UFC

Lyoto Machida: I’ve got the power

'The Dragon' breathed fire into the contender's race in his middleweight debut.
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Mike Chiappetta

Mike Chiappetta has documented the fast-growing sport of mixed martial arts since 2006 for news organizations including SB Nation, NBCSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, AOL and ESPN. He appears regularly as an analyst on countless television shows and radio programs, including CBS Radio and MMA Beat. Follow him on Twitter.

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GOIANA, BRAZIL

Lyoto Machida has always had the gift of thump, the power to end a fight with a single, well-placed strike. We’ve seen it when he put Rashad Evans’ lights out in his championship win at UFC 98, when he finished Randy Couture’s career with a crane kick, and most recently, when he unleashed a brain-scrambler against Mark Munoz.

On the surface, there may seem to be little difference from one finish to the other, but according to Machida, one of them is unlike the rest. That’s because the former UFC light-heavyweight champion feels even more dangerous at 185 pounds.

“What I felt differently is that in the upper division, for instance, I always train with Glover [Teixeira]. And when I fight him and hit him, he feels it, but he doesn’t falter,” Machida explained on Wednesday. “He’s able to absorb it. He takes the blow well. And then after the session, he’ll say, ‘I felt that one.’ But I wasn’t able to knock him down.

“But training with lighter guys, there’s that difference,” he continued. “When you connect with the punch, they feel it and they fall. The strength changes when you’re up against a [205-pound] guy vs. a [185-pound] guy. It’s different and I felt that difference. But I only did one fight, so maybe it’s a bit soon for me to be talking about this.”

That last part was typical Machida modesty. After over six years of success -- he’s 12-4 in his UFC run -- Machida has earned a well-deserved reputation as a cerebral fighter, so his perception of his place in the 185-pound division is certainly valid.

After beating Munoz, he vaulted up the rankings to No. 5.

“I’m here, and I’m up for anything now, especially with a belt on the line,” he said.

If he continues to progress, and a few more chips fall into place, his “I’m up for anything now” line may be tested, as his path may some day be intersected by either current champion Chris Weidman or Silva’s longtime friend Anderson Silva.

Machida said he’d love the opportunity to face Weidman but didn’t see a reason to speculate that far ahead after only one middleweight fight. The question of Silva, however, seemingly can’t be avoided.

According to Machida, the two recently spoke and Silva said he’d rather give up the belt than fight his friend. But Machida just crossed that same barrier against Munoz. Does that mean he’d be willing to do it again?

Well, he didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no, either. After explaining Silva’s position, Machida left things up in the air.

“I feel like Anderson has reached a level that nobody else has reached,” he said. “It’s a situation that needs to be really thought through, talked through. He still has a couple of fights [left]. Anything can happen from now on.”

For now, though, he’s set him up for a matchup with former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi, a dangerous finisher who has closed out opponents in 29 of his 34 career wins. Mousasi will be fighting as a middleweight for the first time in over five years.

Interestingly, however, Mousasi may not have been Machida’s first choice, as he revealed that in the immediate aftermath of his win over Munoz, he told his manager that he would be ready to step in as a substitute against Chael Sonnen in case Rashad Evans was forced to withdraw for any reason.

“Of course,” Machida said when asked if he still wanted to fight Sonnen

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