How do you solve the defensive riddle that is Lyoto Machida? How do you stop the diverse and potent offensive arsenal that is Chris Weidman?
The fighter that correctly answers the question about his opponent leaves the octagon as UFC middleweight champion shortly after midnight tonight. The American wrestler must contend with Machida’s unorthodox style, counterstrikes, and formidable defense. The Brazilian karateka faces a Whac-A-Mole scenario: neutralize the power in Weidman’s fists, and his wrestling, ground-and-pound, or jujitsu pops up to surprise you. Winning won’t come easy.
“I will look to beat him standing up,” champion Chris Weidman told Breitbart Sports last month. “If I can’t take him out on the feet, I will take him to the ground and submit him there.”
Lyoto Machida, understated outside the octagon like his opponent generally is, made no such boasts. “I try to show exactly what I am,” the Brazilian karateka said through a translator on the UFC’s conference call earlier this week. “I am trying to sell the fight with the way I’m fighting in the octagon. I don’t want to offend my opponent before the fight.”
Their resumes speak louder than their words. Weidman (11-0) comes off back-to-back stoppages of perhaps the most legendary figure, Anderson Silva, in the brief history of mixed-martial arts. Machida (21-4) counts B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin, Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and Randy Couture–past UFC champions from lightweight through heavyweight–as foes he has vanquished.
Weidman-Machida serves as the main event of arguably the featured pay-per-view card on the UFC’s calendar. All 22 fighters last night made weight for their matches, which include 135-pounders Uriah Faber versus Alex Caceres; Dutchman Stefan Struve, returning after a sixteen-month forced respite as a result of a Mark Hunt-induced broken jaw, taking on fellow heavyweight Matt Mitrione; and women’s champion Ronda Rousey fighting Alexis Davis.