Lyoto Machida (19-4, 7 KO’s, 2 Subs)
The 35-year-old Machida was once a heavyweight but has plied his trade in the Octagon at 205 lbs. over the last seven years. However after his last fight, where he dropped a unanimous decision despite opening as a -250 favorite in the UFC odds against Phil Davis, Machida has decided to cut even more weight and pursue championship gold in the middleweight division. It’s a long drop from his heyday but the wolves are circling at 185 due to former champion Anderson Silva’s stunning loss to Chris Weidman. It is clear the aura of invincibility surrounding Silva is gone, giving fighters like Machida the confidence to contend for a belt that was perceived as unattainable for so long.
The Dragon blends an unorthodox mix of Shotokan, sumo and BJJ into his repertoire of fistic weaponry. He is even more vexing to opponents due to his southpaw style and straight counters that often find their mark as his opponents become exasperated and attempt to muscle the deceptive striker. Machida parries takedowns effectively and up until he fought UFC Light Heavyweight king Jon Jones, he had never been submitted. But either a superior caliber of opponent or advancing mileage on his 35-year-old body is taking its toll because Machida two of his four career losses have come within the last two years. However those were against the current champ and top contender Phil Davis so a stronger case could be made for the former rather than the latter.
Mark Munoz (13-3, 6 KO’s, 1 Sub)
The Filipino Wrecking machine got a taste of his own medicine when he traded bombs with the now current UFC Middleweight champion Chris Weidman back in July of 2012. But he shook off the funk of a second-round KO to garner a unanimous decision over veteran Tim Boetsch a year later at UFC 162 and now looks to cement his standing as one of the top middleweights in the world against former light heavyweight world champion in Lyoto Machida.
Munoz is another middle-aged contender racing against time to get a shot at the crown. Unlike Machida, Munoz is a much more aggressive striker who will look to push the pace and take the fight to the canvas where he can smother his opponent on the ground with his stellar wrestling skills. Though many view Munoz as a pure striker it is in fact his grappling ability that allows him to employ a brutal ground-and-pound advantage.
This is an intriguing matchup to be sure in our UFC picks. Machida is dropping down in weight but how will that affect his ability to not only bang with a beast like Munoz and maintain his cardio? Some could certainly contend that lighter weight means better stamina but that is not always how it plays out. If a big man like Machida is suddenly 15-20 pounds lighter, he may be adversely affected and winded as the fight progresses.
As for Munoz, he dominated against Tim Boetsch in his last trip inside the Octagon but Boetsch is not nearly as skilled or as lethal as Machida. The Dragon has the BJJ chops to defend against a superior wrestler like Munoz and come out on top. My instinct tells me that Munoz’s aggressive, hard charging style may set him up perfectly for a devastating counterpuncher like Machida. But as I peruse the UFC odds at WilliamHill.com I see that as of this writing Machida is a decided 3-1 favorite. That’s steep enough for me to avoid laying the lumber but not enough of an incentive to place a value bet on Munoz. If you have to bet this, put Machida in a parlay or pass it altogether.