Lyoto Machida was rocked and badly hurt with strikes to his head in his last fight against Luke Rockhold. That second-round submission loss came just two months ago, at UFC on FOX 15 on April 18 in Newark.
"The Dragon," though, will be right back in the Octagon on Saturday night against fellow middleweight contender Yoel Romero in the main event of UFC Fight Night 70 in Hollywood, Fla. UFC on FOX analyst Brian Stann told MMAFighting.com it wouldn't be a surprise to see the damage Machida took against Rockhold show up against Romero.
"If he has trained very hard, if he's sparred hard for this fight, I think that could be a problem," said Stann, who will be a studio analyst for the card that airs on FOX Sports 1. "You don't heal from getting hurt like that that quickly. It can still have a ripple effect two months later. I think that's an interesting thing."
Machida (22-6) is a legend of the sport at this point. He's a former UFC light heavyweight champion and a former No. 1 contender at middleweight. We've never seen Machida as badly injured in a fight as he looked against Rockhold. Just coming out for the second round, Machida looked disoriented and wobbly. An elbow strike to the neck, that Machida felt was illegal, seemed to put the Brazilian on jelly legs.
Stann isn't sure if Machida came back too quickly, but he hopes that his coaches at Black House took the damage he sustained against Rockhold into account during this training camp.
"It absolutely could [affect Machinda] if he quickly within a month went right back n the gym and started taking shots again, absolutely," Stann said. "He can't do that. We don't think about that very often in this sport, because these are the toughest athletes on the planet and it's just not something that's focused on. We think we're invincible. But it could manifest itself if he has one of those tough training camps where he took a lot of damage.
"Luckily for Machida is that Machida is a guy who is a really hard guy to hit. If his trainers picked sparring partners for him and focused on certain areas, then it could possibly not manifest itself."
Machida, 37, goes in as a -165 favorite, a number that might have been higher if not for the Rockhold loss. Romero, 38, is a live dog. The Cuban is a former Olympic wrestling silver medalist with big-time power in his hands. The card in Florida will take place in the smaller Octagon, so that could be an inherent advantage for Romero.
Stann said Romero has the wrestling and striking to beat Machida if he mixes things up effectively. He cannot afford mental lapses that have plagued previous bouts, Stann said.
"If he has those against Machida, it could cost him and cost him dearly," the former fighter said. "He's a powerful striker, he's a good striker. He doesn't have the kind of sophisticated repertoire and arsenal that you need to outstrike Lyoto Machida. He does have the arsenal to beat him if he takes him down several times."
Romero (9-1) is great at closing distance with athleticism, but doesn't necessarily set it up well. That could be a huge red flag against someone with the precision striking and timing of Machida -- even with that tough loss to Rockhold looming over his head.
"In order to defeat Machida, we have seen that you've gotta be able to close distance," Stann said. "But you can't just close distance for closing its sakes. You can't just explode through space and attempt to brawl with him without a plan or else he'll put your lights out."