Many were wondering how the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s unanimous vote to ban Testosterone Replacement Therapy or TRT, would impact the middleweight title fight between unbeaten champion Chris Weidman and challenger Vitor Belfort at UFC 173 in Las Vegas. It certainly didn’t take long to find out. In the wake of NSAC’s change in stance regarding TRT usage, Belfort voluntarily withdrew from the May 24 bout and the UFC was quick to announce that he was being replaced by Lyoto Machida.
Belfort had been planning on seeking a TRT exemption for the Vegas matchup but with the announcement of the total ban that became a moot point. The veteran had been allowed to use TRT while performing in his native Brazil and had a spectacular 2013 with knockouts of Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson. “The Phenom” will now look to end his TRT program moving forward and compete without it.
It’s a tremendous opportunity for the former light-heavyweight champion as Machida has rejuvenated his career since moving down to the 185-pound weight division. “The Dragon” followed up a sensational knockout of Mark Munoz in his middleweight debut by recording a dominant five-round decision victory over Gegard Mousasi at Fight Night 36 in Brazil. Machida is no doubt thrilled about getting the chance to become a UFC champion for a second time but will definitely have his hands full.
Weidman gets a much different puzzle to solve in the karate-style of Machida as compared to the hard-charging, aggressive Belfort. However the champion has been a force in his own right with 11 straight victories to begin his career including a perfect 7-0 inside the Octagon. Weidman’s confidence level is sky high after recording back-to-back victories over the legendary Anderson Silva to win the title at UFC 162 and retain it at UFC 168 in late December. An intriguing storyline is that the fight will be an opportunity for Machida to try and get revenge for Silva who is a good friend and training partner.
Weidman vs. Belfort was one of the more anticipated matchups of the year but inserting Machida into the equation is a very suitable replacement. Machida brings to the table plenty of name recognition and a solid pedigree and should prove an intriguing test for an ever improving champion in Weidman.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports