Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida can state his case for a middleweight title shot with a victory in Brazil this weekend at Fight Night 36. “The Dragon” will square off against Gegard Mousasi, who will be making his 185-pound debut in the promotion. Machida’s first fight as a middleweight proved a resounding success as he starched top-10 contender Mark Munoz in the first round of their matchup at Fight Night 30 in England.
Machida, who had been on the receiving end of criticism for some rather dull performances of late, silenced his critics with a sensational head-kick finish to earn a Knockout of the Night bonus.
Mousasi has forged a solid career record of 34-3-2 with an impressive 18 knockouts to his credit. He has a tremendously technical striking game, but the former Strikeforce and Dream light heavyweight champion remains relatively unknown to casual fans. His only appearance inside the Octagon came in Sweden last year against late injury replacement Ilir Latifi.
Mousasi, who had been originally scheduled to face Alexander Gustafsson, cruised to an easy unanimous decision win over Latifi. After that fight, he underwent knee surgery and decided to make the move down from 205-pounds to 185 for his toughest career test. Mousasi is unbeaten in his last seven fights since losing his Strikeforce title to Muhammed Lawal back in 2010. He has never been knocked out in his career.
Machida’s karate influenced style has showcased some of the more diverse striking skills that the promotion has ever seen. His quick-strike ability has been a calling card in an Octagon career that has seen him go 12-4 and win the light-heavyweight title by knocking out Rashad Evans at UFC 98. He eventually lost the belt to Mauricio Rua and failed to win it back when he was choked out by reigning champion Jon Jones at UFC 140.
Machida is hungry and determined to get another chance to win gold, and the move down in weight classes seems to have rejuvenated his career. Machida has delivered four Knockout of the Night efforts and a Fight of the Night performance during his time with the organization.
This fight shapes up as a fascinating chess-match between two highly-decorated competitors. Machida has won UFC gold before and can likely secure another coveted title opportunity in the middleweight division with a win over Mousasi. Meantime, “The Dreamcatcher” can prove he is indeed one of the best fighters in the division if he can enter hostile territory and derail Machida’s title aspirations.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports