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Lyoto Machida Awarded Next UFC Light Heavyweight Title Fight

The UFC On Fox 4 results may have been predictable, but not all went according to plan. Four light heavyweights battled for the next UFC light heavyweight title shot with an unexpected face moving on to the title round.

UFC president Dana White took a lot of heat in recent weeks after proclaiming that the main-event between Brandon Vera and Shogun Rua would decide the next UFC light heavyweight title challenger. In the face of criticism, White opened up the competition to the semi-main event between Machida and Bader. White proclaimed that the most impressive winner of the two fights would move on to the Dan Henderson vs. Jon Jones winner. Most MMA reports indicated that the UFC were pulling for Shogun, yet it was Rua’s old foe that would get the upper hand on Saturday night.

Lyoto Machida reinvented himself on national television Saturday night. The fighter who once looked unbeatable bounced back off of his first submission loss with an impressive KO win. Machida made Ryan Bader look like an amateur for a round and a half before shutting out the lights with a deadly combination of strikes to the face.

Machida looked like the enigma he once was in the UFC. He was never in trouble and had Bader confused from the opening seconds of the fight. Machida played his classic game plan to perfection, laying and preying on his opponent until his opponent’s frustrations got the better of him. That is exactly what happened with Bader and Bader was knocked cold for the first time in his career in 1:32 of the second round.

Machida’s rival Mauricio Shogun Rua had a chance to steal the championship fight away from Machida. Rua was up next against Brandon Vera in a fight that had Vera as a +300 underdog. Most MMA analysts predicted an easy night for Rua while the UFC pulled for Rua to give them a good reason to make a Rua vs. Jones rematch. Unfortunately for Rua and the UFC, Brandon Vera never got that memo.

Vera gave Rua all he had and then some for four rounds in the main-event. Rua had Vera rocked several times, yet Vera kept coming. This was the best I have seen Vera look in years. I don’t know if Rua took him lightly or Vera was just that good, but Rua didn’t have the fire out of the gate that I would have expected. It was apparent midway through the first round that Vera didn’t come to lie down and both guys were in for an MMA war.

Rua finally finished Vera in the fourth round at 4:09. Rua’s onslaught of strikes were just too much from a resilient Vera who had nothing left. An exhausted Rua criticized his own performance after the fight. It would have been a damned close fight if it went the distance. I am not a judge and I almost comical when writers score rounds, but from my eyes I saw Vera winning two rounds, Shogun winning a round and ¾, with the fifth up for grabs if it continued.

Dana White immediately announced following the main-event that Machida would get the next crack at the UFC light heavyweight title. White said that Machida was most impressive and has been obsessed with fighting Jones again. Jon Jones is scheduled to defend the UFC light heavyweight title in September against Dan Henderson. I would guess that January or February would see Machida’s title fight barring an immediate rematch between Hendo and Bones.

There was an immediate outcry on Twitter to make a Rua vs. Machida trilogy with the winner getting Bones. I hate that idea. I don’t see why you would reward Shogun for struggling with a fighter he was supposed to handily defeat while punishing Machida for doing exactly what he was asked to do. Now if Machida loses his title fight, I don’t see a problem with going with Rua vs. Machida 3. Dana White made it as crystal clear as possible. The winner who wins most convincingly gets a title shot. Rua won a war while Machida barely broke a sweat. Those were the stakes and Shogun blew it.

Dana also mentioned something real intriguing following the fight about Rua’s desire to get another title shot. White mentioned that Rua didn’t seem nearly as interested in fighting Bones as Machida is. “‘Shogun’ has not been terrorizing me for another shot at Jon Jones,White told MMAjunkie.com. “Lyoto Machida has. Lyoto Machida wants it.

It is funny White said that because I thought the same thing after hearing some of Shogun’s comments in recent interviews. One reporter asked Shogun at the press conference last week about coaching The Ultimate Fighter against Machida in Brazil if he won as opposed to fighting Jones. I thought it was a dumb question until Rua said he was open to the idea. Wow! The fact that he was remotely interested as opposed to fighting for the title was shocking to me. In another interview Rua said that while he wants to fight Jones, he sounded more interested in fighting Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva. It appears that White got the same message, as opposed to Machida who only has eyes for the light heavyweight title.

Selling Machida vs. Bones 2 is going to be tough as a standalone pay per view headliner. Joe Rogan couldn’t stop talking about how Machida is the only guy to win a round against Bones. That is fine if they are fighting to get into The Ultimate Fighter, but he also got dominated in the following round and lost to a standing choke. I am certainly intrigued by the rematch, but it wouldn’t shock me to either co-headline a pay per view or headline a free show on Fox in 2013.

The biggest winner may have been Brandon Vera. Most perceived Vera as a joke going into the fight on Saturday night. Vera walked away with the respect of every viewer watching the show and most importantly, job security. Don’t be surprised to see Vera headline another show on free television. The big difference in that fight will be fans excited to see Vera fight on free TV as opposed to the reaction his name received this go-around.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric’s work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

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