The question was raised by C.B. Dollaway prior to Saturday night that if he somehow got past Lyoto Machida, shouldn’t that make him the real No. 1 contender in the middleweight division?
After all, Machida was a former light heavyweight champion who pushed Chris Weidman further than he’s ever been pushed, not to mention the fact that he made short work of Mark Munoz and battered Gegard Mousasi over the course of five rounds in his previous two appearances at 185 pounds.
It appears Dollaway was right on the money, although he probably wishes he didn’t have to be the example of why he made his case.
Machida only needed one body kick that rang out like a thunder-clap in the arena in Brazil to shut Dollaway off like a light switch. The moment Machida’s leg connected, Dollaway’s face turned that awful shade of grimacing where there was little doubt he was in serious trouble.
Machida followed up with a few more punches, but the writing was on the wall. The fight was over and it took him just 62 seconds to dispatch Dollaway like he had somewhere else to be that night. Maybe Machida took it as a slight that following a five-round war with Weidman back in July, the UFC gave him a fringe top 10 fighter for his next opponent instead of a more proven middleweight like Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza or Luke Rockhold.
Maybe Machida just wanted to show what he’s capable of doing to anyone who gives him even the slightest of openings. Dollaway looked confident and ready. One kick was all it took for Dollaway to change his mind.
As the middleweight division continues to grow and evolve in the wake of Weidman’s championship reign, the contender’s race stops and starts with Machida until somebody can prove that he’s vulnerable.
The next person in line has to be former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold — because if there’s anybody in the UFC that’s looked like Machida’s equal lately, it’s him.
Rockhold blasted through Michael Bisping like no one else has ever done in the UFC. He took out Tim Boetsch and Costas Philippou in almost the exact same way Machida did Dollaway. He didn’t need much time and both were equally devastating.
It would be easy to argue Rockhold is probably already next in line for the title considering he holds a win over ‘Jacare’ Souza from their days in Strikeforce together and since losing to Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut, the San Jose-based fighter has looked virtually unstoppable. It also has to be noted that Rockhold hasn’t faced Weidman yet, so unlike Machida, he hasn’t had a shot at the champion since joining the UFC.
Still, what better way for Rockhold to exert his dominance than to face Machida in a main-event matchup in early 2015? In the same token, Machida could rocket back to the top of title contention if he can beat Rockhold. Machida has noticed Rockhold’s rapid rise to the top and he seems more than open to the challenge.
“Now I would like a fight that could bring me to another title shot. It could be Luke Rockhold or someone else. I’m ready for everyone,” Machida said.
And would anyone really complain about seeing Rounds 6 through 10 with Weidman vs. Machida? The first fight had some of the best moments of the year, and while Weidman was clearly the winner, Machida hurt him and had the New Yorker in trouble, which is something no one — not even the great Anderson Silva — had done before.
It’s also probably the worst possible way to look at a title race, but if Machida does beat Rockhold next year, the UFC could still opt to go with the winner of ‘Jacare’ Souza vs. Yoel Romero for the next contender considering they face off at UFC 184 on the same show where Weidman takes on Belfort.
No matter who wins in these next few pivotal middleweight matchups, the one thing made clear on Saturday night was the class of the division is still Lyoto Machida, and until someone other than the champion beats him, he’s going to continue to loom overhead like a storm cloud just waiting to strike.
Ask C.B. Dollaway how it feels to get caught up in Hurricane Machida.
While there may be an alternative path to the belt that doesn’t involve a fight with Machida, facing him may still be the only real way to prove you are truly worthy of a shot at the championship.