clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lyoto Machida’s reward for perseverance was three extra shots while he slept

New, comments
MMA: UFC Fight Night-Brunson vs Machida Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

One of MMA’s inside jokes over the years has been to mention the “Machida Era” when cautioning overzealous enthusiasts about false prophets. Joe Rogan uttered those words after Lyoto Machida — who’s second only to Easter Island in the category of “enigmas” — ran his record to 15-0 when he knocked out Rashad Evans to win the light heavyweight title eight years ago. It’s haunted him ever since, as Machida began to slip pretty quickly thereafter. Heading into Saturday night, he had gone 7-7 since the declaration. His unsolvable karate style had been solved 50 percent of the time, which just isn’t a sustainable rate of mystery.

On Sunday, his record since the ushering in of his own era now stands at 7-8. His latest defeat sucked the rest of the air out of Sao Paulo.

Things were humming along pretty well for the Fight Night, as the UFC put on one of those fun Brazil vs. The World motifs that bring out the frenzies. Through 10 bouts, the Brazilians were 9-1 against the tourists, turning the evening into a national showcase. Then Colby Covington fought Demian Maia, and the mood lost its festivity. Covington — perhaps the UFC’s ugliest American, and certainly its smuggest — gave a pretty good lashing to the country’s quiet hero, Demian Maia, which, to his credit, is exactly what he said he would do. To add insult to injury, he called Sao Paulo a “dump” and the gathered “filthy animals” as the veins popped out of his head.

I guess when charisma fails, kill them with obnoxiousness.

(If there was a silver lining it was that welterweight champ Tyron Woodley, who was at the heart of Covington’s tirade, never gained as many fans as he did Saturday night. All he had to do was find himself in a jackass’s crosshairs to become a beautiful glint in the Hammer of Justice).

If that weren’t enough, Machida — who was coming back from a bogus two-year suspension and reconstructive nose surgery — didn’t have the homecoming he hoped for against Derek Brunson in the main event. In fact, Brunson slammed a left into the broad side of his face, and then another left that put him on his back, followed by vicious forearm through the fleeting stream of consciousness, and three additional kill shots to the long departed. The building went stone quiet. Machida, who like Maia is a reserved professional who is beloved by his countrymen, got starched in the main event. You want to talk about a sour ending? All that was left of the party were the empty beer cups, many of which emptied mid-flight towards Covington’s head.

The somber note for anybody who watched on television was that two of the UFC’s longest-tenured Brazilian contenders showed up as diminished versions of themselves. Maia, who has now lost back-to-back fights for the second time in his career, hinted afterwards that he might be ready to hit the sunset. Though he bloodied Covington’s face, he looked exhausted by the end of the second round, the fumes of whatever was left of his high hopes.

Machida, at 39, looked like his enigmatic self for a little bit there, with the straight-backed reset after exchanges and the meditative arm swings to re-establish his bearings. Then he just looked old. He got caught and — boom, just like that — two years of personal quest to get back turned to putty. It wasn’t the storybook return he envisioned.

Yet that’s about as poetic as the fight game gets with its elders. It was Machida that left no doubt for Randy Couture that he’d hung around too long at UFC 129, delivering that ridiculous kick. Machida’s the one that aged Mark Munoz in dog years in 2013 with a head kick in Manchester, too; though Munoz fought a couple more times, Machida was the first to make the writing on the wall legible for him. Machida is no stranger to the objective of the game — the goal is always to replace the man in front of you.

This time it happened to be Brunson who delivered some harsh reality to the “Dragon,” who had to find it in himself to stick around and try his hand again. It was an unceremonious way to make a return. And though it might not literally be the end, it wasn’t the new beginning Machida envisioned, either. It’s the delirious nature of a cutthroat league. Covington did to Maia what Maia did to Carlos Condit in Vancouver last year, and Machida fell just to hear Brunson call out Luke Rockhold (somewhat at gunpoint). In the end, we were left with the only constant that exists in MMA — that is, a lot reflection.

And certainly, the end of the Machida Era — whatever that came to mean — was a small part of that reflection.