The Fight Horizon – Lyoto Machida vs. Phil Davis
In a surprising announcement, light heavyweight contenders Lyoto Machida and Phil Davis have agreed to meet in the Octagon at UFC 163 in Brazil. Machida was thought to have lined up a rematch with LHW champion Jon Jones after working his brand of magic against Dan Henderson. Davis isn’t exactly in title contention at the moment and Machida was looking at a possible bout against Alexander Gustafsson if the Jones fight wasn’t happening. So an initially strange matchup here, but one that makes sense the more you think about it.
The Matchup: Lyoto Machida vs. Phil Davis
Phil Davis (11-1 overall, 7-1 in the UFC)
Strengths: Strength, wrestling, top control
Lyoto Machida (19-3 overall, 11-3 in the UFC)
Strengths: Absurd movement and elusiveness, frustrates opponents
Weaknesses: Tendency to play it safe, frustrates fans
The Date: August 3, 2013 at UFC 163 in Brazil
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight
What led to it: Two of the best guys in the LHW division, neither of which is really ready for or deserving of a shot at Jon Jones. Both coming off of wins, but neither showed anything to warrant an immediate booking of a title fight. And finally, both are very good at the one thing the other guy has to improve on. Machida’s win over Dan Henderson supposedly earned him a rematch with Jon Jones, but let’s be honest. That performance didn’t exactly impress anyone and people weren’t eager to see a rematch with Jones, regardless of what Dana White said (more on that in a second). Davis is showing improvement with every fight, so now it’s time to test the deep waters again and see where he stands.
Why it matters: It’s essentially to the point now where anything Dana White says about any future implications of any fight in the UFC has to be taken very skeptically. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a business that needs to be promoted, and injuries, scheduling issues and all sorts of other unpredictable factors come into play. But we need an official Dana White decoding translator machine to communicate what he really means. When he said the winner of Machida vs. Henderson gets a shot at Jones, what he meant was “If Hendo wins in any sort of fashion, he gets a shot at Jones. If Machida wins by some kind of devastating finish, he might get a shot at Jones, but if he wins by a dull decision, he won’t sniff Jones for awhile.”
Machida won that fight in a very lackluster fashion, so even with the title contender status attached to the fight, he didn’t really earn a title shot. So now we have a fight to keep these two elite fighters busy. This matchup will also to test their mettle and see where they stand in terms of their skill set. If Davis has holes in his striking game, you can bet the farm Lyoto Machida will expose them. And if Davis is able to use his strength and size advantage to trouble Machida, a rematch with Jones would be out of the question.
This is one of those “do me a favor” type of fights, with Machida doing the favor. Machida doesn’t have a whole lot to gain here with a win, but he does have a lot to lose. Remember, he “earned” a title shot after his last win (if you believe Uncle Dana). A loss here and he’s going to be in a weird spot, coming off of a win in a #1 contender fight, then losing to a guy ranked below him. Davis on the other hand, has everything to gain here and not a whole lot to lose. Davis hasn’t reached his full potential yet, and losing to Lyoto Machida won’t bring him down too much in the rankings. This is an opportunity for him to open some eyes and get people talking. Davis is a significant part of the future of the division. Rashad Evans was probably too much, too soon. Building Davis up was a good idea and he got two winnable fights after Evans, and won them both. Machida is going to be a big jump up in competition, but it’s still very much a winnable fight for him.
If Machida really does want another crack at Jones, he better bring his A-game and look to finish Davis with authority. Davis has a chance to jump up into the top five here, but he’s going to have to fight the fight of his life to come out with a win.
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