It’s about time. Lyoto Machida has been impressively moving up in the ranks of the Light Heavyweight division for quite some time, and while many fans such as FightLinker absolutely loathe Machida’s style, I can’t say that I feel the same way.
Machida’s dominating wins over all of his opponents (He hasn’t lost a round) are only the tip of the iceberg. After Saturday night’s main event bout between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Keith Jardine, an Evans vs. Jackson title fight was all but written down for UFC 98 after Frank Mir sustained a knee injury that will see his bout with Brock Lesnar pushed back a month. Today, there are confirming reports stating that Jackson does, in fact, need surgery to repair torn ligaments in his jaw, and he needs time to heal an elbow injury.
What exactly does that mean? Obviously, Jackson cannot take on Evans, so the UFC has finally given Lyoto Machida his shot at the title, a very lucky chance for Machida to finally gain the respect he deserves at the top of the division.
For years, many hardcore fans have been pushing for the quality of fights. I can’t tell you how many interviews and articles I’ve read over the years of people complaining about how MMA must evolve to a point where only the best are taking on the best. This is quite possibly a fight that we wouldn’t be seeing if Mir vs. Lesnar was called off and Jackson was able to actually fight Evans. Why? Because the consensus believes that Machida is a boring fighter who just can’t produce the hype and excitement that much of the casual fanbase wants to see.
The problem for most hardcore fans is the unappreciation of the hype machine that is the UFC. While many of the overly hyped bouts that we see on UFC telecasts don’t exactly bring quality to the cage, they do bring viewers. Those viewers, in turn, make the UFC a massive success.
But for now, we are getting a matchup that isn’t exactly beneficial to the UFC. Evans has become a champion who has the ability to end fights in exciting fashion, but Machida has the ability to make fights seem methodically boring to the average fan. His elusiveness, quickness, and overall intelligent fighting style allow for him to win fights decisively.
The UFC will likely be hoping for an Evans’ victory. This will ensure the Jackson vs. Evans matchup that so many fans have been looking forward to, and I agree that it would be a quality matchup. If Machida defeats Evans, Jackson will likely be in line in the fall for a title shot. If Machida wins once again, it’ll not only prove that Machida is the best Light Heavyweight in the world, but he will be the epitome of the perfect fighter if he can do so in a same fashion as he has against the other talent within the division.
I’m convinced that Lyoto Machida will be the champion, and I’m also convinced he’ll reign on top of the division for quite some time. It’ll be fun to see a truly skilled fighter who really hasn’t been a part of the UFC’s marketing plans for once at the top of the heap. Of course, it’ll also be interesting to see what Rashad Evans brings to the table against Machida. It should be a great bout.