the opening to land a heavy left hand or big kick.
In this bout, Machida faces a fighter with a big left hand and takedown threat. That’s the precise matchup he’s faced many times to great success, which is why this fight is a real test of whether Machida still has anything left in the tank.
Last time out, Machida faced Derek Brunson, a fighter who is rather comparable to Anders: big, athletic, and fires a brutal left. Machida bounced in-and-out effectively, stinging Brunson with his cross, but in the final exchange of the fight circled into the power of Brunson and paid for it.
Anders looks to counter with his left hand frequently, and Machida has to avoid repeating the same mistake. In addition, Machida would be best advised to remain patient and kick frequently from range. He has five rounds to work, so he should wait to have a full understanding of Anders’ timing before taking risks.
Key Wins: Rafael Natal (UFC on FOX 25), Markus Perez (UFC Fight Night 123), Brendan Allen (LFA 14)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Anders is a great athlete with a well-rounded game. He blends his wrestling and power punching together well, and his physicality allows him to thrive in close distance exchanges.
Anders loves to pressure fighters, making them uncomfortable and then countering violently when they overreact. Machida, however, is an expert at not overreacting, as he’s quite comfortable from his back foot and will wait for his opponent to make a mistake before taking a chance.
Anders will likely have trouble finding Machida early, so patience will be key. In addition, the former collegiate football star should be targeting the body with his left hand, as that’s a far easier target. If Anders can snatch up a single leg, that would be wise as well, if only to put himself in range to throw bombs.
Bottom Line: Machida must stop his slide, while Anders looks to rise higher than ever.
This very well could be the final bout of Machida’s career, win or lose. He’s fighting in front of a home crowd who adores him, and it’s not hard to see the writing on the wall with his recent knockout losses. If Anders clips him and makes it four straight, that’s a surefire sign that enough is enough, and Machida should spend his 40th birthday doing anything else. Meanwhile, if Machida returns to form, he’ll have an opportunity to retire on a big win even if he’s unlikely to take it. At best, Machida could still establish himself as a gatekeeper to the Top 10 if he wants to continue competing.
On the other hand, Anders’ professional career is still in its genesis. If he takes out Machida already — even in his deteriorated form — it’s a huge win. It’ll earn Anders a spot in the rankings, and he’ll likely square off with a Top 10-ranked opponent next. That all may be a bit soon, but Anders is an impressive athlete and already 30 years old, so perhaps it’s for the best.
Of course, there’s a real chance that it’s too much, too soon. More experienced men than Anders have found themselves flustered and confounded by Machida’s range and movement, which would simply show that Anders needs another year of development before trying to jump into the Top 15.
At UFC Fight Night 125, Lyoto Machida and Eryk Anders will meet in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?