LAS VEGAS -- No one can say Chris Weidman won by fluke this time.
The UFC middleweight champion successfully defended his title for a second time at UFC 175 on Saturday night, defeating former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in a riveting unanimous decision at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Weidman (12-0), who took the 185-pound title from longtime champion Anderson Silva in a knockout victory almost exactly one year ago, built an early lead on the scorecards before surviving a nasty sequence in the fourth round.
Judges Chris Lee, Marcos Rosales and Glenn Trowbridge scored the bout 49-45, 48-47 and 49-46, respectively, for Weidman. ESPN.com also scored it 49-46 for the champion.
"He's as good as I thought," Weidman said. "Quick. When you think he's going to do something, he does the opposite. He's real tricky and tough as nails."
Weidman seized momentum early against Machida (21-5), who was attempting to become just the third fighter in UFC history to win titles in multiple weight classes.
Known for his elusive karate style, Machida spent much of the first round circling the cage and looking for opportunities to counter. Weidman gave him none, as he tracked the Brazilian down with calculated right hands. In all, Weidman outlanded Machida in total strikes 90-to-63, according to cageside stats.
The lead straight right proved to be a successful punch for Weidman, and he landed it consistently throughout the fight. The former collegiate wrestler also attempted to take the fight to the ground often, converting on five of 13 takedown attempts.
By the third round, Weidman looked completely in control and even earned a 10-8 score from judge Lee. The right hand continued to land for Weidman, and he would follow it with a tight left hook. He opened a cut near Machida's right eye.
The Brazilian striker turned the fight around, however, in the fourth -- which proved to be an instant candidate for round of the year.
A left kick to the body started the action for Machida, and he finally landed the left hand he had been searching for moments later. Stunned, Weidman's hands fell as he retreated, which Machida capitalized on with a right hook.
Weidman managed to back Machida off with a few counter jabs and scored a well-timed knee to the chin near the end of the round. After the knee, Machida seemed to taunt Weidman by dramatically wobbling on his legs. He landed a straight left hand at the end of the round, arguably after the bell.
The final round went back and forth, as Machida, who might have sensed he needed a finish, continued to aggressively come forward. He defended Weidman's takedown attempts well in the last two rounds, although gave up a big one with 1:30 left.
With 20 seconds remaining in the fight, Machida got to his feet and landed two clean right hands that ignited the crowd. Hurt, Weidman fell back to the fence and covered up against the ensuing Machida flurry.
As Machida reset, Weidman motioned him to keep coming forward.
The performance should leave little doubt that Weidman is the premier middleweight in the world. Critics accused his back-to-back wins over Silva as flukes, due to Silva having his hands down in the first fight and injuring his leg in a December rematch.
"I don't mind having Anderson Silva's name attached to me as long as it does. He's the greatest of all time. The more I'm winning, the more people talk about him. I don't mind him staying in the picture. He deserves it."
Weidman will most likely face Vitor Belfort in his third title defense. Belfort (24-10) had earned a title shot earlier this year at UFC 173 but was removed from the card when the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned testosterone-replacement-therapy (TRT), which Belfort was on at the time.
"I think what's next and what everybody would like to see -- what I would like to see and probably what you would like to see -- is Vitor Belfort," UFC president Dana White said. "Let's see what happens with Vitor."
Machida suffers his first loss at 185 pounds. He is 2-1 since dropping weight classes last year.
The attendance was 10,088 with a live gate of $4.4 million.