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What would you say if someone told you there was a light heavyweight who many would agree was the future of the division? What if they told you he was an unstoppable force, that no matter who they threw at him, no one could put together a game plan to beat him?
What would you say if someone told you this man would define an era of MMA that would also change everything we had known about the division he now ruled?
What would you say if they told you it was not UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but a man who knows all to well about ascending to heights of unbelievable expectation, only to fall back to reality and rebuild from there?
It was little more than two years ago, the UFC light heavyweight division had entered the “Machida era”. Lyoto Machida had stomped rising star Rashad Evans into darkness to become champion, and at the time there was not one person on the planet who would have bet against him in the division.
Since that glorious night of “The Dragon's” career things have gone way off the charted course. Having barely edged a victory over “Shogun” Rua, Machida saw the hype rapidly sway from high praise to relentless questioning of his place at the top of the division.
One fight later he was destroyed without question in a rematch with Rua and consequently fell in his next bout in a split decision loss to “Rampage” Jackson. The career of Lyoto Machida had scraped bottom as deep as the highs he attained during the peak of his career.
Now coming off a devastating knockout victory in which he retired MMA legend Randy Couture, Machida has regained a fraction of the momentum that once thrust him forward in the division.
However miniscule that momentum may be, it has become the catalyst for Machida to now face a new king who walks a path Machida knows all too well. Jon Jones has had a meteoric rise in this sport not unlike the rise of the sport itself.
His rapid ascent has shocked fans, competitors, and perhaps even himself. His raw talent is being sharpened like the edge of a blade with every move he makes and it would appear Jones is the latest unstoppable force. We have indeed entered the “Bones era”, have we not?
No matter how amazing of a competitor Jon Jones may be, he is competing in one of the most dynamic and competitive divisions in the sport. The UFC light heavyweight division is a breeding ground for danger and uncertainty. Especially for a champion.
Chuck Liddell, Quinton Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, and Shogun could all tell Jon Jones exactly how fleeting that strap may be. But none of them are Jones and so far Shogun and Jackson have learned first hand what Jones is all about.
Up next is former champ Machida. It is his time to see if he can explain the finer points of being a champion to the young phenom. Many have forgotten the best Machida they have ever seen. His recent performances weigh heavier than his over all reputation.
There are those who remember who and what Lyoto Machida really is. Notably Blackhouse manager Ed Soares. Soares sees a great opportunity in this fight between two men at different places in their careers, but equally two men who have walked similar paths.
Soares recently sat down and spoke with Todd Jackson of Hurtsbad MMA about his take on the match up between Lyoto Machida and Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title. Soares offered an optimistic yet realistic perception on Machida's chances, and what they are facing in the rising star Jones.
What does Soares see when he looks across the cage from his fighter? “When it comes to Jon Jones, I see what everyone else sees. Jon Jones is just a very talented and very athletic guy.”
Soares explained what he sees as angles Machida can exploit against the champ. “I think Lyoto matches up very well with him. We have never seen Jon Jones face a south paw before. And we have never seen Jon Jones face somebody who has as much movement and the style of fighting that Lyoto has.”
Soares went on to explain, “I think it's a great match up. If there is anyone out there in the light heavyweight division that has the skills and the tools to beat Jon Jones, it's Lyoto Machida. We're very excited for that fight, and we believe Lyoto has all the tools to win that fight.”
While Soares is in a position that requires he take a stance with Machida, he was sure to not discount the champ. As he stated, he sees what everyone else sees, so it is par for the course to give credit where it is due.
Soares talked about the champ. “I believe they are both top tier athletes. Jon Jones doesn't have the experience that Lyoto has. But Jon Jones, every time he goes out there, he is proving to everybody that he deserves to be where he is.”
The Blackhouse manager went on to say, “I take nothing away from Jon Jones. He has always been very respectful towards people, and towards us. I think he is a great guy, and a great champion. At the end of the day, I feel that styles make fights, and I think this is the type of fight that could potentially complicate Jon Jones.”
When asked if Jones could take any lesson from the rise and fall of Machida's previous career expectations, he said no. He offered this explanation. “I just think that Jon Jones has a target on his back now. Everyone wants what he has, and that is the title. I think he just needs to always be very well prepared. I'm sure he will, he seems like a very responsible guy, very focused, he wants to retain that belt.”
As for his number one light heavyweight contender, “I can tell you Lyoto is going to come in there as the best Lyoto Machida that anyone has ever seen. He is going to go in there and give it his all so he can take that belt back to Brazil.”
Take that belt back to Brazil, a place it has once called its home, right on Lyoto's mantle. Is it that far fetched of an idea to believe that when two men compete, one a former champion and one a current champion, that just about anything can happen?
What is focused on today is the unstoppable run of Jon Jones. What is overlooked is the legacy of Machida in his pre Rua era. Don't forget, the loss to Jackson was not a blow out by any means. Has he been the sharpest Machida we have known lately?
The answer is no.
If he so happens to live up to Ed Soares expectations and enter his bout with Jon Jones in top shape, there is not doubt what so ever that he can make a fight of it.
The best Lyoto Machida vs the best Jon Jones sounds like quite a compelling match up. Hype and pre conceived notions be damned. There is no doubt that the hype train will blow right past Machida as Jones is touted over and over again as exactly what he is.
Jones is a rising star that will impact this sport on various levels for many years to come.
But while the sheep are following the herd, the true fight fans will understand that this is a game of uncertainty and unpredictability. Past performances never dictate the future, and the future rarely comes as expected.
So with all that in mind, touch gloves gentlemen and let's get it on because this quite frankly sounds like a hell of a match up between two of the sport's top light heavyweights. What's not to like?
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