At this point, both Lyoto Machida and CB Dollaway must be like human Rubik’s Cubes for UFC matchmakers.
Twist them, turn them, spend all day fiddling, and it’s still hard to figure out exactly where either guy fits into the middleweight pecking order. When Machida and Dollaway fight on Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night 58, it will no doubt only further muddle an already puzzling picture.
Contenders for Chris Weidman’s championship have been lining up three and four deep for a few months now. Luke Rockhold may lead the pack by a nose after he stopped Michael Bisping in the second round last month, but a February bout between Yoel Romero and Jacare Souza will also yield a deserving candidate.
Given that Weidman is scheduled to finally settle his business with Vitor Belfort at UFC 184 (on the same card as Romero-Souza), it won’t be long before we’ll need some clarity. And here come Dollaway and Machida, just trying to make things even more complicated.
Great. Thanks, guys.
After a long but ultimately inconsistent tenure at light heavyweight, Machida cut to middleweight near the end of 2013 and found himself rocketed into a title fight after just two wins and nine months in the division.
He lost, which would be enough to leave any 36-year-old former champion at loose ends. Still, when this matchup was announced, it was as if you could hear the entire MMA community muttering to themselves, “CB Dollaway? Really?”
That collective response only speaks to how confusing things are in this weight class right now.
Dollaway, after all, is one of those guys who has been around the 185-pound division so long that we tend to regard him as a known commodity. We think—perhaps mistakenly—that we know what he’s capable of. We’ve been there, done that and already judged him as somewhat less than championship material.
While guys like Weidman, Belfort and Machida were stealing all the headlines over the past two years, however, Dollaway has been building a body of work that seeks to undo that perception. He’s 4-1 dating back to May 2012, and his only loss in that stretch was a controversial split decision to Tim Boestch at UFC 166 last Octcober.
In sharp contrast to the norm in today’s jam-packed UFC schedule, three of those bouts even occurred on main card broadcasts. Three of them also went down in Brazil—against crowd-favorite Brazilians—so he should be as prepped as possible for the rigors of taking on Machida in Barueri, Brazil, this weekend.
In fact, if you take out the Boetsch loss (which fans and matchmakers alike seem intent on doing), it’s hard to know why we haven’t given Dollaway more notice leading up to this fight.
Except, of course, that we still regard him as the guy who coughed up the Ultimate Fighter Season 7 crown to Amir Sadollah. We still think of him as the guy who was eternally winning two or three in row and then slipping up against guys like Tom Lawlor, Mark Munoz and finally Boetsch.
Machida will now represent a chance to completely and inexorably alter that vision of him, and Dollaway knows it as well as anyone.
“Winning this fight would change my life,” he told ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto this week. “This could be the fight that really puts my name on the map … I haven’t earned it yet, but I’m putting in my time and I’m trying to get there.”
For the record, “there” is a place Machida has already been. He’ll be the first UFC titlist Dollaway has ever fought and a giant leap forward in competition and degree of stylistic difficulty. If Dollaway manages to topple Machida, it’ll be the kind of stunning stroke that will force everyone to sit up and take notice.
But maybe that’s also why the former light heavyweight champion is going off as a staggering 6-1 favorite, according to OddsShark.
Since cutting to middleweight, Machida has done nothing but go right on proving he’s still among the best fighters in the world. He jetted past Munoz and Gegard Mousasi to begin his run in the division, then put on a performance that is worthy of being in the Fight of the Year discussion against Weidman in their bout at UFC 175.
But The Dragon is also starting to seem a little long in the tooth. He’ll turn 38 before Weidman gets around to his next contender, and Machida would also likely need at least one more win after Dollaway to qualify.
A victory by Dollaway would immediately stamp his passport to contendership, alongside Rockhold, Romero and Souza. A win from Machida wouldn’t be as earth-shattering, but it would at least keep the former champ in the game a little longer.
It would also perhaps reinforce the notion that until proven otherwise, this division remains Weidman and then everybody else.
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Courtesy of :Bleacher Report – UFC