So, ‘The Machida Era’ has come to an abrupt end at the hands of Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua at UFC 113. It had to happen eventually, but perhaps it came earlier than many had anticipated just 11 months ago after watching him demolish Rashad Evans at UFC 98 to claim the light-heavyweight title.
Some may look to dismiss the fighter now that he’s been defeated, but while some the mystique surrounding him and his unorthadox Karate methods may have dissolved, he is still easily one of the most talented fighters at 205lbs and seems likely to still have a major part to play in the upper reaches of the division.
So what’s next for the former champion on his journey back to the top?
First up he’ll need to heal from his knockout loss and the injuries he sustained in the fight. According to his manager Ed Soares, Machida has a hairline fracture of his orbital bone which caused his eye to swell up dramatically in the aftermath of the fight.
It’s not clear whether he will need surgery or not just yet but Soares told mmajunkie.com that he believes he will be out for at least two or three months before he can begin full contact training again.
After that Soares has suggested that the various members of the Black House team, which includes such MMA illuminaries as Anderson Silva, the Nogueira brothers, Jose Aldo and Junior Dos Santos to name but a few, are planning to train together more often to improve their skills, something that can only help Machida improve.
Who will he fight next?
At this moment in time the UFC’s light-heavyweight division is stacked, which means there’s a lot of quality fights they could put together involving the former champion. Much depends on how long it takes for his injuries to heal, but a few fighters stand-out as things stand.
Forrest Griffin pulled out of his fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 114 later this month due to an injury. Griffin is currently looking to navigate his way back to a title shot and a win over Machida would be a major boost for his career. At the same time his straight-ahead, predictable style could well play into Machida’s counter-striking style making this a desirable match-up for the Brazilian as he looks to get back to winning ways.
I don’t see much call for a rematch with Rashad Evans just yet, but if Quinton Jackson is defeated by him at UFC 114 then Rampage would become a suitable challenge for Machida.
The winner of Chuck Liddell Vs Rich Franklin could also qualify as Machida’s next opponent. A fight with Liddell could be a blockbuster ratings wise, while a rematch with Franklin, who Machida defeated in Japan back in 2003, could be an interesting story-line.
A final suggestion would be Randy Couture, assuming he defeats James Toney, if that fight does indeed take place. Couture has his eyes set on a title shot, but fighting guys like Mark Coleman and Toney won’t cut it. A bout with Machida has been talked about before, and a win their could be just what ‘The Natural’ needs.
It could be a match-up that suits Machida as well since Couture is a legend, but is beginning to slow down at the age of 46 and is no longer the force he once was.
If I had to choose between them then I’d look to one of the veterans – Couture, Liddell or Franklin – as the most likely options. The reason for this is that if Rampage loses his next fight then I believe a rematch with Griffin may well be next on the cards for him, which would take them out the picture for the time being.
As for the distant future, I think a rubber match with Shogun is almost inevitable.