So, Lyoto Machida got the job done.
On Saturday night in his hometown of Belem, Brazil, against an unbeaten former college football star who the UFC were clearly hoping to build off Machida’s name, ‘The Dragon’ showed there was still some fire in his belly, eking out a split decision victory over hot prospect Eryk Anders.
It was a welcome return to form for the former UFC light heavyweight champion, who had lost three in a row – including his return bout after 28 months out against Derek Brunson last October – prior to the Anders contest. And while the fight was not particularly pleasing on the eyes, Machida did his usual counter-fighting trick while Anders all but refused to engage for fear of being head-kicked into oblivion, the 39-year-old’s victory delayed his inevitable slide into inglorious retirement.
Michael Bisping’s final opponent should be Lyoto Machida
It was the Brazilian’s post-fight interview that really captured this writer’s imagination, however, as he stated his case to be Brit Michael Bisping’s own retirement dance partner.
The former middleweight champion has said that he’ll fight one more time before ending his famous career, and a date with a fellow former belt-holder nearing his end-date in the sport could be just the ticket for ‘The Count’. Granted, an alternative opponent who also fits that criteria has been mooted (Rashad Evans), but Machida’s return to form in contrast with Evans’ continued struggles in the Octagon make him the far more compelling choice.
Furthermore, ‘The Dragon’ is a fresh match-up for Bisping, in a time where there aren’t many of them about for the mouthy Brit. Evans and Bisping already fought to a split decision victory for the former all the way back at UFC 78 more than a decade ago. Surely, fight fans would much rather see Bisping opposite Machida in a never-before-seen contest than against a ‘Suga’ Rashad Evans who appears to be more washed up than both the Brit and the Brazilian at this point.
Nothing Evans has done since dropping down to middleweight, a pair of split decision losses to veterans Daniel Kelly and Sam Alvey, entitle him to the glamorous position of Bisping’s swansong opponent. No, Machida has earned the honour of being the final man to square off against ‘The Count.’
Bisping’s Latest Fights
For Bisping, also, a contest with a fighter coming off a win, as opposed to one riding four straight losses, would surely get his competitive juices flowing more freely. The one thing that might get in the way of the bout could be Machida’s previous USADA suspension, with Bisping famously showing little interest in facing convicted cheats. It was for this very reason that he refused a contest with Vitor Belfort recently, and while Machida’s indiscretion was somewhat different to Belfort’s, it may still prove a roadblock to the papers being signed.
Regardless, to this writer’s mind there is no better option for Bisping’s farewell fight than Machida, with the contest being big enough to headline a big FOX card, especially by recent standards. Let’s hope the contracts get signed and fans finally get to see two legendary former champions square off in the Octagon.
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