Saturday April 18th the UFC comes to Newark, New Jersey and the card will feature two middleweight contenders as former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida squares up against Luke Rockhold. Below we discuss the UFC odds and which of these two top challengers will emerge victorious.
Lyoto Machida (22-5, 9 KO’s, 2 Subs)
Even though the Dragon’s latest foray into the Octagon proved to be an unmitigated success by virtue of a stunning first-round TKO over C.B. Dollaway, earning him a Performance of the Night bonus, Machida has nonetheless been relegated to underdog status in this bout according to the UFC odds. Perhaps it has been his losses to upper echelon fighters like light heavyweight contender Phil Davis where he bowed via unanimous decision at UFC 163 or his most recent title clash with current UFC 185-pound king Chris Weidman after dropping down to the middleweight category. Regardless, the 36-year-old cage veteran understands this journey through the middleweight ranks could be his last chance to claim a title.
Machida can hold his own if this fight falls to the canvas but the Dragon is known far better for his KO power as opposed to his submission skills. But lest Rockhold forget, Machida holds a black belt in BJJ and has a substantial take down game coupled with a solid take down defense. If Rockhold elects to pursue a mat game strategy Machida should be weary as his younger opponent has eight submissions to his credit.
Luke Rockhold (13-2, 3 KO’s, 8 Subs)
Luke Rockhold is coming off a Performance of the Night award after submitting Michael Bisping via guillotine choke in November of last year. Since losing to the legendary Vitor Belfort by fi6rst-round knockout, courtesy of a lethally placed spinning heel kick followed by a barrage of punches, Rockhold has gotten back on his horse with finishes in his last three fights. He will face a stiff test in Machida who has the capacity to stand toe-to-toe with anyone in the division.
Rockhold will most likely attempt to match BJJ wits with Machida. The former Strikeforce champion has a varied mat attack in his arsenal ranging from a rear naked choke to an inverted triangle kimura to an expertly delivered guillotine choke. Kickboxer by trade, Rockhold is not afraid to knuckle up and trade with the best of them but he is always ready to shoot and take his opponent to the mat at any given opportunity. He will have to contend with a cage savvy veteran in Machida who has seen all the tricks and exploits all openings when they reveal themselves.
The end comes eventually for every athlete and the UFC has a tendency to grind them up and spit them out at a furious rate. But Lyoto Machida has long stood the test of time and his 3-1 record in the 185 pound division is evidence that he can make the weight and be mighty successful. Those wins include Mark Munoz who at the age of 37 is a rapidly fading fighter while Gegard Mousasi is an all-around threat yet more of a gatekeeper at 185 pounds than a true contender. His last opponent C.B. Dollaway, is a less talented version of Mousasi.
But Luke Rockhold is a different breed of cat from the three fighters Machida has vanquished in his journey through the middleweight division. He is not Chris Weidman but he does present many of the same problems for Machida. He is two inches taller and holds a three inch reach advantage over the Dragon. Rockhold is also over six years his junior and that is a lifetime in MMA.
I believe Machida still has a few good years left in him but he is now more of the guy you need to beat in order to get to where you need to go, which is ultimately a title shot. Rockhold in my estimation is a legitimate title contender and will prove that he is superior in all phases of the game when he defeats Machida on April 18th.