Lyoto Machida is considering some “different challenges” late in his career. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida had a dream of becoming the third fighter in UFC history to win titles in multiple weight classes. He was awoken from that dream in July, when he suffered a unanimous decision loss against reigning middleweight ace Chris Weidman.
Now back at the end of the line, “The Dragon” will look to salvage a winning record in 2014 when he meets C.B. Dollaway on Dec. 20 at a UFC Fight Night event in Barueri, Brazil.
In a recent interview with Sherdog.com, Machida analyzed his most recent defeat, in which he started slow and ended up chasing Weidman around the cage with powerful strikes.
“My strategy was to get him tired and then start to impose my game, but he was very smart and managed to score some points. Maybe if I had started [to be aggressive] a little earlier, it could have been different. I can’t be sure, but it’s an assumption,” explained Machida, who said Weidman did not fight too conservatively, only cautiously.
“Like every champion, the title is important to him, so he didn’t do anything wrong. He played by the rules, did what should have been done. He was a very tough opponent for me. I went all out. He deserves to be the champion.”
Machida also discussed his next opponent, who has been steadily climbing the middleweight rankings, thanks in part to beating Brazilians on their home soil. The December bout will mark Dollaway’s third fight in Brazil, where he has already defeated Cezar Ferreira and Daniel Sarafian.
“C.B. is a tough guy who’s winning fights and beating other Brazilians. I believe in my style and my team, and I’ll give my best. I don’t want to overlook him at all. People say ‘he’s ranked 10th,’ but it doesn’t matter to me at all,” said Machida, noting that he knows exactly which aspect of Dollaway’s game to be concerned about. “Wrestling is a difference-maker nowadays. Americans come with this skill, so I must use my style against his.”
While preparing for Dollaway, Machida is still keeping an eye on the rest of the middleweight division. After the upcoming title bout between Weidman and Vitor Belfort was postponed due to a Weidman injury, Belfort suggested that the UFC should create an interim title. Despite being highly interested in this scenario, Machida does not agree with his countryman.
“In that particular case, I think it wouldn’t be necessary,” Machida said. “Weidman just fought me. He didn’t back out of a fight more than once. This is the first time he’s saying that he can’t fight, that he’s injured. Maybe if it happens repeatedly, then it would be the case for an interim belt.”
Having fought both Weidman and UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, Machida assessed the risks for respective challengers Belfort and Daniel Cormier -- and “The Dragon” does not see the belts changing hands anytime soon.
“Weidman versus Vitor is a tough matchup for both. Vitor has a chance of knocking him out, especially in the beginning of the fight, but I believe time is not on Vitor’s side. It’s common for a striker to lose his power during the fight, something which wrestlers deal with a little better,” Machida noted.
“I think Jones retains his belt. Cormier is a great fighter, but the matchup isn’t very favorable for him, with the reach issue and stuff. Cormier has very solid wrestling, but if you look at the big picture from a technical point of view, I don’t see him winning. I think [Alexander] Gustafsson, who’s taller and has a longer reach, can give Jones a hard time. But then, I see Cormier being a bad matchup for Gustafsson. It’s all about the matchups.”
Despite being in great shape at 36 years old, Machida now sees himself much closer to the end of his fighting career than the beginning. Although he claims he is still in pursuit of a belt, he suggests that more sellable fights might be ahead of him.
“I’ve considered going through some different challenges. The belt may be the main goal, but I can’t be all about it. Each fight has its own meaning on your path. Each performance is like it’s for the belt; it matters. The next step is always the most important. What matters to me now is C.B. I’m not thinking about Weidman because that’s in the past -- and, maybe, in the future.”
Vinicius Giglio contributed to this report.