Lyoto Machida believes UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has a weakness – even if he may be unsure of what it is, specifically.
Machida (18-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC), himself a former champ, on Saturday found himself in the coveted “next contender” position once again. His dominant win over Ryan Bader (12-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) at UFC on FOX 4 in Los Angeles put him at the front of the pack.
Of course, whether or not he’ll have to worry about finding Jones’ weakness remains to be seen since Jones still must get past Dan Henderson in his next title defense at UFC 151 on Sept. 1.
And as UFC President Dana White said Saturday, that’s no guarantee.
“(Jones) still has to fight Dan Henderson, and Dan Henderson is nasty,” White told FOX after the event. “He’s a legend killer. Jones has to get through him first, and whoever wins that fight will face Lyoto Machida.”
In his title fight against former Strikeforce and PRIDE champ Henderson in Denver, Jones is as heavy a favorite as he’s ever been – and Henderson’s as big of an underdog as he ever has been. Jones currently sits around the -650 mark to Henderson’s +450. By comparison Jones was as much as -600 against Vladimir Matyushenko two years ago and -550 against Jake O’Brien at UFC 100. Against Rashad Evans in April, Jones was about -450 – again a prohibitive favorite, as he has been in nearly every fight since he started his UFC career as the underdog his first two bouts.
So the oddsmakers, at least, are banking on Jones getting past Henderson to set up a title fight rematch against Machida, whom he beat in the main event of UFC 140 this past December. Although Jones won with a vicious second-round standing guillotine choke, many observers believe Machida won the first round – a feat in and of itself against Jones.
“Of course he has a weak point,” Machida said. “But it’s very hard to say because Jon is an elusive fighter. All the time, he changes his style. Sometimes he kicks. Sometimes he punches. He’s got good wrestling. Maybe I have to train more wrestling.”
Machida came into the fight with Bader at 201 pounds, five pounds shy of the light heavyweight max, which prompted speculation that he may be toying with the notion of a drop to middleweight.
Obviously if a drop to 185 is in the cards, it won’t come any time soon now that he has a shot to get back the belt he held after beating Evans at UFC 98 until he lost it to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 113. But Machida said after his win over Bader he’s unsure why he came in so light.
“I had hard training for this fight,” Machida told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I lost a lot of weight for this fight. I don’t know why.”
But for now, Machida, who had lost three of his past four fights before beating Bader, will focus on finding that Jones weak point. He has a renewed training dedication, he said, and has moved his family to the United States from his native Brazil for a fresh look out of the cage, as well.
“I’ve just kept training since I lost my last fight,” Machida said. “I tried to change some things in my training. I moved here to America to get a new start.”
That new start has his boss impressed. White said it was an easy decision choosing Machida as the next top contender over Rua, who beat Brandon Vera in a four-round slugfest Saturday night that was a fan favorite, but far from the dominant performance for Rua that White was looking for to name the next challenger.
“Lyoto Machida looked the most impressive tonight,” White said. “He has this fire in him. He wants it. He wants his title back. Everything I see in his performance, the way he acts, shows me he wants this title shot.”