The UFC returns to New Jersey this weekend for a FOX UFC Fight Night card featuring two of the best fighters in the world at 185 pounds as former champion Lyoto Machida looks to climb back into another title fight against Luke Rockhold, who has absolutely decimated his last three opponents.
Machida is also coming off a big win in his last fight where he terminated C.B. Dollaway early in the first round of their matchup with a body kick that left the former “Ultimate Fighter” finalist gasping for air.
In addition to Machida and Rockhold, the FOX UFC Fight Night card also features the No. 1 ranked middleweight contender as Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza is also back in action as well as two of the top 10 women at 115 pounds.
There are plenty of great fights watch at FOX UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Rockhold but here are five good reasons to make sure to tune in on Saturday night.
A Real Life Karate Kid
Lyoto Machida’s background in karate is well known, but no one in the history of MMA has applied the techniques of the old school martial art quite as well as the former UFC light heavyweight champion.
From his fighting stance, which often times will confuse and throw opponents off their game as they try to find a way to get inside and actually hurt Machida to his lightning quick counters, the Brazilian is a karate master and it’s been proven time and time again during his fights.
Machida accounts for the third most knockdowns in UFC history with 13 and he accomplishes those deadly strikes with 56-percent accuracy, which is also the third highest in UFC light heavyweight history. Machida strikes first, strikes hard and shows no mercy.
In his last fight against C.B. Dollaway, Machida only needed the former Arizona State wrestler to make one mistake while attacking him and he uncorked a hellish body kick that not only landed flush but absolutely demolished the veteran middleweight’s midsection. That one kick put a stop to Dollaway and Machida has plenty more where that came from.
Plus he actually landed a crane kick to finish a fight once upon a time!
The Next Middleweight Champion?
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 08: (L-R) Luke Rockhold of the United States kicks Michael Bisping of England in their middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Allphones Arena on November 8, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC-Zuffa LLC
As great as Machida has been throughout his career, it’s Luke Rockhold who will walk into the Prudential Center in New Jersey as a slight favorite according to the oddsmakers and with a win he may trot right across the bridge and challenge middleweight champion Chris Weidman in his hometown of New York City.
Since losing in his first UFC fight to Vitor Belfort, Rockhold has been on a tear with his last three fights not going past the second round.
He crushed Costas Philippou with a brutal body kick before tapping out Tim Boetsch and then made short work of Michael Bisping first with a head kick prior to submitting the veteran British middleweight on the mat.
At 30 years of age, Rockhold may have just entered his physical prime and there’s no better time for him to make a serious run at the middleweight title than right now. Rockhold is certainly motivated enough and if he can stop Machida the same way he’s done his last three opponents he will certainly send a message to the rest of the division as well as Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort, who will battle it out in May at UFC 187 that he’s coming for the title.
No other middleweight outside of Weidman has beaten Machida at 185 pounds so Rockhold knows a win likely puts him in a championship bout and that’s long been his goal since coming to the UFC from Strikeforce.
Don’t Forget the No. 1 Middleweight Also in Action
MASHANTUCKET, CT – SEPTEMBER 05: (R-L) Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza submits Gegard Mousasi by a guillotine choke in their middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Foxwoods Resort Casino on September 5, 2014 in Mashantucket, Connecticut. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC-Zuffa LLC
It’s easy to look at the headline matchup between Machida and Rockhold and immediately target the winner as the next likely contender at 185 pounds, but one fight down on the card the man with the No. 1 ranking next to his name will be competing in the co-main event.
Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza has gone undefeated since coming to the UFC with four wins and three finishes in that span of time. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion is well known for his virtually unstoppable submission game, but he’s also adapted some very heavy-handed striking, which has led to victories in a number of fights including a TKO over former title contender Yushin Okami and rising middleweight prospect Derek Brunson.
Now it’s easy to get disappointed that ‘Jacare’ is no longer facing No. 6 ranked middleweight Yoel Romero because the winner of that fight could have easily made an argument for a title shot as well. Unfortunately, Romero got hurt and he’s been replaced by Chris Camozzi, who Souza already submitted previously in his UFC debut.
FAIRFAX, VA – APRIL 04: (R-L) Chad Mendes punches Ricardo Lamas in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at the Patriot Center on April 4, 2015 in Fairfax, Virginia. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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Still, watching Souza go to work is always worth watching because he’s not only one of the best middleweights on the planet but a proven finisher. And there’s always the flipside as well — what if Camozzi comes in on six days notice and puts Souza away? Everybody loves a good underdog story and Camozzi has a chance to pull off a massive upset in his return to the UFC this weekend.
Featherweight Strikers Throw Down
Another featured bout on the main card this weekend will pit Cub Swanson against rising featherweight contender Max Holloway in a battle between two of the best strikers at 145 pounds.
Swanson is coming off a tough loss in his last fight to Frankie Edgar, but prior to that defeat, the veteran featherweight had won six bouts in a row with four of them being finished by knockout or TKO. Swanson is dangerous everywhere when he’s standing and he possesses some of the most vicious one-punch knockout power in the entire division.
Holloway is no stranger to striking either with his long range and background in Muay Thai kickboxing. The young Hawaiian has racked up some gaudy numbers since coming to the UFC as well including his ridiculous output where he lands 5.62 strikes per minute — more than double the UFC average of 2.5.
And chances are this fight will be decided on the feet especially considering when you combine the takedown averages for both Swanson and Holloway it equals less than one attempt per 15 minutes in the cage. In other words, these two guys are going to swing at each other until one of them falls down and doesn’t get up again.
The Next Big Thing
The strawweight division in the UFC is still fairly new, but 21-year old phenom Paige VanZant certainly took the world by storm last November when she made her debut as the first fight of the night on the preliminary card and proceeded to steal the show with a “Fight of the Night” performance.
VanZant might just be the star the strawweight division has been waiting for with her exciting style and bubbly personality. She also happens to train with arguably the best camp in the world for fighters in the lighter weight divisions at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding VanZant, but veteran fighter Felice Herrig would absolutely love to stop her and steal the spotlight on Saturday night.
Herrig has taken on some of the best fighters in her division and she also competed on the recent season of “The Ultimate Fighter” where she took out long time rival Heather Jo Clark before beating Lisa Ellis in the show finale. Now Herrig looks to get another win while sending VanZant back to the prelims after her second trip to the Octagon.