Next weekend plays host to one of the most intriguing fights on the 2010 MMA calender as Lyoto Machida and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua lock horns for the second time to establish who should be named the UFC’s light-heavyweight champion.
From the UFC’s stand-point, the beauty of this match-up is that they should land on their feet no matter who emerges victorious.
If ‘The Dragon’ successfully defends his title then ‘The Machida Era’ hype train gets back on track after an unexpected detour. ‘Karate’ will once again become the buzz word in MMA circles and beyond and fans will go back to endlessly speculating over who can defeat Machida’s unique style. With his almost video-game-like persona, the sense that he can become a real superstar of the sport like BJ Penn, GSP and Brock Lesnar will return.
On the other hand If ‘Shogun’ wins then he also has the potential to become a marketable commodity. When he first arrived in the UFC hopes were high that he would emerge as an exciting star as he had done in PRIDE, but injury problems and lackluster performances in the octagon appeared to have damaged his reputation.
He’s done well to reverse his fortunes recently though, and with a general feeling of good-will towards him after his controversial loss to Machida, there’s now a sense that Rua could be a sleeping giant. With re-reruns of the old PRIDE fights now regularly pulling in 1 million viewers on Spike TV, a resurgent star from that era would likely be welcomed by both fans and company execs alike.
The other fortunate aspect of this fight for the UFC is that no matter who wins they always have the opportunity to call for a potentially lucrative third fight between them later on down the line.
If Machida loses then the records will show they each have a victory and pave the way for a rubber match, while if Shogun loses then the argument will be that he should have been awarded the win in the first bout, again opening op the potential for a third encounter.
It’s unlikely to be something the UFC would pursue right way, but it’s a useful option for them to have in their back pocket nonetheless.
The only potential spanner in the works for all this is if the fight fails to live up to expectations. A lackluster five-round stalemate is not what’s required here, particularly after the disappointment of UFC 112.
The ideal scenario would be a war of Garcia Vs Jung proportions, but a convincing win for either fighter on May 8th will suffice.