Prior to his UFC 163 loss to Phil Davis, UFC light heavyweight contender Lyoto Machida was no stranger to controversial decisions—he had, after all, experienced both ends of the spectrum with a questionable decision victory in his title fight against Shogun Rua and an equally odd decision loss to Rampage Jackson not long thereafter.
Sure, neither of those bouts delivered a FightMetric analysis so directly opposed to what the on-site judges had scored on Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro, but they granted the opportunity for questions to arise of Machida's possible transition to the UFC's middleweight roster.
With four of his last eight bouts going to decision, Machida is at an odd crossroads where blowout victories at light heavyweight are no longer prime for the taking. It's no surprise, then, that fans and media alike began to whisper of his possible middleweight relocation not long after Chris Weidman dethroned Anderson Silva at UFC 162.
But perhaps it's not so simple.
Convenience and logic would certainly play into Machida's willingness to move. Silva is, after all, no longer the residing kingpin at 185. With his ousting, Machida has a window of opportunity to pursue the middleweight belt.
For all intents and purposes, a 20-pound weight cut would serve him admirably—he would be taking his lethal ensemble of karate-based strikes and evasive maneuvers to a division that hadn't yet experienced them.
But before even leaving the HSBC Arena shortly after the disappointing decision loss, Machida shed light on a rather obvious fight to take after Saturday night's defeat: a rematch against Davis to firmly avenge the controversial decision.
When asked about the possible second attempt during an interview with MMAFighting's Ariel Helwani, Machida boldly exclaimed, "Yes, I have no doubt. I want to rematch with Phil Davis because I want to prove that I can beat him."
Even if the UFC were hesitant to present another go at Davis-Machida, the "Dragon" isn't heavily impacted by this loss. He entered the bout with an official No. 1 contender slot in the UFC light heavyweight rankings, whereas Davis barely broke the Top 10 cutoff. It stands to reasons that such a controversial decision won't send Machida plummeting downward.
Moving to a fresh weight class could potentially sacrifice some of the momentum he's built at 205. Fresh faces might present fresh opportunities for a calamitous defeat. Would it be wise for Machida to leave the division on such an odd note, only to risk the uncharted waters of 185?
Worse yet, he can't underestimate the consequences of his bond with Silva. In an interview with ESPN, the "Spider" illuminated how close his relationship is with Machida:
We spend more time together than with our own families. We share the pains, the frustrations, and just because [Dana White] wants to sell a fight that [Dana White] thinks it would be cool and that the public would like to see two companions fighting. [Dana White] wants to match a fight with two friends? That's impossible, it only happens with people who aren't real friends.
If Silva is triumphant in his December rematch against Weidman, Machida would be left as the odd man out—plenty of middleweight matchups with no willingness to actually challenge for the middleweight belt.
Is that a risk worth taking, or would he be better served with some more time at light heavyweight as the year draws to a close?
During the post-fight interview at UFC 163, Machida despondently looked into the crowd and voiced his dismay: "I don't know what they're judging—just listen to the crowd and they'll tell you what happened. (My corner) told me to go in hard, and that's what I tried to do. I don't know what happened."
The reality of the case is that many in the MMA community felt much the same way.
Machida will need to take some time to collect and compose—scampering away to middleweight leaves behind the viable rematch against Davis, not to mention a bevy of fights made possible by his top-tier rank within the division. A trilogy fight against Shogun Rua certainly comes to mind. Keep in mind that—unlike a title fight against Silva—he has no reservations about a second attempt to solve the Jon Jones puzzle.
If the year draws to a close and Machida still feels disheartened by his efforts at light heavyweight, a drop to the lower weight class would be reasonable enough.
In the interim, he's best served by maximizing his efforts in a division he's long called home. Considering his library of highlight reel finishes at light heavyweight, there's no reason to doubt that Machida's return to form is only one flashy knockout away.
Artem Moshkovich is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for MMA news and more.
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