Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida can make a major statement in his new weight class in England this weekend. “The Dragon” is set to make his middleweight debut in the main event of UFC Fight Night 30 against top-five contender Mark Munoz. For his part, Munoz is intent on spoiling Machida’s grand plans for the 185-pound weight class.
Machida was originally supposed to make his middleweight debut against Tim Kennedy at the UFC’s Fight for the Troops 3 event next month in Kentucky. However, the plan changed and he was inserted into the card in Manchester after Michael Bisping was forced to withdraw because of an eye injury.
Machida elected to make the move down in weight in the hopes of kick-starting a career that seemed to have gotten stale at 205 pounds. Current champion Jon Jones has plenty of challenges on his plate these days, and the notion of having a rematch against Machida simply didn’t appeal to him. “Bones” felt his second-round choke out of Machida in their title clash was decisive enough that it doesn’t need to be re-visited.
Machida’s last two fights at light heavyweight were rather tedious affairs. One of them was a split decision win over Dan Henderson, while Machida’s most recent outing was a controversial decision loss against Phil Davis at UFC 163 in Brazil.
As for Munoz, “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” is on a solid run and will definitely be discussed as a possible title challenger if he can knock off a high-profile name in Machida. Munoz looked sensational in his last fight against Tim Boetsch at UFC 162. He put on a brutal exhibition of ground and pound techniques in recording the decision win.
Munoz also looked in tremendous physical shape for that fight. He’s 5-1 in his last six fights, with that lone defeat coming at the hands of current middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
The big intangible for this matchup will be the styles. Machida is fresh off a fight against a standout wrestler in Davis and has had past success against wrestling-dominant opposition, scoring highlight-reel stoppages of Ryan Bader, Randy Couture and Rashad Evans.
As for Munoz, it’s quite a change to go from a straightforward fighter in Bisping to a new opponent in Machida who can prove to be as awkward as it gets in the Octagon. Munoz would love to utilize his strength and grappling skills, but getting a hold of Machida is no easy task, and he’s a dangerous counter striker.
While Munoz and Machida are friends and have trained together in the past, the strategy of an actual fight takes matters to a whole different level. Munoz knows he’s at the point in his career where he can’t afford another setback.
It shapes up as a terrific fight and one of those contests where the winner will make significant strides as a title contender in the 185-pound weight division, while the loser will take a serious hit in their title pursuit.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports