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Lyoto Machida and the final days of “The Dragon”




Lyoto Machida’s fight with Yoel Romero may or may not be his last fight in the UFC. I am not going to say that it should be, that is a decision he should make with those who are close with him. One thing that is certain is that his time at the top, his time as a title contender – it’s over.

Machida is still a very good fighter and maybe even top ten, but he no longer can beat the top five. Not only does Machida have two losses in his last two fights, but both have been finishes.

2014 Indicated so much promise for The Dragon

It was only just a year ago that Machida was pushing middleweight champion Chris Weidman in the fourth and fifth rounds of their title fight. Then, in December, he decimated C.B. Dollaway and seemed just one more win away from a rematch with Weidman.

Now, that rematch seems like it was a lifetime ago. Suddenly, The Dragon looks a little long in the tooth and is just a tick too slow. It reminds me a lot of boxer Roy Jones Jr. and how he went from being the best and almost untouchable, to being finished.

Both Jones Jr. and Machida were unorthodox fighters who relied on timing, speed, feints, fakes, understanding distances and the ability to control them with their movements. At their best they operate on a higher plane than even the best fighters, but once they start to slip it is a fast fall for them.

When the quick get old quickly it can be brutal

Jones Jr. entered his rematch in the Spring of 2004 with Antonio Tarver essentially undefeated. The lone loss in his career had been via a DQ in a fight he was dominating. The closest MMA equivalent is Jon Jones and his loss to Matt Hamill. Jones Jr. would get stopped in the second round of that fight. He would then go 5-7 during a 12 fight stretch.

Suddenly, he went from being considered the pound-for-pound best in the world to a journeyman. For many fans it was tough to watch. Fighting is different from other sports and the sadness we experience in watching an older Michael Jordan is different from watching an aging Muhammad Ali.

Seeing your hero get crossed over is one level of discomfort in your gut. The image of them laying face down on the ground is deeper and lingers much longer. It is a little harder to conjure up images of their glory days in those moments.

When Machida lost to Luke Rockhold it did look like he got clipped in the back of the head. It is not something that should have changed the outcome of the fight, but it created the possibility that maybe Machida had not slipped. That instead he just got caught by one of those unfortunate shots.

Rockhold is a top contender with a win over Jacare Souza. He had only lost to a TRT’d Vitor Belfort in his five years of fighting in Strikeforce and the UFC.

This finish was different. It was more brutal and definitive. There is no real way to spin it other than Romero patiently and methodically destroyed Machida.

This seemed like the perfect matchup for Machida. During his career he had derailed many wrestlers, and Romero seemed like the right fight for him to put himself back into the title discussion. A big win here and he would be a win or injury away from another chance at the belt.

Now, the discussion will be about whether or not he should retire. Again, for me that discussion is for Machida, his family, his coaches and the other people close to him.

A Legend of the Sport

We may see Machida fight again in the octagon or we may not. We have seen the last of him fighting for titles. We have likely seen the last of him fighting against the top five.

Whether he fights again in the octagon or not, Machida’s place as legend in the sport is secured. He defeated several legends of the sport in winning the UFC light heavyweight title. Amongst the more significant victories in his career are; Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Rashad Evans, Gegard Mousasi, Tito Ortiz and Shogun Rua.

The career legacy of Machida is not one of dominance but instead one that is built on exciting moments. His finishes of Evans, Couture and Ryan Bader being among the best of all time.

Machida spent most of his career as an undersized light heavyweight, due to his close friendship with former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. That made his title run at light heavyweight even more remarkable as fighters were cutting more and more weight, he remained successful.

When Silva finally lost the title Machida made the move down to middleweight. At first it seemed like a success for him as he quickly stopped Mark Munoz and then dominated Mousasi. This earned him his chance to become one of the few UFC fighters to hold titles in two different weight classes.

After a close competitive fight with the champ he seemed like he was settling in for a nice little run to end his career. Now, today it all seems so different and suddenly the talk will not be of titles but of retirement.

It has been a long hard road

Even though Machida was the younger fighter age-wise entering the fight with Romero he had a lot more miles on him. During much of his career Machida was a master at avoiding strikes. He rarely got hit and usually it was just a glancing blow. Lately, the strikes had been landing cleaner and this was one of the worst.

The only thing I will say that Machida should do is take some time for himself and his family before he makes any decisions. He rushed back into this fight and has spent most of this year training and fighting. Instead of making a decision about his future he should just relax a little, take a couple of weeks and then decide what he wants to do with the next few months of his life.

photos via Dave Mandel/Sherdog – Lyoto Machida

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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