Back on Track in Brazil

ufc-fn119The talk heading into UFC Fight Night 119 was all about the return of Lyoto Machida after an 18 month USADA suspension.

That is what everyone was focusing on as Machida was a former champion and his return marked the return of one of the top middleweight contenders.

The main event was going to allow him to return to the UFC and take back that top contender role if he could get past Derek Brunson.

What was more interesting about the main event though was the fact that both fighters were not necessarily at the best points in their careers.

This fight was more about trying to establish themselves in the division as a top fighter and less about becoming a top contender.

Before his suspension, Machida had dropped two straight fights against Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero.

He had also lost three of his last four fights before his failed drug test as the former champion was no longer the consistent awkward fighter that gave everyone problems.

Although Machida will always bring his awkward karate style into every fight it is far from that puzzling style that it was years before.

Fighters had begun to figure it out and he was no longer headed into fights against other middleweights who simply didn’t know how to deal with the style.

Fighters have studied and broken down that style making it nowhere near as difficult as it used to be when he rose to the top.

That translated to tougher fights for Machida who had to deal with fighters that could figure things out and test him.

It hasn’t been great for him as he has not been able to maintain that performance that made him great keeping him as a great fighter not worthy of a title shot.

After more than a year off, he looked to reset things and begin a new winning streak that would put him on the path to the middleweight title.

He would need to get through Brunson to get that win and start a new streak but Brunson had plenty of motivation himself.

After losing two of his last three fights, Brunson needed a win to get back on track as the once fast-rising fighter was stopped.

He took a five-fight win streak into his fight against some of the top fighters in the division and couldn’t come through.

A fight against Robert Whittaker ended with a TKO while Anderson Silva handed him his second straight loss via decision.

It was long before those fights that he looked like a legitimate contender in the division if he could get through some tougher competition.

It all came to a halt quickly but his last fight against Daniel Kelly put him back in the win column.

Kelly is not necessarily a big fight or someone who was going to provide a lot of hype for Brunson but it was a good win.

With that win, he was out of the losing streak and was given a big chance to get right back into the thick of the division.

Fighting Machida was a big opportunity that he needed to take and needed to take advantage of if he wanted to get back to those top fighters.mma-sidebar.fw

He was clearly the underdog in the fight but taking on a fighter who was out of the octagon for 18 months and had just failed a USADA drug test could have been his best chance.

After his struggles with the bigger names in the division, many wondered if Brunson was simply a middle-of-the-road fighter.

He was great against a lot of fighters but put him against the top five and he wasn’t fighting up to par.

That is a bad place to be in as a UFC fighter with little forgiveness for fighters that can’t compete for a title.

If he could beat Machida he might snap out of that reputation and begin making his way to tougher competition.

Both fighters came into the night looking to prove something and that usually makes for a great fight.

Two fighters with something to prove will generally translate into an exciting fight and this time it did not disappoint.

It may not have been as exciting as the Brazilian fans may have wanted as they didn’t go after each other for a five-round battle but there were fireworks.

Machida came out with his usual stance looking to stand up and trade but Brunson got the better of him landing a big left hand that rocked the former champion.

The fight immediately went to the ground with Brunson landing some big shots to finish the fight and earn the win.

Machida’s loss is his third straight and wasn’t the start that he wanted coming back from his suspension as the veteran fighter has some work to do and his future could be in doubt.

For Brunson, the win was a big one and with two straight he is ready to move up and take another shot at the best in the division as he pursues a title.

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