Lyoto Machida is a new man at middleweight. | Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
No one can argue with the early returns on Lyoto Machida at 185 pounds.
Machida knocked out Reign MMA’s Mark Munoz with a first-round head kick in the UFC Fight Night 30 main event on Saturday at the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester, England. “The Dragon” felled his training partner 3:10 into round one, as he entered the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight division in dramatic fashion.
Munoz never seemed comfortable against the former 205-pound titleholder. Machida softened “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” with well-placed body kicks and then fired upstairs, his shin finding its intended mark. Munoz crumpled where he stood, and though not completely unconscious, he was dazed enough for referee Leon Roberts to intercede on his behalf. A two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State University, Munoz did not attempt a takedown in the bout and failed to land a single strike against the elusive Brazilian.
Machida becomes an instant contender at 185 pounds, a division the 35-year-old karateka had long avoided in order to dodge a potential matchup with longtime friend Anderson Silva. However, Silva’s stunning defeat to Chris Weidman at UFC 162 altered the middleweight landscape. Machida carries with him one of the stronger resumes in the UFC, with wins over Dan Henderson, Ryan Bader, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. Add Munoz to the list.
In terms of what the immediate future holds for Machida, perhaps a middleweight title eliminator with Ronaldo Souza is in order. “Jacare” last appeared at UFC Fight Night 28 in September, when he stopped Yushin Okami on first-round punches in Brazil. Souza, 33, has rattled off five consecutive wins, pairing improved standup with his otherworldly grappling skills.
Munoz, meanwhile, still holds a seat at the top 10 table in the middleweight division. The 35-year-old had won five of his previous six fights entering his ill-fated encounter with Machida. He was originally scheduled to meet Michael Bisping before “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner withdrew from the headliner with a serious eye injury.
There is no shortage of potential opponents for Munoz at 185 pounds. Look no further than Costas Philippou, the heavy-handed Cypriot who saw his five-fight winning streak snapped in a disappointing unanimous decision loss to Tristar Gym representative Francis Carmont at UFC 165 on Sept. 21.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night 30 “Machida vs. Munoz,” here are four other matchups that ought to be made:
Jimi Manuwa vs. Rafael Cavalcante-Igor Pokrajac winner: The alluring Manuwa remains undefeated as a professional mixed martial artist, but his last two foes -- Cyrille Diabate and Ryan Jimmo -- have exited the Octagon with what appeared to be non-contact leg injuries. Jimmo was the latest Manuwa opponent to leave the cage with a limp. As the former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder backed away in retreat, his leg gave way and resulted in an anticlimactic second-round finish. While Manuwa has lived something of a charmed life of late, no one can deny his frightening physical tools or the results they have generated. “Feijao” and Pokrajac will lock horns at UFC Fight Night 32 on Nov. 9.
Jim Hettes vs. Cole Miller: Hettes was sensational in his return from a 13-month layoff, as he choked Scottish import Robert Whiteford unconscious with a second-round triangle. The promising AMA Fight Club representative ran circles around Whiteford on the ground, ultimately landing the triangle choke. Hettes, who rebounded from a disappointing defeat to Marcus Brimage at UFC 152, has now secured 10 of his 11 career victories by submission. American Top Team’s Miller also walked away from UFC Fight Night 30 with a win, as he held off “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 alum Andy Ogle for a unanimous decision.
John Lineker vs. Tim Elliott-Ali Bagautinov winner: Lineker can only be described as enigma at this point, his considerable ability masked by his inability to consistently make weight at 125 pounds. The former Jungle Fight champion ripped through Phil Harris in a little less than three minutes, incapacitating the English judoka with a savage right hook to the solar plexus. Lineker, who came in overweight for the third time in five UFC appearances, has won 17 of his past 18 bouts. However, until he can regulate his performance on the scale, no one will view him as a legitimate title contender in the flyweight division. Elliott and Bagautinov will collide at UFC 167 on Nov. 16.
Jessica Andrade vs. Jessica Eye: Three months after she looked overmatched against Liz Carmouche, Andrade was drawing comparisons to Brazilian legend Wanderlei Silva. The 22-year-old Brazilian prospect was equal parts ruthless and flawless, as she abused former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder Rosi Sexton for 15 minutes. Andrade winged lefts and rights with ill intent, and while she could not finish the well-respected veteran, her performance was no less dominating. Eye made her promotional debut at UFC 166, earning a split decision over former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman.