UFC 98 Morning After: How Will Anyone Beat Lyoto Machida?

Lyoto Machida winsThe light heavyweight division is the most talented weight class in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but after watching Lyoto Machida dominate Rashad Evans for the title Saturday night at UFC 98, I'm having a very hard time seeing how anyone is going to beat him any time soon.

That might sound like a crazy thing to say, because upsets happen all the time in mixed martial arts, and the light heavyweight title has changed hands four times in the last two years. But the fundamental way to win a fight is to hurt your opponent without getting hurt yourself, and there's no one better at that than Machida.


"I was blown away by his performance tonight," UFC president Dana White said of Machida afterward. "Absolutely blown away."

Machida's first title defense will come against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and as great as Rampage is, I'm having a very difficult time seeing him beating Machida. In fact, of all the top light heavyweights in MMA, I actually think Rampage -- with his hard-charging, hard-punching style -- might be the least likely to beat Machida.

If Machida beats Jackson late in 2009, there are several potential challengers for him in 2010. I think the two toughest would be Forrest Griffin and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, both of whom would employ a barrage of strikes on their feet. But I'd be surprised to see either one of them beat Machida.

The closest anyone has come to beating Machida was when Tito Ortiz -- who had been dominated for the first 14 minutes of their bout last year -- nearly pulled out a last-minute submission. I could see Machida maybe losing a fight like that, with a good wrestler getting him on the ground and getting into an advantageous position to submit him. Some day I could see one of the UFC's young up-and-comers, like Jon Jones or Ryan Bader, being in that position. But that wouldn't happen any time soon.

None of this is to say Machida is unbeatable. No one is unbeatable. But Machida improved to 15-0 on Saturday night, and he's still improving. Would anyone be surprised to see Machida run his record to 20-0 before he loses?

UFC 98 Photos

    Rashad Evans falls to the floor after Lyoto Machida (not pictured) knocks him out during their light heavyweight title bout at UFC 98 on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas. Click through to see more action photos from UFC 98.

    Al Bello, Zuffa LLC / Getty Images

    Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida stare each other down before their UFC 98 match on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas.

    UFC

    Lyoto Machida battles Rashad Evans during their UFC 98 match on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas.

    UFC

    Lyoto Machida punches Rashad Evans during their UFC 98 match on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas.

    UFC

    Lyoto Machida punches Rashad Evans during their UFC 98 match on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas.

    UFC

    Lyoto Machida punches Rashad Evans during their UFC 98 match on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas.

    UFC

    Lyoto Machida battles Rashad Evans during their UFC 98 match on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas.

    UFC

    Lyoto Machida punches Rashad Evans during their match at UFC 98 on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas.

    Al Bello, Zuffa LLC / Getty Images

    Lyoto Machida celebrates his second-round knockout win against Rashad Evans at UFC 98 on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas.

    UFC

    Lyoto Machida celebrates winning the light heavyweight title at UFC 98 on May 23, 2009 in Las Vegas.

    UFC

Click through to see more action photos from UFC 98.

My favorite sights of UFC 98
1. Matt Hughes and Matt Serra hugging after their three-round battle, which was the culmination of a two-year war of words. If these two guys can hug it out, anyone can.
2. Drew McFedries coming out swinging in his knockout win over Xavier Foupa-Pokam. I love a good tactician like Machida, but I also love an undercard fighter like McFedries doing all he can to get a quick, exciting finish.
3. Evans standing up in the Octagon after his loss and congratulating Machida, saying Machida was a tough puzzle to solve. Evans was classy in his first defeat.

Quotes of UFC 98
"I'm just going to be a little too much for Dan Miller. I'm a little bigger than him, I'm a little stronger than him, I'm a little more experienced than him, I'm better than him in every area." -- Chael Sonnen in the pre-recorded video the UFC showed before his fight with Miller. That turned out to be a perfect description of how their fight went: Sonnen just turned out to be better than Miller in every area, and he won a one-sided unanimous decision.

"Lyoto Machida is as good as any fighter we've ever seen in the UFC." -- Strong -- and correct -- words from UFC announcer Mike Goldberg.

"Like I've always said before, I'm not going anywhere." -- Matt Hughes, making clear that even though his win over Serra was the final fight on his UFC contract, he has no intention of exploring free agency.

"He's tough, man. He hung in there. I really felt that it came down to that third round ... I thought that I squeezed it out." -- Matt Serra, saying he thinks he deserved the decision after his close fight with Hughes.

UFC 98 Awards
Fight of the Night: Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra. Yes, it lived up to the hype.

Knockout of the Night: Lyoto Machida. That's the second straight knockout of the night award for a guy who people used to call boring.

Submission of the Night: Brock Larson. It was a very impressive showing by Larson, who stopped Mike Pyle with an arm triangle choke in the first round.

Hughes, Serra, Machida and Larson each get $60,000 bonuses.

Good call: I know a lot of people disagree, but I think the judges called the Hughes-Serra bout correctly, with Hughes winning the second and third rounds. All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Hughes, and I did too.

Bad call: Referee Yves Lavigne was booed by the fans at the MGM Grand for what many thought was a quick stoppage in the undercard bout between Kyle Bradley and Phillippe Nover. That may have affected Lavigne later in the night, when he looked slow and tentative before stopping the fight between McFedries and Foupa-Pokam.

Ground game: Want to know why you have to be a well-rounded fighter if you're going to make it in the UFC? Just watch heavyweight Pat Barry's loss to Tim Hague. Barry is a very talented kickboxer, but he hasn't yet learned the ground game, and that's why Hague had no trouble taking the fight to the mat and submitting Barry with a guillotine in the first round.

Stock up: Larson's win was the 26th in 28 professional MMA fights. Yes, it's true that Larson hasn't often faced elite competition, but there are very, very few fighters at any level who have a record as good as 26-2.

Stock down: Sean Sherk. Before his fight with Frank Edgar, I had Sherk ranked as the No. 2 lightweight in MMA. But after Edgar dominated him for three rounds, Sherk suddenly looks old and slow.

Fight I want to see next: There are so many potentially great fights in the light heavyweight division, but one that hasn't been discussed that I'd love to see is Shogun Rua vs. Rashad Evans. That would be a fascinating battle. We've had a lot of those in the UFC recently.

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