On October 26, Lyoto Machida will be making his long-awaited middleweight debut at UFC Fight Night 30 against King’s MMA representative and former Blackhouse teammate Mark “the Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz. Machida’s middleweight debut has been rushed slightly, as Machida was originally supposed to fight Tim Kennedy at UFC Fight Night 31. He will be stepping in for an injured Michael Bisping, who suffered an eye injury earlier this month.
At 35-years old, is it too late for Machida to reinvent himself at middleweight? Machida amassed a stellar 19-4 record at light-heavyweight with wins over Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Tito Ortiz, Stephan Bonnar, Rashad Evans and Randy Couture just to name a few. So that begs the question, why make the jump to middleweight at 35?
On May 23, 2009 Machida knocked out the then-champion Evans to become the UFC light-heavyweight champion. He managed to defend the belt once against “Shogun” Rua at UFC 104, but lost the rematch and his belt to Shogun at UFC 113.
One can’t help but wonder whether this is a matter of legacy. Is Machida attempting to achieve BJ Penn and Couture status by becoming the third man to hold UFC titles in two divisions? Perhaps this move to middleweight is foreshadowing a potential showdown with the current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, who won the belt after knocking out Machida’s teammate, the legendary Anderson Silva. This is a bit of a reach, as Weidman and Silva will have their rematch at UFC 168.
Machida may just be moving down in weight to appease the fans, who have been calling for Machida to move down to middleweight for superfights against Cung Le and Vitor Belfort for quite some time. Machida expressed a reluctance to move down, as it did not seem probable that Silva was going to lose his title. At 35, Machida’s clock as a fighter is ticking, and perhaps he felt that the time was right to try his luck in a different weight class.
Title implications aside, Machida has his hands full with Munoz. Munoz will ideally make this a wrestling match, utilizing his NCAA Division I wrestling to take down and control the elusive fighter. Machida’s sumo background has made him very difficult to take down, as proven by his 79.41% takedown defense rate in the UFC. I expect Munoz to try and take Machida down but find very little success. Expect the Dragon to stay elusive on the feet as he picks Munoz apart with his superior striking.
My Prediction: Machida by TKO in the 2nd