With one kick, “The Dragon” changed the landscape of the 185-pound weight class.
Saturday in Manchester, England, Lyoto Machida announced himself as a threat in the UFC middleweight division, knocking out Mark Munoz with a blistering headkick late in the opening round of their main event match-up. Monday, Machida’s dominant performance was recognized in the media-generated UFC Fighter Rankings, as the 35-year-old Brazilian debuted at No. 5 in the division. As a result of his loss, Munoz slipped two positions, falling to No. 7.
Machida, who also holds down the No. 10 position in the light heavyweight rankings, appears to have found new life with his move to middleweight. After posting a 4-4 record over his last eight fights in the 205-pound weight class, Saturday’s victory over Munoz was equal parts “Vintage Machida” and “Machida 2.0.”
As always, the former light heavyweight champion was economical with his offense and frustrating to fight against, throwing just 10 strikes in a little over three minutes while avoiding the three strikes and one half-hearted takedown attempt offered by Munoz. What was different, however, was that Machida appeared more willing to initiate, coming forward and putting his friend and training partner on the defensive, looking to create his own openings, as opposed to employing his traditional counter-striking style.
And it couldn’t have gone any better.
Shifting weight classes is something many fans and pundits have believed Machida was capable of doing for some time, but his previous success in the light heavyweight division gave him no reason to relocate, much like one-time lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
But just like “The Answer,” Machida hit a rough patch in the 205-pound ranks and appeared to be on the outside looking in when it came to title contention, having already lost to reigning champion Jon Jones, so he opted to make the move down in weight.
While many fighters sacrifice speed or strength in shifting divisions, Machida showed Saturday against Munoz that the elements that made him a perennial contender in the light heavyweight division have accompanied him to middleweight, making him an immediate threat in his new division.