Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida has gone the distance in 12 of his 23 fights. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Lyoto Machida spent almost six years largely tormenting the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight division with his special brand of Shotokan karate. Now, MMA’s Riddler has his eyes fixed on new hunting grounds.
Machida -- who held the UFC light heavyweight crown from May 23, 2009 until May 8, 2010 -- will downshift to 185 pounds for a matchup with Mark Munoz in the UFC Fight Night 30 main event on Saturday at the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester, England. “The Dragon,” who replaced the injured Michael Bisping, provides instant star power and intrigue to a weight class always in need of quality depth.
A winner in five of his past six bouts, Munoz last appeared at UFC 162 in July, when he leaned on takedowns and punishing ground-and-pound in capturing a unanimous decision over Tim Boetsch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The 35-year-old Reign MMA representative was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State University, where he won a Div. I national championship in 2001.
Machida, meanwhile, has not competed since UFC 163 in August, when he walked away the loser in a controversial decision defeat to Alliance MMA’s Phil Davis at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has beaten six former UFC champions during his 23-fight professional career: Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Rich Franklin, B.J. Penn, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua.
The UFC Fight Night 30 “Machida vs. Munoz” lineup provides plenty of water cooler fodder. We discuss some of it here:
Whitman: Machida was supposed to make his middleweight debut against Tim Kennedy on Nov. 6 but will instead replace Bisping against Munoz. Do you think this matchup is better or worse for “The Dragon” in his first appearance at 185 pounds?
Knapp: Nothing against Kennedy, one of the toughest nuts to crack in MMA, but I believe Munoz is a far more dangerous opponent for Machida simply because he has the ability to control bouts with his wrestling and ground-and-pound. Kennedy may have the better all-around skills, but he lacks that go-to weapon that stands out above all the rest.
Whitman: Melvin Guillard got back on the right track in his last fight by knocking out Mac Danzig. Now stationed at American Top Team, “The Young Assassin” takes on British striker Ross Pearson. Do you think Guillard’s new situation will bring with it the consistency he has lacked in the last two years?
Knapp: I cannot ever foresee using “Guillard” and “consistency” together in the same sentence. At this point, what we see is what we get: an extremely talented but volatile mixed martial artist capable of besting the sport’s very best lightweights and just as capable of slipping on the figurative banana peel.
Whitman: Though he was not known for such a style prior to joining the UFC, Ryan Jimmo has let his leather fly in his three Octagon appearances, even against the heavy-handed James Te Huna. Should we expect the same from the “Big Deal” when he faces British bruiser Jimi Manuwa or do you think a more cautious approach would serve him better?
Knapp: Jimmo would be wise to take a more cautious, measured approach to Manuwa. Subpar competition or not, a resume that features 13 finishes in 13 fights speaks for itself. At this stage, Jimmo is the more complete fighter, but if he obliges Manuwa with a slugfest, all bets are off.
Whitman: Who is the tougher opponent for John Lineker: Phil Harris or the weight limit for flyweights? Do we agree that Lineker is a future top-5 talent if he can consistently hit 126 pounds?
Knapp: I think Lineker is a top 5 flyweight right now, but he has to get a handle on his weight before anyone can take him seriously as a major player at the top of the division. Can he make the weight or not? Lineker needs to find a diet and weight cut plan that works for him or move to 135 pounds. For now, the jury is still out.
Whitman: Piotr Hallmann and Al Iaquinta impressed me in their last fights, with the Pole surviving an early surge from Francisco Trinaldo to submit the hulking Brazilian and Iaquinta simply outclassing Ryan Couture with his standup. I think Iaquinta’s striking will be too much for Hallmann, but who do you like in this battle of prospects?
Knapp: Had you asked me that question a few months ago, the answer would have been Iaquinta, without hesitation. However, Hallmann’s performance against Trinaldo -- on Brazilian soil, no less -- gives me pause. With that said, I agree that Iaquinta’s standout could be the major difference between these two.
Whitman: Veteran Rosi Sexton meets 22-year-old Jessica Andrade, with both competitors coming off losses in their Octagon debuts. Do you think either of these fighters has what it takes to make a difference in the UFC’s burgeoning women’s division?
Knapp: Sexton has a massive experience advantage here, and she will need it. Talent is not the question with Andrade, but her performance in defeat against Liz Carmouche was something of a mixed bag. Is she ready for this heightened level of competition and exposure? We could soon find out. At 22, Andrade obviously has the higher upside and will only improve as she attempts to navigate the 135-pound division. Sexton has issues of her own, as she has not won two fights in a calendar year since 2007. Plus, at what point does Father Time start to catch up to the 36-year-old Brit? In response to your question, no, I do not foresee either of these women making substantial waves in the Octagon anytime soon.
Whitman: I thought Cole Miller got hosed in his last fight, but that does not change the fact that it still went down as a loss on his official record, marking his third setback in his last four outings. Now paired with rapidly improving English prospect Andy Ogle, is it do-or-die time for Miller?
Knapp: A loss is a loss is a loss, controversial or not. Miller has been around the featherweight and lightweight divisions for so long now, it feels weird to even discuss the idea of his being cut loose. I think he hangs onto his roster spot, win or lose, but stranger things have happened. Here’s looking at you, Yushin Okami.