Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader are now in the running for a UFC light heavyweight title shot.
Promotion officials announced Tuesday that the UFC on Fox 4 co-main event could have championship implications, contrary to a previous statement by UFC President Dana White, who Monday pegged the winner of Saturday’s headliner between Mauricio Rua and Brandon Vera as next in line for a crack at the gold.
Now, White says whichever fighter puts forth the best performance on Saturday night will receive the shot at the winner of Jon Jones’ Sept. 1 title defense against ex-Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson at UFC 151.
UFC on Fox 4 takes place at Staples Center in Los Angeles; the evening’s four-fight main card will be broadcast on Fox’s flagship network, while the prelims air immediately prior on Fuel TV.
“When the fans speak, we listen. Whoever scores the best win, whoever gets the fans excited... will get the winner of Jones-Henderson,” White stated in a release. “It is down to what these four guys do Saturday night in the Octagon. Winning isn’t enough; they’ve got to win impressively. Any one of these four fighters can take things into their own hands and make a title shot happen.”
Machida, 34, has lost three of his last four after beginning his career with 16 consecutive victories. The Brazilian karateka captured the UFC light heavyweight title in 2009, but relinquished it the following year in his second title defense against Rua. A split decision loss to Quinton Jackson would follow, though “The Dragon” rebounded from that defeat by retiring Randy Couture with a beautiful front kick. Machida most recently competed last December, when he was choked out by Jones in a failed title bid at UFC 140.
Meanwhile, Bader recovered from back-to-back losses to start 2011 by knocking out veteran Jason Brilz in just 77 seconds last November at UFC 139. “Darth Bader” returned to the cage on Feb. 26, earning the biggest win of his career by outpointing Jackson at UFC 144 in Saitama, Japan. The winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8, 29-year-old Bader holds notable victories over Keith Jardine, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and Vinny Magalhaes.