This Saturday, July 5, Chris Weidman will defend his UFC middleweight crown against Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida at UFC 175. It will be Weidman's second defense of the title he took from Anderson Silva. Vitor Belfort was originally scheduled to fight for Weidman's strap but after a series of postponements, the match was called off and Machida was announced the next challenger.
It seems like only yesterday when Lyoto Machida was considered to be the next big thing in MMA. After dominant wins over Thiago Silva and Tito Ortiz, he went on to win the light heavyweight title by knocking out an undefeated Rashad Evans. Machida's unorthodox style drew comparisons to Anderson Silva, but the Machida puzzle was soon solved by Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, who knocked him out in their rematch.
"Ordinary" may never be the right word to describe Machida, but he hasn't looked extraordinary in a long time. Machida dropped down to middleweight last year and has looked good so far. Though it would still be considered an upset, a Machida victory over Weidman isn't too farfetched.
Chris Weidman is just starting to build his own legacy and has plenty yet to prove. As to be expected, he has his naysayers, some of which insist that his wins over Silva were flukes. A convincing win over Machida will be a right step towards validating Weidman, if indeed he is still in need of it.
There are two scenarios that would enhance Weidman's reputation. He must dominate and stop Machida or beat him in a back and forth battle that would show his tenacity. MMA needs its heroes and while Weidman seems to fit the bill, the public isn't quite sure what to make of him.
Is Weidman going to be the dominant force that GSP was or is he going to be more of a Rocky Balboa and win fights with heart? Is he going to be more brawn than brain? How will he adapt to different styles? Will he fight down to his opponent's level? How will he handle adversity in the Octagon?
These are all questions that we someday want to see answered, but we shouldn't be in a hurry to write off Machida, who is highly determined to win this bout. He may no longer have the mystique but he's as good as ever. Weidman will be making a huge mistake if he goes in thinking he could just walk right through Machida.
However should Machida win, the public is more likely to dismiss Weidman as being overrated and over-hyped than to give Machida the credit he deserves, which would be a shame. Machida is one of the finest fighters of this generation. It is unfortunate that his accomplishments are overshadowed by some lackluster performances that fans haven't been too quick to forget.
For Machida, this fight is not just for the title but about redemption, and a man on a mission could prove to be a formidable foe, as is a fighter like Weidman who feels he's still not getting his due respect.
Regardless of the outcome, we can only hope that we get an entertaining bout with a clear victor.