Machida Tries to Take Belt Back to Brazil
After back to back losses by the great Anderson Silva, the UFC middleweight belt has wrapped itself around the waist of the All-American Chris Weidman since July 2013. On Saturday, Lyoto Machida hopes to take that belt back to Brazil.
Is Brazil Home?
Anderson Silva won the UFC middleweight title from American Rich Franklin via a sensational knockout at UFC 64 on October 14, 2006. Since then, Silva had an incredible run of 10 straight successful title defenses until he faced Weidman at UFC 162 last year. Silva was seemingly invincible in the Octagon, until Chris Weidman knocked him out with a devastating left hook that ended an era and took the belt home to America.
Silva tried to win it back before the end of the year at UFC 168, but he broke his leg in a freak injury and lost twice in a row for the first time in his legendary career. And while many doubters say that Weidman hit Silva with a lucky punch in the first fight, he was the first opponent to ever dominate Silva for a full five minutes in the first round of their rematch.
Enter the Dragon
Now comes Machida, Silva’s stable mate at the Black House MMA fighting team in Brazil. The 36 year old Machida, nicknamed the Dragon for his karate expertise, is the UFC’s 3rd ranked middleweight. He was a replacement for number 2 contender Vitor Belfort, also of Brazil, who was unable to take the fight because of the recent TRT ban in Las Vegas.
Machida is the former UFC light heavyweight champion. He went 19-4 in his career as a light heavyweight but surprisingly made the move down to middleweight shortly after Silva lost the title to Weidman last July 2013. It was surprising because Machida had no prior indicators that he wanted to move down in weight. And although he lost his last bout at light heavyweight to Phil Davis, his other three losses were to former champions Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and to current champion Jon “Bones” Jones.
Machida said that he felt stronger as a middleweight and it showed in his debut when he knocked out Mark Munoz with a sensational head kick in Round 1. Machida also showed that he could take his speed and footwork to middleweight, as he ran circles around Gegard Mousasi in his only other bout at the 185 lbs. weight class. But still, many fight observers believe that the Dragon is Brazil’s chosen one- the one set out by the Black House to take the belt back to Brazil.
Betting odds and fight experts have put Chris Weidman a 2-1 pick to beat Machida. The 30 year old American has a four inch reach advantage and is six years younger than Machida. Aside from the differences at the tale of the tape, Weidman is physically stronger than Machida.
And while Machida may have the better stand-up game, Weidman is a former NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler. Weidman is only a jiu jistu brown belt, but his ground game is far superior from Machida because of youth, energy and pure strength. It will be exciting to pit his brute force against the finesse of Lyoto Machida on Saturday night.
Next in Line
Weidman does have the edge over Machida in this match-up, but he cannot underestimate the heart of the Dragon. Machida won’t be only fighting for the belt, he will be fighting for Brazil. And even if Weidman gets past Machida, there are other Brazilians waiting next in line to take the belt home: #2 Vitor Belfort is working his way to getting a Nevada license, while #4 Jacare Souza is prowling in his midst.
Weidman beat Silva twice in one year. He may have to beat three more Brazilians to prove that the middleweight belt does not belong to Brazil.
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