Lyoto Machida will aim to regain the light heavyweight championship at UFC 140. | Photo: Marcelo Alonso
Two and a half years have passed since Lyoto Machida knocked out Rashad Evans at UFC 98 and became the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight titleholder. He defended the crown once against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua before losing by knockout in their rematch at UFC 113. Another defeat to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson followed, leaving Machida in limbo.
A highlight-reel knockout against hall of famer Randy Couture before 55,000 fans at UFC 129 put Machida back on track and back in play at 205 pounds. Now, he awaits the most difficult test of his career: a five-round title bout against reigning light heavyweight king Jon Jones in the UFC 140 main event on Dec. 10 in Toronto. The former champion believes he has the weapon he needs to dethrone the man they call “Bones.”
“It’s hard to say what the perfect style is to stop Jones,” Machida told Sherdog.com. “I have a lot of trust in my skills against any fighter. I won’t change what people have seen, and I’d rather show them in the Octagon instead of talking about it beforehand. Jones wasn’t my problem until the UFC booked the fight. I’ll spend a lot of time studying him and find the best way to stop him. I know he’s versatile, but I have my own talents and know what it takes to win.”
Machida figures to be an underdog to Jones, who has yet to suffer a legitimate defeat in his professional career. “The Dragon” cares nothing for the odds.
“The fight will be decided in the Octagon,” he said. “Let him be the favorite. He’ll enter with the label of being a prodigy, but I’ll be stronger because of that. Since I’m the underdog, I will enter the fight even more motivated to show that I deserve to be here and to show why they offered me the chance.”
Age has provided Machida with valuable seasoning.
“I’m a complete man now that I’m 33. I’m not a 22- or 23-year-old kid anymore,” he said. “What changed most for me was my maturity and the experience I gained. It’s something subtle that people don’t see easily, but you feel the change. You acquire things you couldn’t even imagine.”
Machida has already begun his training camp, which will include Yuri Alcantara, Ildemar Alcantara and K-1 fighter Anderson “Braddock” Silva. Glover Teixeira will likely not be involved full-time, as he plans to travel to the Netherlands with Pedro Rizzo; there, they will train with Peter Aerts in advance of Rizzo’s forthcoming bout with two-time UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. Nevertheless, Machida does hope to secure the services of UFC middleweight boss Anderson Silva, a former teammate at Black House. The two share managers in Ed Soares and Jorge “Joinha” Guimaraes, and Silva matches up nicely with Jones physical features.
“We told Ed and Joinha that we would want to bring in Anderson to help,” Machida said, “but I can’t count on that because he has so many obligations, and I respect that. He’s the biggest name in MMA. I would love to have him beside me for this camp and he will be welcomed if he joins us, but I don’t want to count on him and not have it happen.”
Machida thinks he can drag Jones into the later rounds.
“I can get Jones to the fifth round,” he said. “I believe in myself, in what I’m doing and in my teammates.”
When Machida steps in the cage against Jones, nearly eight months will have passed since he flattened Couture. The layoff seems of little concern.
“I’ve seen athletes that returned from an even longer period of inactivity and had success,” Machida said. “I’ve been away from the Octagon for less than seven months, and I’ve been training. I won’t have trouble getting back in there.”