Way back in August I wrote “The Least Wanted UFC Light Heavies”, which featured Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans as the two guys the UFC was “friggin’ desperate to never see wearing their strap”. Well, things have taken quite a turn since then, eh?
Rashad hadn’t met with Chuck prior to that article, and I was skeptical of his ability to beat the champ. Well, he answered that in resounding fashion, revealing a new attitude towards his hands…Greg Jackson must have finally convinced him to let them fly, because he sent Liddell to dreamland with a thunderous, lightning strike square on the chin. His next bout was supposed to be Chuck’s…a matchup with LHW champ Forrest Griffin, who he ground-and-pounded out to take the UFC’s belt, sniffing it furiously. His rise from TV-show winner to king of what many consider the most prestigious division in combat sports would be unbelievable if I hadn’t been there watching every step of the way.
I held off writing this until after the Machida-Silva fight. I had predicted an entertaining fight, but a dominating win for Machida. I was right on both counts, though it was mostly entertaining to Lyoto, his fans, and dependents. He absolutely destroyed Silva, who managed to barely throw any strikes at all prior to a devastating KO as the first round buzzer sounded. After the fight Machida told the crowd he’d fight anyone. I have no reason to doubt he’d win, too.
As an aside, There’s something of a “Machida Derangement Syndrome” in the ranks of MMA fandom that’s far worse than the hatred for BJ Penn. It makes it hard to read the blogs when all they can manage is yelping and whining about Machida “running”. It’s tiresome and embarrassing, frankly. Get the hell over it already, you’re making fools of yourselves.
In the end, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans, the two LHWs no one wanted, have taken over the division. Shogun Rua looked like an absolute bust in his awful clown-act against AARP member Mark Coleman. Chuck Liddell hasn’t done much of anything in quite a while, Brandon Vera looks like a terrible light heavy. Wanderlei Silva put a hurting on Keith Jardine…but honestly, he should. The only other guy with any momentum is Rampage Jackson, and he’s fighting “The Dean of Mean” for some bizarre reason, as well as a scheduled matchup with the California Judicial system.
Rashad should fight Lyoto Machida for the belt, whenever they can clear it. Failing that, the only other fight that makes any sense at all would be Lyoto-Rampage for #1 contender.
At the moment, we have two guys no one wanted sitting astride the UFC’s light heavyweight division looking for a showdown. Rampage Jackson will have something to say about it, however, and has the skills to take the belt from Rashad (though that is by no means a guaranteed outcome). Ultimately, if no one is upset, we won’t know who the best 205lb fighter in the world is until Evans and Machida meet. In my view Machida wins that fight, but Rashad has risen, again and again, to the challenges put in front of him, and it would be unsurprising in the least to see him find a way, one more time, to win.