Lyoto Machida poses an immediate threat to the middleweight elite. | Photo: Sherdog.com
For anyone skeptical of Lyoto Machida’s decision to drop from 205 to 185 pounds, it took 3:10 to erase the doubts. After spending a few minutes finding his range, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder unfurled a textbook left head kick to knock out Mark Munoz in the UFC Fight Night 30 main event on Saturday at the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester, England.
Machida required only a split second to detonate his shin on Munoz’s skill. “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” went from trying to solve his opponent to wondering why Jupiter, Saturn and dozens of stars were circling his head while he lay on his back. With that, the middleweight Machida Era had begun.
Afterward, Machida revealed he had maintained a strict diet for a full month in order to meet the 185-pound limit. If he had difficulty with the weight cut, it did not show up in his performance. Machida was near flawless against Munoz, fighting as well as he had at any time since surrendering his light heavyweight crown to Mauricio Rua more than three years ago. He had been inconsistent since his loss to Rua, but if his latest outing was any indication of what to expect from him moving forward, then current middleweight champion Chris Weidman had better start looking over his shoulder.
Machida left the door open to a return to 205 pounds, but after he felled Munoz, there is no reason to think he will ever need to do so. His style gives almost everyone he faces fits. When pitting his speed, technique and power against naturally smaller opponents, there is no telling how much damage he will leave in his wake in the middleweight division. Machida intimated he would be willing to meet anyone if UFC gold was on the line and did not exclude longtime friend Anderson Silva. “The Spider” will try to reclaim his 185-pound championship against Weidman in the UFC 168 headliner in December. Machida will likely need to fight at least one more time as a middleweight before he can jockey for his desired title shot. The most logical scenario pairs him with Ronaldo Souza, with the victor battling the winner of Weidman-Silva 2.
The other hot topic spawned by UFC Fight Night 30 was the no-contest between lightweight co-headliners Melvin Guillard and Ross Pearson. The fight was just picking up steam when “The Young Assassin” landed an illegal knee that opened a nasty gash on Pearson’s forehead. The laceration was deemed too severe for “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner to continue, resulting in the universally loathed no-contest.
Referee Marc Goddard made the correct call in halting the bout, but the rule involving the type of knees Guillard executed needs to be addressed. While I would love to see the legalization of soccer kicks and knees to a downed opponent, I understand the issues surrounding them. However, Pearson was not exactly “downed.” When a man stands but leaves his fingertips touching the canvas, he is neither downed nor defenseless. If “The Real Deal” had remained on a knee, it would be a different story. MMA’s regulatory bodies need to amend the rulebook. A man standing on his own two feet with his fingers or hand on the canvas should be fair game when it comes to knees to the head.
Of course, the stoppage resulted from a cut, so the Guillard-Pearson match was going to end anyway. However, it may not be so clear next time. Thankfully, the UFC quickly arranged a rematch between the two lightweights, so we will have the opportunity to seem them tear into one another again in March.
Miscellaneous Debris: Nicholas Musoke could not have asked for a better Octagon debut. The Swede finished American Top Team veteran Alessio Sakara and nabbed the “Submission of the Night” bonus in the process. It will be intriguing to see what he does next ... Luke Barnatt and Andrew Craig deserved “Fight of the Night” honors. The only downside to their encounter was that it concluded sooner than we would have liked. Hopefully, they will lock horns again somewhere down the road ... Jimi Manuwa has earned all three of his UFC victories by technical knockout, giving him a 14-0 overall record with 14 finishes. There is a reason why many MMA message boards are fawning over the Nigerian-born Englishman and what he has accomplished thus far. The time has come to step up the level of competition.
Follow Mike Sloan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mikesloan19.