After failing to unseat middleweight champion Chris Weidman in their thrilling 185-pound title clash at UFC 175, Lyoto Machida has his sights set on his next opponent. The former light heavyweight champion is hopeful that matchmakers will book him a fight against Luke Rockhold at UFC 179 in Brazil. That card is set for Oct. 25 in Rio de Janeiro.
“The Dragon’s” rationale for the contest makes perfect sense. A number of the top middleweight contenders are currently booked in other fights, and Rockhold is the highest-rated fighter who is currently available. The former Strikeforce champion has been recovering from a broken toe suffered in his win over Tim Boetsch at UFC 172.
Machida proved in his exciting title clash against “The All-American” that he’s indeed a legitimate force in the middleweight division, and a victory over Rockhold would launch him back into title consideration. He’s gone 2-1 since making the move down from the 205-pound ranks including victories over Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi. He arguably gave the undefeated Weidman the toughest fight of his career.
At this stage, Rockhold appears to have other plans in mind. He’s currently playing the waiting game and says he’ll be ready to fill in for Vitor Belfort if the Brazilian veteran should fail any further drug tests prior to his scheduled title matchup against Weidman at UFC 181. Belfort received his licensing approval from the Nevada State Athletic Commission after a hearing last month, and will get his title chance on Dec. 6 in Las Vegas.
Rockhold had been actively lobbying for another fight against “The Phenom” after being knocked out in Brazil by Belfort in his Octagon debut. He felt that Belfort’s TRT usage gave him an unfair advantage in that matchup. However, that rematch will have to wait now that Belfort is getting his shot at Weidman. Rockhold rebounded from the KO loss by recording first-round stoppages of Costas Philippou and Boetsch. A victory against a fighter of Machida’s pedigree would certainly add more legitimacy to his title pursuits.
A matchup against “The Dragon” would do a lot more for Rockhold’s career at this point than the prospects of a potential grudge-match against Michael Bisping. Bisping and Rockhold have had a long-running war of words and have expressed a desire to square off. However, the English fighter’s stock dropped substantially with a poor effort in April in a loss to Tim Kennedy. “The Count” believes he has unfinished business with Rockhold, and is hoping to land that fight if he can get by Cung Le later this month at Fight Night 48 in Macau.
If Machida wants Rockhold next, there’s a good chance his wish may be granted. Rockhold is going to have to earn at least one more victory to be catapulted into the title conversation, and there’s no better opponent for him to face than Machida. Hopefully it’s a bout that gets done for Oct. 25. It would be a great matchup for fans and for both talented middleweight contenders.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.