It’s painful to watch our heroes lose their place in the sport, but it’s the nature of the beast. Even champs don’t stay ultra-competitive forever. The best they can hope for is to keep at least a little bit of luster in the final years in the cage.

Former UFC champ Lyoto Machida had a rough time in his waning years in the Octagon. Prior to the wins over Eryk Anders and Vitor Belfort that comprised his swan song, he was a master of the “L”, falling to Yoel Romero, Luke Rockhold and Derek Brunson (when not suspended by USADA). Then he left the UFC, and made his Bellator debut at Bellator 213 last night.

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Machida won.

It was a hard-fought battle with Rafael Carvalho (who’s old and once-great himself), and for much of the fight Machida was his usual strike once-and-flee self.

But “The Dragon” switched things up in the later rounds by taking things to the ground, and he took the split decision.

The rest of the card saw former Bellator champ Liam McGeary TKO Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal after a long stand-up scrap, while Neiman Gracie tapped out stud wrestler Ed Ruth to advance in the welterweight grand prix.

But ultimately, the most salient point of the night was Machida making his promotional debut. He got the win. He proved the haters wrong and showed he can still kick some butt.

Machida is right where he belongs now.