Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
It wasn't a crowd-pleaser, it wasn't even decisive, but it was apparently, enough.
Lyoto Machida has swapped spots with Dan Henderson as the UFC light-heavyweight division's No. 1 contender by virtue of his split-decision victory in the UFC 157 co-main event, according to UFC president Dana White.
White, like many in the sold-out Honda Center, wasn't exactly enamored by the action, but said he couldn't deny the "Dragon" after his split-decision win.
"He just beat the No.1 contender which would make him the No. 1 contender," White said.
Henderson had been the top contender for over a year but was never able to fight for the championship due to a knee injury that knocked him out of the ill-fated UFC 151 card.
According to FightMetric, Henderson out-landed Machida 54-28 in their three-round bout, but most of that edge came from a third round in which he landed 34 strikes to Machida's seven.
All three judges saw the fight differently. Michael Bell had rounds one and two for Machida. Derek Cleary had rounds one and three for Machida, and Cecil Peoples, who scored the fight for Henderson, had rounds one and three scored for the 42-year-old American.
The bout was marked by several periods of inaction as both men circled, trying to draw the other to him. White acknowledged that with some style match-ups, such a thing is sometimes unavoidable.
"Dan Henderson is one of the toughest guys in the sport," he said. "You don't knock Dan Henderson out. Lyoto took some big shots from Dan. Dan took some big shots from Lyoto. It wasn’t a barn-burner, it wasn’t not the most exciting fight you’ve ever seen. You won’t be writing stories about it until the end of time but Lyoto won the fight. He beat the No. 1 contender. He beat Dan Henderson."
Machida, who has at times flirted with the idea of moving down to middleweight, said he would cash in his title shot, waiting for the winner of the April matchup between champion Jon Jones and challenger Chael Sonnen.
Despite White's proclamation, the winner of April's Alexander Gustafsson vs. Gegard Mousasi matchup is thought to have an outside shot at the top challenger status.
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