Lyoto Machida looks to be a force at 185 pounds. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Few mixed martial artists execute a game plan with the patience and precision of Lyoto Machida, a man who has designs on becoming the third multi-division titleholder in Ultimate Fighting Championship history. Cue Randy Couture and B.J. Penn.
Machida lured Gegard Mousasi into an unending chase and chipped away at his resolve with punches and kicks, as he cruised to a unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night 36 main event on Saturday at the Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil. The former light heavyweight champion carried the scorecards with 49-46, 50-45 and 50-45 marks from the cageside judges, improving to 2-0 since downshifting to 185 pounds.
“The Dragon” was too fast and too skilled for Mousasi, whose frustration grew as rounds one and two turned to three, four and five. Machida landed the most memorable strike of the match in the second round, where he detonated a high kick on his adversary’s neck and head. Mousasi -- who has never been knocked out in his career -- absorbed the impact with surprising ease but had little to offer in return. By round five, the proverbial writing had long been on the wall. Victory belonged to Machida.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo Souza made his case for a crack at middleweight gold in the co-main event, the Brazilian grappling dynamo outpointing Francis Carmont to a unanimous decision. The 2005 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist overwhelmed Carmont on the canvas, spending much of the first and third rounds attached to the Frenchman’s back. Souza’s six-fight winning streak gives him a legitimate claim to the No. 1 contender spot in the middleweight division.
With Chris Weidman scheduled to defend the 185-pound strap against a resurgent Vitor Belfort at UFC 173 in May, Machida and Souza would be staring at a significant layoff by awaiting the victor. Instead, matchmakers would be wise to pair Machida with Souza in a title eliminator, perhaps as the co-main event for UFC 173. The Weidman-Belfort and Machida-Souza winners could then meet in November or December to decide the fate of the middleweight crown.
In wake of UFC Fight Night 36 “Machida vs. Mousasi,” here are five other matchups that ought to be made:
Gegard Mousasi vs. Michael Bisping-Tim Kennedy loser: While Mousasi fell well short of the intended mark against Machida, he remains an intriguing talent at 185 pounds. The 28-year-old owns a stellar 21-2-1 record over his past 24 appearances and figures to catch meaningful bouts inside the Octagon for the foreseeable future. Bisping and Kennedy will collide in the UFC Fight Night 41 headliner on April 16 in Canada.
Francis Carmont vs. Luke Rockhold-Tim Boetsch loser: Carmont said goodbye to his 11-fight winning streak in his decision loss to Souza, be he should not have to give up much ground in the middleweight division. The Tristar Gym export held his own on the feet with “Jacare” and scored something of a moral victory against the Brazilian grappler by dodging Souza’s advances on the ground in the first and third rounds. One of the more physically intimidating competitors at 185 pounds, Carmont still has plenty to offer. Rockhold and Boetsch will lock horns at UFC 172 in April.
Erick Silva vs. Brandon Thatch: The wildly talented but maddeningly inconsistent Silva was utterly brilliant against Takenori Sato, as he took care of the onetime King of Pancrase in just 52 seconds. Sato ate a body kick from the Brazilian, dove on a desperate single-leg takedown attempt and proceeded to do his best Jeff Van Gundy impersonation. Silva was not amused and assaulted the Kazushi Sakuraba disciple with a series of unanswered heel strikes, punches and hammerfists for the finish. Thatch has stopped 10 straight opponents inside one round.
Charles Oliveira vs. Hatsu Hioki-Ivan Menjivar winner: The promising Oliveira rebounded from back-to-back defeats to Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson with a triangle choke-induced submission of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 quarterfinalist Andy Ogle. Still only 24, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt now seems poised to climb back into a meaningful position on the 145-pound totem pole. Hioki and Menjivar will square off at UFC Fight Night 37 on March 1 in China, the two respected veterans having combined for 51 victories between them.
Iuri Alcantara vs. Takeya Mizugaki: Though his performance left something to be desired, Alcantara nevertheless escaped with a split decision over former EliteXC champion Wilson Reis. The 33-year-old Brazilian bantamweight holds a December 2010 victory over Ricardo Lamas and has compiled a 4-2 mark since arriving in the UFC, losing only to Hacran Dias and Urijah Faber. Mizugaki has quietly pieced together a four-fight winning streak. He last appeared at UFC Fight Night 33 in December, when he recorded a unanimous decision over Nam Phan in Australia.