October 25, 2017

UFC Fight Night 119: The Dragon Returns Against Derek Brunson In São Paulo

By Adam Martin

Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida, who just finished serving an 18-month USADA suspension after testing positive for a banned substance, will return to the Octagon for the first time in over two years when he fights Derek Brunson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 119, which takes place Saturday in São Paulo, Brazil.
For “The Dragon,” the return is a long time coming, after, according to Machida, an unwarranted suspension. Machida admitted to taking 7-Keto-DHEA before a scheduled bout against Dan Henderson, and he was pulled from the bout. Machida said he was taking the substance, which he believed to be legal, for stress-relief reasons, not performance-enhancing reasons. In any case, he received an 18-month sanction and only now is finally done with it.

Now 39 and coming off of a two-year-plus layoff, it’s hard to see the former light heavyweight kingpin doing much more in this sport. Although Machida has kept his body in incredible shape over the years and has taken less in-fight damage than some of his similarly-aged peers, Father Time eventually catches up to all of us, and while it would be nice to see Machida get back to his old championship ways, it’s not likely.

Especially concerning for Machida are his chin, which has been more susceptible to heavy blows in his last few fights, and his weight cut to 185, which is only going to get more difficult the older he gets. Overall, the move to middleweight is not looking like a good move for Machida, who is only 3-3 in the 185-pound weight class after going 11-4 at 205 lbs. And while moving to 185 initially looked promising for Machida after back-to-back wins over Gegard Mousasi and Mark Munoz, stoppage losses to Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold, plus a decision defeat to Chris Weidman, sandwiched a TKO win over CB Dollaway, and overall the Brazilian is on a 1-3 slide.

The good news for Machida is that he’s still an incredibly dangerous striker with an underrated ground game, and he gets a slight step down in competition from the champions he’s been fighting when he takes on Brunson this weekend. Although Brunson is a bona fide top-10 middleweight who is an impressive 8-3 in the UFC, this is a winnable matchup for Machida based on the styles. Brunson has impressive knockout power, but he’s a wild fighter, and Machida could absolutely catch him with a counter if he leaves his guard down. Ultimately the wrestling advantage for Brunson is why he’s the slight favorite going into the fight, but the striking matchup is close, if not in Machida’s favor due to his high-level experience. The fact that the fight is five rounds should also favor Machida; the hometown advantage helps him as well.

It’s hard to say what fans can expect from Machida in the UFC Fight Night 119 main event after such a long time away from the Octagon, but on paper Machida vs. Brunson is a very intriguing style clash. Machida is desperate to stop his two-fight losing streak and get back to his championship ways, while Brunson will look to prove to everyone that he’s an elite middleweight. It’s a great fight that headlines one of the best TV cards of the year, and it will be interesting to see not only what happens in the fight, but also what happens with Machida next.

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