UFC Fight Night 58 Preview: Machida, Dollaway Try to Muddle Middleweight Puzzle

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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Myles Jury Quiet Before Fight with Cerrone: ‘The Results Will Do the Talking’

You’d think we’d know Myles “Fury” Jury by now. 

The 26-year-old Michigan native boasts a 15-0 record as a professional mixed martial artist—a metric that inflates to 21-0 if you include his amateur bouts. 

Casual fans, however, first met Jury on the UFC’s reality show The Ultimate Fighter. 

After dropping out of The Ultimate Fighter 13 with a knee injury, Jury returned for Season 15, where he lost a preliminary-round bout to eventual finalist Al Iaquinta via split decision. That loss fueled him, and since then, Jury ascended to a new level. 

Despite losing early on TUF 15, Jury received a call to participate on the show’s finale card in Las Vegas on June 1, 2012. He defeated Chris Saunders via guillotine choke in that bout, and his official UFC career rocketed from there. 

After five more victories in a row, Jury earned a shot at his toughest test to date: No. 4-ranked lightweight and fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone

We’ve seen Jury for years now, on The Ultimate Fighter and inside the Octagon chucking leather and shins, but this is the fight in many fans’ and critics’ eyes that will unveil his true self. Just who is Myles Jury, and how will he handle the established veteran Cerrone

To Jury, the questions mean nothing once the cage door closes on Jan. 3, and his focus is on himself, his game and his considerable skill set. 

“I have daily goals that keep me busy to make sure I’m getting better and learning every day, otherwise it’s a day wasted,” Jury told Bleacher Report. “I don’t let an opponent or fight affect my daily obligations that advance my career and life. To be honest, even when the fight was set, it didn’t change anything until the coaches started my camp. I’m not one to let others dictate what I do, where I’m at, where I’m going or anything at all.” 

With a win over Cerrone, “where he’s going” might just be to a showdown with UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis

While Jury is currently ranked No. 8 in the division, a win over Cerrone would elevate his stock and put him in the title conversation.

Cerrone is on a tear of his own, winning five straight, four in 2014 alone. Jury agrees with the public’s perception on this matter: He’s fighting a top guy now, and he cherishes the opportunity. 

“Cerrone is by far the best and most dangerous fighter over this past year, and I feel (he) is above everyone in the division right now,” Jury said. “That’s why I’m so excited for this, because to be the best, you have to fight the best. A win over Cerrone for sure puts me in a championship bout.”

The UFC’s process for handing out title shots, however, doesn’t always make sense. Recently, the promotion promised welterweight fighter Rory MacDonald the winner of UFC 181′s main event between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.  

However, after the fight—a close split-decision victory for Lawlerthe title shot was ripped away from the Canadian standout, setting up an apparent trilogy between Hendricks and Lawler instead. 

Even if Jury demolishes Cerrone in the first round, a title shot is no guarantee. The Alliance MMA star recognizes this fact, but he maintains a positive (if a bit dismissive) attitude toward it. 

“I’m always prepared for the worst-case scenarios and (I) work my ass off to make them the best-case scenarios,” Jury said. “I don’t control that, so it’s not something I’m going to waste my time thinking about. Whatever happens, happens.” 

Right now, Jury’s full focus remains on Cerrone, on the No. 4-ranked lightweight in the UFC and on his potential ticket to superstardom. 

He’s already fought Cowboy several times in his head and in practice by taking on sparring partners specifically chosen to emulate Cerrone‘s style, and he’s ready to showcase the results of a calculated, scientific training camp at UFC 182

Unfortunately for Cerrone, Jury is evolving every day and believes the best is yet to come. 

“Since I started 14 years ago, I can honestly say I am always better than I was the day before and constantly getting better,” Jury said. “I don’t focus on one area because I’m not one-dimensional. There is not one area in my MMA career or my overall life that doesn’t get constant maintenance to advance. I’m having fun and feel I’m still far from my prime and already toward the top.

“I match up great regardless of where the fight goes, and I expect Cowboy to be at his best no matter when or where.” 

As for a prediction, Jury maintains his composure and closed-mouth style there, too. He’s not going to trash talk his way into the public’s eye, but he will deliver a zinger with a steely reserve and a confidence borne through hard training sessions at Alliance MMA and a 21-fight winning streak. 

“We will see on Jan. 3,” Jury said. “I’m not one to get into the ‘what-ifs’ or show my cards before a fight. The results will do the talking.” 

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UFC Fight Night 58: Main Card Staff Picks for Machida vs. Dollaway

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

And we are all to be commended for breaking the tape of the 2014 UFC event season. With 45 events, it was long and, at times, tedious. But in the end, it was also very rewarding. 

So at the end of the year, and with the endorphins flowing, let us make our main card picks one more time before the calendar flips. Is UFC Fight Night 58, going down Saturday from Brazil, an outstanding card? Nah. But it’s a fine stocking stuffer for the year that was.

Come along, won’t you, and make fun of our picks and what not? Riley “Kobra” Kontek, Craig “Cookie” Amos, Sean “Salmon” Smith, James “The Athlete” MacDonald and myself, Scott Harris. We are the team. Let’s get it on.

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Jose Aldo: What He Needs to Do to Compete for MMA’s GOAT Title

The GOAT is a term that is often used to describe individuals such as Michael Jordan or Peyton Manning: athlete’s who have excelled in their sport far beyond average players. Jose Aldo has recently said that he wants to retire as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, via Fernando Arbex of Bloody Elbow.

That is quite a statement from the long-reigning champion, but those aspirations may not be as lofty as one may think.

Aldo is well aware of his current place in history and wants to expand upon the great career that he has already achieved.

“I’m sure that I’m on[e] of the best of all time. I don’t see where [I] am…yet. When I stop, I want to be the greatest of all. I still seek some achievements. I’m the only UFC 145-pound champion in history, and I want to keep [it] that way until I retire,” Aldo said in an interview with Combate, which was reported by Fernando Arbex of Bloody Elbow. “I also want to break all the UFC records in a way that my name will be printed forever.”

Looking at those comments, Aldo is well on his way to reaching his goal. The Brazilian native boasts a 25-1 record that includes his current 18-fight win streak. He obtained the WEC featherweight title, which became the UFC’s featherweight belt, back in 2010 and has kept an iron–clad grip on the belt since then.

As the UFC’s current longest-reigning champion, his goals may be closer to realization than some are willing to admit. However, what must he do in order to truly be among the best that this sport has ever seen?

The most obvious answer is that he needs to continue defending the featherweight title. In looking at the top contenders within the UFC rankings, Aldo has already defeated four of the top five fighters listed in his weight class.

Conor McGregor is the only individual he has not faced, and that bout may be coming sooner rather than later, as noted by David St. Martin of MMA Fighting. If Aldo defeats McGregor, then he can state a claim that he has cleared out his division.

That would move him into the next potential requirement for going out as the GOAT: moving up to lightweight. It has long been rumored that Aldo wants to attempt a run at 155 pounds, per Chuck Mindenhall of MMA Fighting. If he were to vacate the title, challenge the lightweight champion of the time and win the belt, he would solidify himself among the best that the sport has ever seen.

Currently, only two other men—BJ Penn and Randy Couture—have been able to do such a feat. Aldo adding his name to that list would put a stamp on what has already been an illustrious MMA career.

Jose Aldo is already pushing his way toward being one of the best competitors this sport has ever seen. If he intends to retire as the greatest fighter ever, he has his work cut out for him. But that does not mean his goal is out of reach.

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Jon Jones Receives Random Drug Test Ahead of UFC 182 Fight with Daniel Cormier

It seems as if the Nevada State Athletic Commission is testing to make sure none of the bad blood between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier has led to bad blood within the champion himself. 

Jones, who is currently training for his eighth straight title defense against Cormier at UFC 182, was paid a random visit by the NSAC to conduct a random drug test, according to Jones’ Instagram account. 

Jones’ photo caption read:

“The Nevada State athletic commission just stopped by my house and hit me with that random.. Only thing I’m on is that #PHW pure hard work! They are probably wondering how my chicken legs are so strong. I’ve had a few @muscletech products but that’s all legal :)”

It’s likely Cormier gets tested before the fight as well. Considering the former United States Olympian was comfortable with being tested before, seeing his reaction to the UFC and the athletic commissions taking a firmer stand against performance-enhancing drug use wasn’t very surprising.

As far as Jones has publicly admitted, this is the second straight title defense in which he’s been tested—the first coming during his UFC 172 training camp for his bout against now-No. 6 light heavyweight Glover Teixeira. 

The champ went out of his way to publicly request the test the first time around, claiming a hunger for more transparency in his title fights. He told Ariel Helwani on UFC Tonight (h/t MMAJunkie.com) back in April: 

It was something me and my management team asked for several months ago. We thought it would be great to make sure everyone was playing fair in this fight. I’m not accusing my opponent of anything, but it’d just be great to see. … I just think it’d be great to know that the athletes that are competing are competing clean. I’ve never taken any kind of performance-enhancing drug and I don’t think any of my opponents should. I know that I’ve probably fought people in the past that have, and I’ve still come up with a way to win, but I just think it’s important that it goes away.

Jones and Cormier will take the center of the Octagon on Jan. 3 in Las Vegas. 

 

Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA. 

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