As the UFC on FOX 4 co-main event wore on, you could sense Ryan Bader getting more and more frustrated. He couldn't navigate the distance necessary to hit Machida, and certainly couldn't get close enough to initiate a takedown. Faced with that quandary, Bader chose to take the direct path and rush him.
Machida perfectly timed the charge, uncoiling a right hand that knocked Bader cold.
The finish came at 1:32 of the second round.
Given UFC president Dana White's pre-fight announcement that the most impressive of the four main card light-heavyweights would earn a title fight, Machida set the bar for Mauricio Rua and Brandon Vera.
"I feel very well," Machida said afterward. "I think it was a great performance. I want to say, 'The Dragon's back.'"
As usual, Machida got off to a slow start, trying to draw Bader in with his feints and hand movement. Bader took his time but occasionally jumped in with wild right hands that missed badly. Machida soon walloped him with a kick to the body that left Bader marked up. By the end of the first round, it was clear that Machida was in control of the standup.
Facing that scenario, Bader tried to initiate action, but his charge was met with extreme resistance.
Fighting for the first time since his loss to Jones, Machida improved his record to 18-3.
Bader had his two-fight win streak snapped, and he's now 14-3.