It was a typical Machida performance, only better. “The Dragon” was one of the best light heavyweights in the world and he’s even better at middleweight. He should have made the move years ago. Will the UFC feel like his decision win over Gegard Mousasi was enough to earn a title shot, though? You won’t find many people doubting that Machida is right there among the top 185-pounders. He deserves a shot as much as anyone and, as a former UFC light heavyweight champion, has the best pedigree.
Who’s next: Ronaldo Souza
Does Machida deserve a title shot against the winner of Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort? Absolutely. But this is a matter of timing. That fight isn’t until May. Whoever comes out of it with the belt probably won’t step in the Octagon again until near the end of the year. Machida shouldn’t sit out eight or nine or even 10 months. Put him against “Jacare” over the summer (provided their injuries heal), the winner meets the Weidman-Belfort victor and you get a blockbuster title bout for one of those end-of-the-year cards.
Mousasi routinely leaves fans frustrated, except this time things were different. He truly was very close on a number of occasions to solving the Machida riddle. This wasn’t sleepy, patient-to-a-fault Mousasi. For the most part, he did what he needed to do against Machida. Just not enough of it. There’s little doubt that this move to 185 agrees with him. He’s here to stay and, at 28, he still has a chance to be a force.
Who’s next: Mark Munoz
Mousasi has a history of having trouble with wrestlers and is dying to shake that perception. This fight almost makes too much sense. Both Mousasi and Munoz are on the outer fringe of contendership. They’re both coming off a loss to Machida. And Munoz is likely to fight sometime in late spring or early summer in the Philippines. Guess who has extensive experience competing in Asia? That’s right: Mousasi. That fight would be a pretty nice main event for the UFC’s debut in Manila.
There just isn’t anyone in the middleweight division who wants to go to the ground with “Jacare.” Not Chris Weidman. Not Vitor Belfort. And certainly not Francis Carmont. Despite a shoulder injury, Souza ate up Carmont on the ground Saturday night en route to a unanimous decision victory. He didn’t get an impressive, highlight reel finish, but he surely threw his hat in the ring to get the next middleweight title shot.
Who’s next: Lyoto Machida
See above. How can the UFC choose between Machida and Souza? Who says they have to? With the Weidman-Belfort winner unlikely to fight again until late in the year, the UFC can put together Machida and Souza and see who truly is the No. 1 contender for the middleweight belt. The stylistic matchup is super intriguing. Both are so technical – Machida standing up and “Jacare” on the ground. This would make perfect sense for the main event of a UFC Fight Night card in Brazil over the summer.
Carmont’s at his best when he can impose his will on his opponent. He wasn’t able to do that against Souza, who matched his strength and athleticism. Still, Carmont won six straight UFC fights coming into Saturday night. The guy is a force at 185 and shouldn’t venture outside the top 10 in his next fight just because he lost to a destroyer like “Jacare.”
Who’s next: Michael Bisping-Tim Kennedy loser
Bisping and Kennedy get together in April in the main event of the TUF Nations Finale. The winner will be in the title contender conversation (perhaps a fight with Luke Rockhold?). The loser would still be top-10 material. That makes Carmont the perfect match. Stylistically, he matches up in interesting ways with both. He would have a hard time outgrappling Kennedy and an even tougher time outboxing Bisping.
Takenori Sato wasn’t supposed to challenge Silva. So, what does a good fighter do in that situation? He dispatches his opponent with ease and that’s exactly why Silva did, knocking Sato out in 52 seconds. At 29, his prospect days are over, but Silva is still the kind of athlete who can do damage at welterweight.
Who’s next: Adlan Amagov
How quickly do you push Silva? He’s not old, but he isn’t young anymore either. He’s already shown he can’t quite hang with the elite at welterweight, losing to Jon Fitch and Dong Hyun Kim. It might be a good idea to let him climb the latter a little bit. Amagov is a stud and he’s won three in a row. His last loss came to Robbie Lawler and we know now how good Lawler is. This is a bout the UFC can make quickly. Silva didn’t even break a sweat Saturday night.
It feels like he’s been around forever, but Oliveira is only 24 years old. He reminded everyone Saturday night just how good he is and can be with a triangle choke submission win over Andy Ogle. Oliveira takes a ton of risks on the ground, but that’s what makes him so fun to watch. He’s the Brazilian jiu-jitsu equivalent of a knockout artist.
Who’s next: Cole Miller
Miller said recently that he has embraced the role of a gatekeeper. Well, here it is. If Oliveira can crack into the elite of the featherweight division, he’ll have to go through Miller. Both are tall, lanky 145-pounders with excellent grappling and more-than-serviceable stand up. This is a Fight of the Night waiting to happen.