MMA: Lyoto Machida
UFC middleweight Gegard Mousasi admits that every now and then, he’ll log onto an Internet fan forum to see what’s being said about him.
He doesn’t always agree with what he finds.
Mousasi (34-3-2) will make his first appearance at middleweight since 2008 when he meets Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 36 on Saturday in Jaragua do Sol, Brazil.
If there’s one knock on Mousasi’s sterling record thus far, it’s that he’s built it while facing lesser competition. Although he’s lost just three fights in the last 10 years, rarely if ever will you see his name on a pound-for-pound list.
“I don’t get a lot of credit,” Mousasi told ESPN.com. “When I fought Denis Kang, Renato Sobral and Melvin Mahoef (in 2008), they were much better then. At that time, Kang was on top. A couple years later, he was losing to everybody.
“When I beat [Ronaldo] Jacare Souza, he wasn’t a big name. Mark Hunt -- no one knew who these guys were. Now they are doing very well. It depends how people look at it and people usually look at it negatively with me.”
Mousasi knows he can do a lot to change that perception with a win over Machida, a former UFC light heavyweight champion who appears to be on the verge of another title shot following a first-round knockout over Mark Munoz in October.
On Wednesday, Mousasi shared his thoughts on that upcoming opportunity.
ESPN: Does it bother you that some observers criticize the level of competition you’ve faced?
Mousasi: I don’t know how people look at it. I’ve seen so many fighters getting knocked out. I’ve never been knocked out. I’ve never been hurt in a fight. But people don’t look at those things. Vitor Belfort has been knocked out a couple of times. No one looks at it that way. I’m a solid fighter. I don’t know. Everyone has an opinion, but I am always underrated.
ESPN: When you stopped cutting to middleweight in 2009, you said it was too difficult of a cut for you. What’s changed from then to now?
Mousasi: My last two fights (at light heavyweight) I didn’t cut a lot of weight. I was around 206 or 207 pounds. It makes sense cutting now. I think I always knew I was a little undersized. I perform better at 185 and I will get an easier title shot here.
ESPN: What makes you think a UFC title shot at 185 pounds is easier to earn than 205?
Mousasi: There are a lot of popular names in the light heavyweight division. At middleweight there isn’t a No. 1 contender. You have Vitor Belfort next and then no one is really in line. At 205, the next guy is Glover Teixeira, then you have Alexander Gustafsson and then Daniel Cormier or Rashad Evans. You have three guys in front of you at that weight. At middleweight, you only have Belfort.
ESPN: You’re well known for how calm you are in the cage. Has that always come naturally to you, and is it an advantage in a fight against an elusive guy like Machida?
Mousasi: When I was an amateur, I would go to knock guys out in the first minute. When you get experience, you know it doesn’t work like that. Emotion works against you. The less emotion, the more you use your brain and fight smart. I’ve been working on staying calm for this fight and I’ve seen Machida get frustrated, too. If he can’t do what he does, he’ll get frustrated.
ESPN: When you announced your intent to drop to 185 pounds, Anderson Silva was still the champion. Were you excited about the idea of a possible fight with him?
Mousasi: My goal was to fight for the belt. At that time, Anderson Silva was the champ, so of course I wanted to fight him. I was thinking about it. But I just want the belt. That’s my goal. Who has it now is not that important.
ESPN: Chris Weidman is the champ now, having beaten Silva twice. Curious though, who would be a tougher matchup for you, Silva or Weidman?
Mousasi: Hmm. Difficult. Very difficult. I would say, I think Anderson a little bit -- but not really. I don’t know. They are both equal. It’s too difficult to say.
The silver lining in not getting Jose Aldo versus Anthony Pettis in 2013: We get it in 2014, instead.
Fate apparently knew what it was doing last summer, when it scrapped a scheduled featherweight title bout between the two in August due to a Pettis injury. As good as that fight would have been then, it’s matured into a blockbuster event now.
Instead of Pettis temporarily dropping to 145 as a challenger, you have Aldo moving up to make a champion/champion fight. It gives Aldo a chance to chase history, as he would become just the third UFC fighter to win titles in multiple weight classes.
All things considered -- storyline, fighting styles, mainstream appeal -- Aldo versus Pettis is the second-best fight the UFC could promote right now, in my opinion. What’s the first? And what other fantasy matchups would I love to see? See below.
(Note: This list includes only fighters currently signed to the UFC.)
10. Junior dos Santos versus Alistair Overeem, heavyweight
From a competitive standpoint, this is probably the weakest option you’ll find on this list. They are heavyweights, anything can happen, etc., but it would be real hard to pick against dos Santos in this matchup. There is a history here, though, as you might recall. The two were supposed to fight for the title in May 2012 before Overeem failed a surprise drug test. It’s one of those fights that sells itself.
9. John Dodson versus Joseph Benavidez, flyweight
Two of, if not the best finishers in the flyweight division. Dodson’s lead pipe of a straight left versus Benavidez’s club of an overhand right -- and everything else these two do well. This fight would fly under the radar as far as casual fans are concerned, but with Demetrious Johnson proving to be so far ahead of the pack, this actually might be the most compelling matchup in the division.
8. Ronda Rousey versus Cat Zingano, female bantamweight
There is no concrete timetable for Zingano's return, but unless the UFC signs Invicta FC featherweight champion Cris Justino in her absence, the title shot should be waiting for her. Obviously, Rousey must get by former U.S. Olympic wrestler Sara McMann on Feb. 22 first. This fight was (and still is) intriguing due to Zingano's athleticism and finishing ability. Her strength and explosiveness will help in scrambles with Rousey, and she only needs a short window of opportunity to change the course of a fight.
The first encounter in 2004 was just perfect. Diaz taunting Lawler to the point referee Steve Mazzagatti tells him, “no more talking.” Lawler complaining of a groin kick and Diaz accusing him of faking right in the middle of the fight. The step back counter knockout for Diaz. Little brother Nate Diaz with the bowl-cut, running into the cage afterward. How can anyone not want to see this again?
6. Renan Barao versus Dominick Cruz, bantamweight
Sorry, but I can’t seem to let this one go. As good as Barao looks right now, is he as good as Cruz was in 2012, when he first went down due to injury? You could argue either side of that. Whenever Cruz comes back, I say make this fight. Why not? He’d almost come in with low expectations on him. Everything to gain, little to lose. A “tuneup” fight would actually probably put him under more pressure.
5. Jon Jones versus Daniel Cormier, light heavyweight
Extremely marketable fight, obviously. I have a suspicion plenty of people will pick Cormier to win this matchup, but realistically, if they had to bet the farm on it, they’d change the pick to Jones. When the chips are down for reals, at 205 pounds, you don’t bet against Jones -- even though it would be real tempting to do it with Cormier.
4. Lyoto Machida versus Vitor Belfort, middleweight
Belfort’s offense versus Machida’s defense is one of the most tantalizing battles we could hope to witness in the UFC this year. Chris Weidman is the undisputed king at 185 pounds -- he wears the crown -- but in terms of just a good, old-fashioned, definition of the term “fight,” nothing is better at middleweight than Belfort versus Machida.
3. BJ Penn versus Conor McGregor, featherweight
The two losses to Frankie Edgar became personal for Penn because he despised the way he performed in them. So even though we can all think of better matchups for him than a third meeting with Edgar, he deserves a chance at that redemption. Win or lose, a matchup against the loud, cocky, talented new kid would be outstanding to watch start to finish and it would generate plenty of interest.
2. Jose Aldo versus Anthony Pettis, lightweight
Already discussed this one. Probably my favorite fight here, stylistically. In addition to having the physical tools to match Aldo (which is quite rare), Pettis has the mentality. He’s not a guy who might just “survive” Aldo -- he’ll push him, even in the first round. And that’s something we all want to see.
1. Jon Jones versus Cain Velasquez, heavyweight
This is it. The No. 1 fight the UFC can promote, currently, post-Georges St-Pierre/Anderson Silva. No other matchup could generate as much pay-per-view revenue, and with good reason. Jones is the pound-for-pound best, while Velasquez is considered the “baddest man on the planet.” Both dominant champs would have to adjust for the other. For Jones, it would be a shot at his GOAT quest -- capturing the most iconic title in mixed martial arts. It’s unlikely to happen this year, with Velasquez currently sidelined and Jones focused on light heavyweight, but as long as both keep winning, people will talk and debate this matchup.
ESPN Stats & Information
At UFC 167, many felt that Johny Hendricks did enough damage against Georges St-Pierre to become the new UFC welterweight champion. On Glenn Trowbridge’s scorecard, Hendricks did just that. The other two judges (Sal D’Amato and Tony Weeks) saw the first round for the champion, giving him the 48-47 decision and the victory for St-Pierre’s UFC record-breaking 19th win inside the Octagon.
While the decision can be argued for both fighters, it marks just another recent example of champions barely leaving the Octagon with their titles.
UFC 165 - Jon Jones defeats Alexander Gustafsson (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
In September of this year, Jon Jones made the sixth defense of his UFC light heavyweight title against his toughest challenger to date, Alexander Gustafsson. While Jones outstruck the challenger 28-19 in significant strikes in the opening round, Gustafsson scored a takedown while Jones was stuffed on all three of his attempts.
Gustafsson won Round 1 on all three scorecards. Rounds 2 and 3 are where things got tricky with the judging. Neither man gained a takedown (Jones 0-for-3, Gustafsson 0-for-2), but Jones held the striking advantage in Round 2 26-15 and Round 3 29-26.
Jones won four of the six cards in those two rounds. Round 4 was again close in significant strikes (27-26 Jones), but the champion did more damage, winning all three scorecards.
Round 5 was again close, with the significant strikes even at 24 for both fighters and Jones landing a takedown while stuffing all four Gustafsson attempts.
When the final scorecards were read, Jones was ahead on all cards, earning the unanimous decision.
UFC on FOX 7 – Benson Henderson defeats Gilbert Melendez (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
Benson Henderson made the third defense of his UFC lightweight title in April 2013, defeating former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.
Round 1 went to the challenger despite landing fewer significant strikes 9-7. Melendez did land his only takedown of the fight and landed the better strikes in the eyes of the judges.
Round 2 was again close, with the champion holding a 15-13 significant strikes advantage. Both fighters landed hard shots in the cage, but Henderson won the round on two of the three judges’ scorecards. Henderson responded with his best round of the fight, landing 15 of 29 significant strikes (52 percent) and landed two leg kicks during the round that knocked Melendez off balance.
Rounds 4 and 5 were virtually even on the cards despite Henderson outlanding Melendez 29-16 in significant strikes. Henderson landed 12 leg kicks to help him win Round 4 on two of the three cards.
In the final round, Melendez won two of three cards despite landing only 15 percent of his significant strikes. Melendez won the fight 48-47 according to the first card, but Henderson won 48-47 on the other two cards, retaining his title.
UFC 125 – Frankie Edgar draws with Gray Maynard (48-46, 46-48, 47-47)
Frankie Edgar held onto his UFC lightweight title after a very tough fight with the only man to beat him, Gray Maynard, to start the fight calendar in 2011.
The first round of the 2011 Fight of the Year was its most memorable, with Maynard knocking the champ down three times and furiously landing punches to the head. Maynard would win the round 10-8 on all cards, outstriking Edgar 47-10, with 25 of those deemed significant.
Edgar would rebound in Round 2, outstriking a hesitant Maynard 21-6 to win the round as well as landing the slam that you see in the UFC PPV entrance video today.
Round 3 was the closest round of the fight, with Edgar holding a 21-17 significant strike advantage, but Maynard landed two takedowns.
Round 4 went to Edgar across the board as he landed 52 percent of his significant strikes, the highest in any round. Edgar also landed two takedowns.
With the fight on the line, Round 5 was a 20-16 advantage to Edgar with neither man gaining a takedown (Edgar 0-for-3, Maynard 0-for-7).
Maynard would win on two of three judges’ scorecards to close out the fight. The first announced card of Glenn Trowbridge (only one to pick Hendricks) was 48-46 Maynard, while Edgar won a card 48-46 and the final judge scored the bout 47-47 for a split decision draw.
UFC 104 – Lyoto Machida defeats Mauricio Rua (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
In October 2009, Lyoto Machida made the first and only defense of his UFC light heavyweight title against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Rua came out the gates with his best statistical round, landing 70 percent of his significant strikes (19 of 27).
Machida landed nine significant strikes and stopped Rua’s lone takedown attempt, winning the round on two of three judges’ scorecards. Machida unanimously won Rounds 2 and 3 on the scorecards, but was outstruck 40-16 in significant strikes. Machida did stop each of Rua’s takedown attempts in the rounds and quality kicks the body and legs to win each of the rounds.
The fourth round was a 10-1 striking advantage to Shogun, and he won on two of the three cards. Round 5 was unanimous to the challenger, who mixed in 11 significant strikes to the head and legs while the champion Machida landed six.
In total, Rua outlanded Machida 80-38, with a 49-4 advantage in strikes to the legs. Machida did his damage with punches and kicks to the body, holding a 24-16 advantage. When the scorecards were read, Lyoto Machida won all three cards with identical 48-47 scores to retain his UFC light heavyweight title.
In the UFC’s 20-year history, only one champion has ever lost his title by way of split decision (Kevin Randleman to Bas Rutten at UFC 20). Whether it’s intended to be or not, the words of the famous wrestler Ric Flair come to mind: “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” In the world of the UFC, most of us are still wondering if there’s an exact definition to what that means.
Throughout his career, Vitor Belfort has built a reputation as someone who doesn’t pull punches or cut corners. Whether in the cage or out, he gives it to you straight.
And Saturday night when he steps in the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 32 for a main-event showdown in Goiania, Brazil, with Dan Henderson, fans will get the best Belfort has to offer. He will not shy away from the action or pull punches.
The same can be expected from Henderson.
While the fight is being contested at light heavyweight, Belfort is very much aware that a win likely lands him the middleweight title shot he has coveted for a while. At 36 years old, and competing in a 185-pound division that has gotten much deeper with the recent addition of former 205-pound champion Lyoto Machida, a loss Saturday night could end Belfort’s title hopes.
"“I deserve it [the middleweight title shot],” Belfort told ESPN.com. “I want the [Chris Weidman-Anderson Silva] winner.”
I'm not doing anything illegal. It's a treatment. Actually, if I go without it I will be at a disadvantage. It will be like the other guy is on something and I'm not." -- Vitor Belfort on receiving TRT exemptions.
A possibility of getting a middleweight title shot can’t be completely ignored. Belfort admits that much, but he refuses to allow it to consume his thoughts. His mind is fully on Henderson. To do otherwise would almost assure defeat.
“I’m looking forward to Dan Henderson,” Belfort said. “That’s what I can talk about; he’s my challenge right now. My mind is on him.
“I don’t care what people think, talk or say. It’s doesn’t take my focus away. I do want to fight for and win the UFC title, but I don’t need to keep talking about it over and over.
“I’m about to have one of the hardest fights of my career, so there is no reason to start talking about what is next. It’s totally disrespectful to [Henderson]. And I don’t have that kind of attitude; I’m focused on winning this fight. He’s one of the legends of this sport. He beats guys and he’s defeated me one time [by unanimous decision at Pride 32 in Las Vegas on Oct. 21, 2006] in the past. This is a great fight. What most people remember, however, is your last fight.”
That’s Belfort being Belfort. There’s no need to shy away from the matter at hand -- beating Henderson. He will address what comes next, a potential title shot, when the time arrives.
This method of handling fight-related matters has served Belfort well in recent outings. He’s won four of his five most recent fights, the lone loss coming in a 205-pound title loss to champion Jon Jones at UFC 152 in September 2012.
But Belfort doesn’t just fight to remain relevant at middleweight, he must battle the perception of being a cheater. To be competitive, Belfort regularly requests and receives exemption for testosterone replacement therapy.
No matter how hard he trains; no matter how impressive he looks inside the Octagon, Belfort never receives full credit. His critics are loud and relentless.
The criticism has been a little less voluminous than usual lately; maybe it has to do with the fact that Henderson also receives TRT exemptions. But the attacks will return to normal after the fight, especially if a title shot is granted.
Belfort is prepared for the onslaught.
“The [TRT] critics are always going to be there,” Belfort said. “If you do it, they will say, ‘he cheated.’ What people don’t know is that we do good work.
“I was the only guy to do blood work. Now Dan Henderson has to go through blood work; it’s in our contract. All the fighters have to do blood work. With the blood work you can track if they [fighters] use testosterone. We know some guys do it; they do things to cheat. My lab work is right there. My levels are right there, every week.”
Belfort makes no apology for seeking and receiving TRT exemptions and he does not intend to relinquish the process. He does what is necessary to remain a competitive fighter. There’s nothing wrong with that.
“I’m not doing anything illegal. It’s a treatment,” Belfort said. “Actually, if I go without it I will be at a disadvantage. It will be like the other guy is on something and I’m not.
“If you have asthma you get treatment. If your have high blood pressure, you get treatment for it. This is my treatment. Everybody knows.”
Belfort isn’t hiding anything. His testosterone levels are available to all proper authorities. But there is a circumstance under which Belfort will relinquish his medical treatment -- for a title shot.
Some have questioned whether Belfort is avoiding a bout in the United States, especially Las Vegas, to receive TRT. That’s the furthest thing from the truth, Belfort says.
As usual, Belfort holds nothing back when addressing another attack from his critics.
“I’d love to fight in Las Vegas; I’ve fought in Canada,” said Belfort, who trains in Boca Raton, Fla., but has not fought in the United States since his first-round knockout of Yoshihiro Akiyama in August 2011. “I love fighting in America, I have lots of fans here. I have just as many fans here in America as I have in Brazil. Of course I want to fight here, I live in America.”
Middleweight contender Chael Sonnen has been pursuing Wanderlei Silva for several months. As is common when Sonnen targets a fighter, especially a Brazilian, the verbal assault can turn vicious.
Silva has received some of the best trash talk in Sonnen’s repertoire, making a potential showdown between them enticing. A Sonnen-Wanderlei matchup has main event written all over it, especially if held in Brazil. But this fight, which seemed certain a week ago, lost a bit of its luster Saturday night in Boston.
When Sonnen submitted Mauricio Rua in the first round of their light heavyweight bout, he quickly became UFC’s most sought-after non-titleholder. Middleweights and light heavyweights alike began jostling for position to secure a fight with him.
Normally the hunter, Sonnen now finds himself being hunted. This comes as no surprise, really: Sonnen, once he starts yapping, becomes one of the biggest attractions in UFC.
Within minutes of Rua’s demise, fellow Brazilian title contenders Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida went public with their eagerness to be Sonnen’s next Octagon dance partner. Sonnen became such a hot commodity that even American light heavyweight contender Phil Davis announced that he wants in.
Overwhelmed by his newfound popularity, an excited Sonnen refused to reject any of his suitors, except Davis. That’s because Sonnen has a thing for Brazilians.
“I will beat up Vitor on the way to the ring to kick Wanderlei’s a--,” Sonnen said Saturday night. “And I will take care of that third guy [Machida], whose name I’ve already forgotten, in the parking lot on my way to my after-party. I would take all three.”
If given the opportunity, Sonnen would fight all three in one night. But let’s get back to reality. He can pick only one for his next date and that person should be Machida.
While Silva has been harassed by Sonnen for a while, and his overall career accomplishments are impressive, the former Pride middleweight champion has struggled since returning to UFC in December 2007. In his nine most recent UFC bouts, Silva is 4-5. As a result of his inconsistency, Silva hasn’t received 185-pound contender consideration in well more than a year. Silva just isn’t as attractive as he once was.
Belfort seems poised to fight Dan Henderson at an as-of-yet unannounced event in Brazil, according to a report on “UFC Tonight.”
That leaves Sonnen against Machida, which would be huge. Their contrasting fighting styles would be fun to watch. Transferring hostility from Silva to Machida will be a piece of cake for Sonnen. He’s been tossing verbal darts at Machida for a while, anyway. And it’s clearly gotten under Machida’s skin -- he is itching to get his hands on "The American Gangster.”
Despite a disputed unanimous decision loss to Davis on Aug. 3, Machida remains among the top contenders at light heavyweight; Sonnen is a contender at 185 pounds. But weight won’t be an issue for either -- Machida has hinted at dropping to middleweight, while Sonnen is comfortable at 205 as he proved Saturday night.
This fight makes the most sense. Dana White and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva need to make it happen.
ESPN Stats & Information
Here are the numbers you need to know for the fights:
92: The percentage of takedowns Aldo has defended in his WEC and UFC career. In 12 career fights spanning the two organizations, opponents are 5-for-66 in takedown attempts against the featherweight champion. Aldo defended 9 of 11 takedown attempts in his last fight against Frankie Edgar. In three UFC fights, Jung is 5-for-6 in takedown attempts (83 percent).
1: Both Aldo and Jung have finished a UFC fight with one second remaining in a round. Aldo ended his UFC 142 fight with Chad Mendes in the final second of Round 1, one of just 10 times that has happened in UFC history. Jung submitted Leonard Garcia with arguably the most unusual hold in UFC history, the twister, at 4:59 of the second round at UFC Fight Night 24. It was the only ending at exactly 9 minutes, 59 seconds of a UFC fight until Saturday when Jorge Masvidal accomplished the same feat with a D’Arce choke against Michael Chiesa at UFC on Fox 8.
8: Jung has eight submission victories in his career, including five by choke. The twister victory against Garcia won multiple awards for submission of the year in 2011. Jung won his last fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC on Fuel TV 3 by D’Arce choke, which was a candidate for 2012 submission of the year. Aldo has never faced a submission attempt in 12 WEC/UFC fights.
7: Aldo is one of seven undisputed titleholders from Brazil in UFC history, along with Vitor Belfort, Murilo Bustamante, Junior dos Santos, Machida, Mauricio Rua and Anderson Silva. Aldo is the only Brazilian to currently hold undisputed gold after Silva's loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 162. (Renan Barao holds the UFC interim bantamweight title.)
4.6: Significant strikes landed per minute by Jung. "The Korean Zombie" landed 89 significant strikes in his WEC debut against Garcia, a fight nominated for 2010 fight of the year. That total is just above the 74 he landed in four rounds against Poirier. Jung is known to get hit as well, absorbing 3.8 significant strikes per minute, including a head-kick loss to George Roop in 2010. Aldo lands 3.5 significant strikes per minute.
7: Seconds needed for Jung to knock out Mark Hominick at UFC 140, tied for the fastest official knockout in UFC history. Jung needed just six strikes to finish Hominick. Aldo's fastest win is eight seconds, a knockout against Cub Swanson at WEC 41 in 2009.
3: Consecutive wins for Jung in the UFC after two losses in the WEC. Those losses were both on WEC cards where Aldo was defending his featherweight title. Aldo has won 15 consecutive fights, with his lone defeat coming in 2005. Four of Aldo's wins since becoming WEC/UFC champion have been by decision. In 16 fights before winning the WEC/UFC title, Aldo had three decision wins.
6: Jung is the sixth fighter from Asia to fight for a UFC title belt. The previous fighters (Yuki Kondo, Yushin Okami, Hayato Sakurai, Caol Uno and Kenichi Yamamoto) went 0-5-1. Yamamoto (UFC 23) and Kazushi Sakuraba (UFC Ultimate Japan) are the only fighters from Asia to win a UFC tournament championship. Jung is the first Korean fighter to challenge for a UFC title.
11: Knockdowns landed for Machida in his UFC career, tied for fourth most all-time. In the light heavyweight division, Machida is second to UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, who has 14. Davis has not been knocked down in nine UFC fights.
74: Davis' significant strike defense percentage, fourth highest in UFC history. "Mr. Wonderful" is one of the most difficult fighters to hit, absorbing just 53 significant strikes in his seven UFC wins. In his loss against Rashad Evans, Davis was hit with just 38 percent of significant strikes. Machida is one of the best strikers in UFC history, landing 57 percent of his significant strikes, which is seventh best all-time.
Under normal circumstances, a win Saturday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, would seal the deal for a title shot. But in the back of their minds, Machida and Davis know there is another fighter -- someone not even in the top 10 of the 205-pound rankings -- hatching a plan to push them aside.
And neither Machida nor Davis likes it one bit.
Highly ranked heavyweight contender Daniel Cormier told ESPN.com on July 22 he intends to make his light heavyweight debut early next year and wants it to be in a title bout -- whether or not current champion Jon Jones is still wearing the belt.
Cormier knows he will ruffle the feathers of more than a few light heavyweight contenders if his plan comes to fruition, but he couldn't care less. If he defeats hard-hitting Roy Nelson in October at UFC 166, which is expected, it is goodbye heavyweight and hello 205 with the likelihood of an immediate title fight.
"What I will be asking to do at the beginning of next year is something that is going to make a lot of people mad," Cormier said. "I'm going to ask to cut the line at 205."
Despite being the likely choice to get the winner of the third fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, Cormier has already made up his mind to turn that offer down. He will never fight Velasquez, who is a close friend and training partner. And Cormier has no doubt that Velasquez will be UFC heavyweight champion for a very long time.
It's heartwarming that Cormier (12-0) is willing to abandon a shot at the heavyweight title and attempt to cut lots of weight rather than fight a very special friend. But Machida and Davis aren't feeling the love. In fact, neither will stand quietly and let Cormier push them aside.
"I believe there's a ranking and it should be followed. There are a lot of guys in line right now in this weight class [waiting] to fight for a title," Machida said. "I've been waiting in line, there's Glover Teixeira, there's Phil Davis; so there are a lot of guys in there, in the mix.
"If [Cormier] is going to move down to 205, he needs to put a couple of fights in or at least get a significant win in a big fight. I don't think it is right for him to just come in and cut the line. He's going to have to show he deserves that title shot."
Being bypassed in favor of Gustafsson makes Machida a little antsy. He believes, however, that an impressive win over Davis, who is ranked seventh among light heavyweights by ESPN.com, will strengthen his case for another shot at Jones, who submitted Machida in the second round at UFC 140.
Davis is equally determined to make his case Saturday night for a title shot. He has lost just once as a professional, when former 205-pound titleholder Rashad Evans earned a unanimous decision against him in January 2012.
A highly skilled wrestler, Davis has significantly improved his stand-up skills. He is 2-0 with one no-contest since the loss to Evans.
A signature win over Machida could catapult Davis to the top of the 205-pound rankings. And he is not in the mood to simply let Cormier cut in front of him. Davis intends to upset Machida on Saturday in eye-opening fashion, thus ending all talk of Cormier getting an immediate light heavyweight title shot.
"What it really comes down to is being able to sell the fight and being able to perform [well]," Davis said. "After this fight, I think fans are going to be begging for me to fight for the title. It's as simple as that."
Dan Henderson's past two fights in the Octagon couldn't have been any more different.
If Saturday's UFC 161 main event effort against Rashad Evans in Winnipeg manages to find the happy middle between Henderson's classic with Mauricio Rua and subsequent snoozer against Lyoto Machida, the 42-year-old American believes a victory should net him another championship opportunity.
However, "if I go out there and squeeze out a boring win," he said, "I wouldn't give me a title shot."
That's not necessarily something he controls. Henderson mostly blames Machida for one of the worst bouts of his illustrious career.
"Nothing notable happened in the whole thing," he said. "You can barely even call it a fight.
"I really should have and could have maybe been a bit more aggressive. But it's pretty hard to do when someone's running."
Coming off a split decision that was as frustrating for Henderson to participate in as it was for the rest of us to watch, the two-division Pride king isn’t sure what to expect from Evans, who looked bad in his two most recent fights -- a destabilizing effort versus his rival Jon Jones followed by a terrible performance against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in February.
"He just wasn't very aggressive at all," Henderson said of the Nogueira contest. "Even when you're being cautious you can do a lot more than that. It didn't show what he normally does or what he's capable of. Everybody has an off fight or is flat occasionally, and that seemed like his. It's not anything that I'm going to judge that that's the Rashad I'm going to fight. I don't think that at all. I'm sure he's going to come out a little more aggressive with more of a purpose.
"Either way, he doesn't run and move nearly as bad as Machida does. I don't think it'll be even close as bad as the last fight."
Henderson described Evans in all the expected ways. Well-rounded. Quick. Powerful with a solid wrestling base. "So you gotta be aware of all of it," Henderson said. "Have to be careful of everything. At the same thing I feel I have a bit more power and good take-down defense.
"Better in the clinch. There are some situations that I'm going to try and put him in that I think are good for me."
He claimed not to have a clue what was happening between Evans' ears, and explained that it doesn't matter. Because no matter how poorly Evans performed in his last outing, it would be foolish to expect anything less than the best from the former Michigan State University wrestler.
"I think Rashad definitely has some skills I need to really be careful with," Henderson said.
During a pre-event conference call, Evans expressed hope of moving beyond the recent disappointments. A good clash with Henderson would help.
I really should have and could have maybe been a bit more aggressive. But it's pretty hard to do when someone's running.” -- Dan Henderson, on the frustration he faced in a February 2013 bout against Lyoto Machida
"You almost have to have a short[-term] memory on that kind of thing," Evans said. "Because if you dwell on it too long then it can definitely hinder you again. I know how to perform. I know how to go out there and fight to the best of my abilities. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it. Second-guessing myself is not going to get me any closer to fighting to the best of my capabilities. So I learned from that performance."
Henderson sounds willing to give him a chance to prove it. And while the Olympic wrestler admitted Evans' strengths might cause him to "be really patient, for sure, and not be overly aggressive," Henderson suggested the three-round fight could come down to making the most of a particular moment.
Rebounding after a troubled training camp leading up to the Machida contest, Henderson said his preparation for Evans was on point. He feels far more mobile than he did in February, and expects that to pay off in Canada. If so, Henderson is eyeing UFC champion Jon Jones, who is expected to defend his title against Alexander Gustafsson later this year.
Because a knee injury cost Henderson the chance to fight Jones at UFC 151, he said the pair has unfinished business. The way Henderson sees it, "I never got to take the test I studied for.
"I just feel like someone like Jon Jones is a challenge. I trust in myself and what I'm capable of doing."
Henderson has fought all manner of opponents since entering MMA in 1997, and he repeatedly proved what he’s capable of doing. As he boarded a plane for Canada earlier this week, Henderson tweeted how excited he felt to step into a cage again, in part because of just how badly he wants to wash away the stain of the Machida bout.
"It's typically not in my nature to be close to boring," he said, "but it happened recently."
As Evans noted, mixed martial artists are often pinned down by the result of their most recent outing.
For both men, then, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
It's easy to believe some mixed martial arts fans think of fighters a lot like racing fans regard the cars.
Just listen to them.
Lacerated under an eyebrow less than two weeks before a major fight? No big deal, Alexander Gustafsson. Head to the pits, glue that sucker up, voila, you’re back on the track. If replacing a blown engine doesn't work, well, just hop in a prepped-and-tested backup car -- i.e., pull a fighter equal to Gustafsson’s stature from a bountiful group of guys who are in shape, amenable to meeting a primed Gegard Mousasi on a week's notice, and are just fine cutting weight days after shuttling off to Scandinavia.
Sounds awesome, like everyone should jump at the chance to compete on Fuel TV -- UFC’s least visible television platform -- against a killer, on short, short notice. Pay no attention to the fact that the vast majority of world-class fighters would never say yes in this situation, nor should they be expected to.
Judging by Tuesday's reaction to the news that Gustafsson was replaced by one of his training partners, an unknown UFC debutant, and based off similar reactions to this sort of thing in the past, there's clearly a segment among MMA fans who don't care about much beyond being entertained, even if that noble calling comes at the expense of the people they love to watch fight.
I couldn't digest most of what I read on Twitter after UFC president Dana White announced Ilir Latifi got the call against Mousasi. A lot of it was angry, selfish and cravenly out of whack. So I tweeted a request to anyone who decided to criticize the UFC for making Mousasi-Latifi. They needed to come up with a more appealing option. Right away. And "be happy Mousasi is fighting," I finished.
Most people weren’t satisfied. Not even close. Hey, in some respect, it’s easy to understand. Gustafsson-Mousasi looked like a terrific title eliminator, pitting the hometown fan favorite against an accomplished European making his UFC debut.
To go from that to a fight featuring Mousasi in the cage as a huge favorite over someone no one has heard of, well, that stinks. But that’s all it does. Stink, and for no other reason than a fight we wanted to see on Saturday isn’t going to happen. It’s not some travesty. Not the end of the world or the beginning of the end of the UFC. This was a fight booked on a smaller card meant to capitalize off a local guy gunning to become the No. 1 contender at 205. Sometimes life doesn’t go your way, which is why the card is always subject to change.
Why can’t Gustafsson fight, @foote92 lamented?
Because he experienced a serious gash underneath his left brow on March 28, that’s why. He’s a human being, not a robot.
Several wondered why Gustafsson wasn’t more careful during sparring sessions less than two weeks before the fight. Gustafsson wrote that he was injured while wrestling, so if you care to believe him, this had nothing to do with improper sparring too close to the fight.
Most of the contempt was aimed at the UFC's choice of Latifi.
@MiniKitson wanted “Shogun, Wanderlei, Manua [sic], Tom Lawlor, Tom Watson. Anyone.”
"Shogun" [Mauricio] Rua has a fight lined up with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in June. It’s unlikely he’s anywhere near fighting weight right now.
Jimi Manuwa fought in February. While he doesn’t have a bout lined up, Manuwa appears to be far too good a prospect to step in on short notice like this. It would be dumb for him to do so.
Tom Lawlor, a name mentioned as much as any I heard Tuesday, is a middleweight. His last fight was a bore, which he apologized for. For all his tweeting, Lawlor and his management didn’t bother reaching out to UFC about the fight. That said, he presumably would have been in shape, because he’s scheduled for the same card.
Lyoto Machida. Oh sure he’d do it, except he was too busy tweeting photos of himself at Disneyland over the weekend. I bet he’s in the right mental frame of mind to fight.
Phil Davis was mentioned a few times, as if training camps mean nothing. Davis is close to peaking for his fight against Vinny Magalhaes, whose style is the exact opposite of Mousasi’s.
And on and on.
Perhaps YOU don’t know Latifi, and so YOU assume the fight will suck and YOU won’t be entertained. But if you’re Swedish, then you have an underdog countryman to root for. Why would anyone in Stockholm want to watch Mousasi versus Lawlor?
If criticism can be found it's in the UFC's decision not to give Gustafsson until Friday to heal as it keeps Latifi ready on standby. Both fighters could have attended media day Wednesday. It would have been a different kind of story ahead of a card that could use some press. Instead, a decision was made, and Gustafsson won't get a shot at fighting no matter how much he coveted it. Another school of thought would suggest the full focus on Latifi over the next few days would give UFC a chance to build a story -- don't be surprised if he's passed off as a Swedish Rocky type.
Is that good enough to entertain fans, especially those who seem so desperate to be entertained? Keep it tuned to Twitter to find out, I suppose.
I didn’t see much from Lyoto Machida on Saturday that makes me think he’ll fair better a second time around against Jon Jones. Presuming Jones beats Chael Sonnen in April,
that fight is up next at 205, UFC president Dana White said following Saturday’s card.
Earlier this week “The Dragon” told me that even after Jones strangled him unconscious in Dec. 2011, he’s "not convinced.” He spoke of wanting a rematch, which is rare for him since he hardly ever speaks of wanting anything.
"I'm living every moment as it comes," he said. "I enjoyed being champion but that it's gone. It's like this conversation. It will be gone in 20 minutes. It's behind, but could happen again."
Well, as of Feb. 23, Jones-Machida 2 is on.
"He's the No. 1 contender,” White told ESPN's MMA Live Extra. “Dan was the No. 1 contender. Machida beat him. That makes Machida No. 1."
However if people aren’t fired up what are the chances Zuffa finds a way to hold off? What happens if Alexander Gustafsson blows the doors off Gegard Mousasi? Or if it goes the other way? I bet both fighters would interest fans more than seeing Machida challenge Jones right now. So too Glover Teixeira, a teammate of Machida’s at Blackhouse, if he tops Ryan Bader in May.
Even Machida sounded less than sure of where he stood afterwards.
Said the 34-year-old Brazilian: "I thought I won the fight because I frustrated him and kept the fight where I wanted it."
Machida had an opportunity to assert himself over Dan Henderson and undoubtedly claim the shot. Instead, his effort was significantly less than definitive. Machida set out to stay away from Henderson's right hand and keep the contest standing. There was plenty of feinting, some nice movement to diffuse Henderson’s pressure, and the occasional punch and kick combinations punches. But nothing in the neighborhood of damage. Nothing that troubled Henderson, who wasn’t his sharpest either.
Nothing that made me think Machida was closer to having the right stuff to beat Jones.
Then again, to be fair, who does?
That adds to the point. We’ve seen Machida try already. He actually gave Jones a fight for the first five minutes, moving well and landing punches. Then Jones found that second round choke and Machida fell on his face. Considering that, Machida deserves credit for finding the courage to remain unconvinced.
The UFC women's bantamweight champion improved to 7-0 in her MMA career with a first-round armbar submission of Liz Carmouche (8-3) at UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif. All of Rousey's wins have come via first-round armbar submission, but Saturday's was the longest.
This fight lasted 4 minutes and 49 seconds -- 22 seconds longer than her previous longest fight against Miesha Tate last March. The total time of all her fights is now 12 minutes, 28 seconds. Her average fight time is 1 minute, 46 seconds.
Rousey -- Fight History
Saturday Liz Carmouche 4:49
Aug. 2012 Sarah Kaufman 0:54
March 2012 Miesha Tate 4:27
Nov. 2011 Julia Budd 0:39
Aug. 2011 Sarah D'Alelio 0:25
June 2011 Charmaine Tweet 0:49
March 2011 Ediane Gomes 0:25
>>All wins by 1st-round armbar submission
According to Fightmetric, Rousey landed 41 total strikes to Carmouche's 22. She landed seven significant strikes, one fewer than her fight against Tate. However, Rousey also faced a submission attempt for the first time in her Strikeforce and UFC career as Carmouche attempted a choke while mounted on Rousey's back early in the first round.
Meanwhile, former UFC champion Lyoto Machida won via split decision over Dan Henderson in a light heavyweight bout. Machida won despite landing only 28 strikes -- nearly half as many as Henderson's 54. It was Henderson's first loss in a span of five fights dating back to April 2010. It was also the first time he lost when landing more strikes than his opponent.
PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- When Lyoto Machida steps into the Octagon Saturday against Dan Henderson, this is what he'll tell himself for the 22nd time as a professional mixed martial artist.
"Agora é a hora."
Now is the hour.
In more ways than one, it's an apt phrase for the former UFC light heavyweight champion as he heads into the co-main event of UFC 157 in Anaheim, Calif. At the age of 34, the quick Brazilian stands at the precipice. A win over Henderson, 42, should slot Machida into another UFC title shot. A loss would mean he’s lost four of six fights. This sets up with high stakes.
His hope is that it "will happen naturally. I was supposed to be fighting Jon Jones when Dan Henderson couldn't do it. Then Vitor Belfort, who had nothing to do with anything, stepped up and fought. Now Chael Sonnen [gets a title shot]. If I would be thinking about it, it would be a waste of time.
"My philosophy is to sort things out as they come."
This brought Machida, who was sitting inside his living room in front of a large sliding glass door that opens to a backyard exploding with palm trees, back to the fight in front of him.
"I'm not looking past Dan Henderson," he said.
For reasons far beyond philosophical that better be true. The reality is a loss, a legit possibility against the iconic Henderson, would mean that after winning his first 16 contests, Machida and his 18-4 record doesn't sound so hot.
Machida remembers being 18, watching Henderson, and realizing then that fighting was more than a career to the man -- it was in his blood. He said he felt the same. Since 1997, Henderson proved himself against anyone willing to try their luck. No shortage of Brazilians are on that list. Jorge Guimaraes, the jack-of-all-trades Brazilian media personality and manager at Blackhouse, gave me a lift to Machida's new home near enough to the Pacific Ocean that the air was crisp. He remembered being at Henderson's first fight, when the sport was anything goes on all fronts. Henderson won, the promoter freaked and demanded that action restart with a new referee. The entire time, Guimaraes said, the Olympic wrestler stayed loose in his corner, and happily offered to do it again. They did not. Sixteen years later, the former two-division Pride champion still resides on pound-for-pound lists, and is currently enjoying one of the most impressive stretches of his career.
After offering a laundry list of superlatives, Machida didn't bother to mention Henderson’s use exemption for testosterone replacement therapy. Machida said it isn't worthwhile to speak of such things. And it doesn’t change the fact that Henderson is “a guy that accepts exchanges. He doesn't mind standing up and banging. He's a well-rounded fighter that comes forward. We pretty much have the same style. Wherever the fight is is good for both of us."
Machida appeared trim and fit while relaxing at home the Monday before the fight. He's taken it easy since last Thursday, a hard sparring day at the Blackhouse facility a half-hour away in Gardena, giving him plenty of time to re-enact the closing scene to "Rocky III" with his young son, Taiyo. The youth plays Rocky, and knows enough to stand southpaw like his dad, Apollo. Ding. Ding. The only thing missing was the pair dissolving into a Leroy Neiman painting.
"'Rocky III' or 'Rocky IV,' all day long," said Fabyola Machida, shaking her head at her husband and child. Taiyo even named the Machida family French bulldog puppy "Rocky," though the brindle typically responds to "Hockey."
"It's a different moment in my life," Machida said. "I've always wanted peace of mind. And training in a place that has all the infrastructure. Over here you can focus a lot better than in Brazil. Things work a lot better here."
There are more palm trees too, chuckled Guimaraes. Branches almost reach the inside of the upstairs master bedroom, which has been a point of controversy between the mostly zen karateka and his wife.
"Lyoto wants blackout curtains," said Fabyola. "I said no, have to see the sun everyday."
"Sometimes, even with my wife, we don't agree on everything," he said. "But I don't want to waste a night of sleep over a little discussion."
It took 10 years before Machida agreed to move to Los Angeles, like Fabyola had wished. Machida wasn't prepared to leave his influential father and brothers and Belem, Brazil, the city of the mango trees. But after being choked unconscious by Jon Jones in Dec. 2011, a change seemed appropriate. In May, he and his wife bought the two story house with all the palm trees. Machida said he knew it was the right place the moment he walked through the door. Then last August, Machida looked great against Ryan Bader at the Staples Center.
Machida doesn’t recall why he uttered “agora é a hora” to himself the first time he fought. He's not sure why he continues to say it. But he does. “The Dragon” noted that he doesn’t think in terms of “now or never.” He refuses to dwell on the negative instead of what’s in front of him. But if this fight feels like a pivotal contest, that’s because it is.
"I'm living every moment as it comes," Machida said. "I enjoyed being the champion but it's gone. It's like this conversation. It will be gone in 20 minutes. It's behind, but could happen again."
Henderson made the statement Thursday night during Spike TV's "MMA Uncensored Live."
UFC, however, has yet to make an official announcement regarding a fight between Henderson and Machida.
A win over Machida could land Henderson a 205-pound title shot. He was slated to face current champion Jon Jones on Sept. 1 at UFC 151 in Las Vegas, but an injury forced Henderson (29-8) to withdraw from the fight. UFC 151 would be cancelled after Jones refused to fight Henderson’s replacement, Chael Sonnen, on eight days’ notice. Machida turned down an opportunity to salvage the event, citing a lack of time to prepare.
Jones and Sonnen are slated to coach opposite one another on the upcoming season of "The Ultimate Fighter," with Hendo serving as an assistant coach to Sonnen. Jones and Sonnen are scheduled to fight on April 27 in Newark, N.J.
Henderson, who is currently riding a four-fight win streak, has held 205-pound titles in Strikeforce and Pride. He also once held the Pride 170-pound championship.
Machida, who is a former UFC light heavyweight champion, rebounded from a submission loss to Jones at UFC 140 with a second-round knockout of Ryan Bader on Aug. 4. He is 18-3 professionally.
Werdum received an offer from UFC officials to coach on the promotion’s long-running reality series for up-and-coming mixed martial artists. But that wasn’t the best part. What Werdum heard next was mind-blowing: He’d get to coach opposite Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
“I was very happy,” Werdum said Thursday during a media conference call to promote "TUF: Brazil 2." “I was in Brazil for Anderson [Silva’s bout with Stephan Bonnar] just last month and people were talking about the possibility of me being on TUF.
“I thought it would be [light heavyweights] Shogun [Mauricio Rua] and Lyoto [Machida], but I’m honored to be coaching in Brazil against Nogueira.”
Werdum and Nogueira met in a Pride 2006 Open-weight Grand Prix quarterfinal bout. Nogueira won by unanimous decision.
Entering the July 2006 bout, Werdum had only 10 fights under his belt. Nogueira had fought 32 times, one of which was ruled a no contest.
Experience isn’t expected to be an issue when the two meet in a rematch that will take place sometime after the show concludes.
“We fought in 2006 and Nogueira was more experienced then and I got beat up in that fight,” Werdum said. “I’m much stronger now.”
Werdum will enter the rematch with a pro record of 16-5-1, and a two-fight win streak he hopes to extend.
Nogueira had his right arm broken in the first round by Frank Mir on Dec. 10, 2011, at UFC 140. After months of rehabilitation, Big Nog (34-7-1, one no contest) rebounded with a second-round submission of Dave Herman at UFC 153 on Oct. 13 in Rio de Janeiro.
“The fight against Herman was a challenge for me,” Nogueira said on the media call. “There was a really big amount of damage to my arm. I broke my arm and had 16 screws in my arm. I had to prove to myself that I could go back into the cage and fight and do it in Brazil.
“I’m back again. It was a very important fight for me.”