In the aftermath of the best UFC event of 2008, many people are already dreaming about the next title fight in the 205 lb division. After that event, it is hard not to want to watch the 2 men who won their fights in explosive fashion fight each other next. Who doesn't want to see "Sugar" Rashad Evans vs Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, a fight between two men who both KO'd Chuck Lidell. There is only one problem when it comes to making that happen, and it happens to be Lyoto Machida.
In a division as stacked as the Light Heavyweight division is in the UFC, you could make a case for nearly anyone at the top of that division to be deserving of a title shot. The problem is, once you get the title, you better hold on because a fall from the top should put you a few rungs down the ladder. That being said, lets look at the some of the most recent LHW champions.
Chuck Lidell, who dominated the LHW division, finally gets knocked off by Rampage Jackson. Chuck gets to fight Keith Jardine in his next fight, but even if Chuck would have beaten Jardine I still don't think in a division as stacked as the LHW division is that he should have been granted an rematch with Jackson. After Rampage beats Chuck and defends his belt against Dan Henderson, he loses via UD to Forrest Griffin. Even though I don't think that Rampage lost that fight, he still shouldn't be next in line for a title shot after beating Wanderlai Silva. Even though Silva's name holds alot of weight in the MMA world because of how dominant he was, Silva has lost 4 of 5 fights and has been brutally knocked out in 3 of the 5. Not too many people beat someone who is 1-4 in their last 5 fights and gets a title shot.
WIth that being said, Jackson should not and most likely will not receive a title shot next, most likely receiving in what I think is a more interesting fight, Griffin vs Jackson II. With Evans still undefeated, there are 2 other highly regarded undefeated LHWs and they happen to be meeting at UFC 94, on Jan. 31st. Thiago Silva vs Lyoto Machida will be a good fight, but I see the fight going just how most of Machida's fights go, with him frustrating his opponent and scoring enough points to win a 30-27 UD. If Machida can make that happen, it would put him at 14-0, 6-0 in the UFC, and the most obvious next in line for a title shot.
The big knock on Machida is that he is a pretty boring fighter. Well, if you want every fight to be like Lidell vs Silva, then yes Machida probably is a pretty boring fighter. But if you enjoy watching a precise striker who has excellent footwork, mechanics, and gameplan, than Machida is actually quite interesting. He is constantly thinking and only picks the best opportunities to move in and strike, and then quickly avoids damage. His style is similar to that of Anderson Silva's, minus the amazing knockout power. If Anderson Silva never knocked anybody out, most of his fights would look like Machida's.
Machida has not been beating up on no names either, as many critics like to suggest. His last fight showed him beating Tito Ortiz, and say what you like about Tito Ortiz, but neither of the fighters in the Main Event of UFC 92 were able to beat Tito when they faced him. The fight previous to that, he choked out Rameau Sokoudjou, which may not seem as impressive now, but you have to look at that win in respect to the time at which it took place. Coming into the fight, Rameau Sokoudjou was coming off of two HUGE knockouts in Pride, and was thought to be the next big thing in the LHW division, and would and should easily tear through the division en route to a title shot. But Machida exposed him. Machida frustrated him on the feet and then put him on his back and made him look stupid to win the first round. Then in the second round you saw what we have all seen now, Rameau Sokoudjou gassing out, and Machida easily passing his guard and getting the finish. Prior to his UFC career, he holds wins over Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonner, and BJ Penn (even if BJ was fat).
With that being said, as long as Machida delivers at UFC 94, he will be the first title defense for Rashad Evans. This is definatley NOT the match up that the UFC wants to see, because neither man has been promoted to their potential, and would most likely have to be featured on a card that has some other big fight on it to draw PPV buys (Big Nog vs Couture?). Casual fans might not enjoy it, but knowledgeable MMA fans would definatley see this fight as a great chess match and could make for one of the best fights of 2009. Watching 2 undefeated fighters is always a thrill, knowing that after the night someone will no longer be undefeated. Lets just hope that Thiago Silva doesn't ruin all the fun!