Last night was all about four middleweights - Ronaldo Souza, Francis Carmont, Lyoto Machida, and Gegard Mousasi all vying for the right to be the next title challenger later at some point later in the year. Machida and Mousasi, both standouts at 205, dropped to 185 within months of each other -- for Mousasi it was a return to 185 after six years at LHW -- and were paired up in the UFC Fight Night 36 main event.
The first round was a general feeling out process, as both men were keen to counter instead of initiate attacks. Machida scored primarily with body kicks and countershots while Mousasi worked the leg kicks and jab. Round 2 saw a more aggressive Lyoto, as he came out with a (missed) jumping kick, and he cracked Mousasi with a hard head kick that somehow didn't even cause Gegard to wobble. Mousasi closed the round strong with some boxing combinations and more leg kicks.
Machida continued to fluster Mousasi with his extraordinary sense of timing and speed, increasing his output with knees to the body, lightning fast counters, and punishing body kicks. The 4th round was arguably the most entertaining, as Machida was taken down briefly only to scramble his way back to his feet. Then Machida took Mousasi down and started working towards side control. The ex-Strikeforce champ swept the ex-UFC champ and secured top position. Mousasi fended off the kimura and omoplata attempts and aimed for back mount, but Machida shrugged him off and moments later was hit with an illegal upkick while Machida had a knee down. No point deduction was given.
The last round was definitively Machida's, as he took advantage of a Mousasi slip and controlled him for the remaining 2 minutes. Machida unsuccessfully tried to flatten Mousasi out to go for a rear-naked choke, and as Mousasi worked his way out of the unenviable position, he dropped to his guard with Machida standing, and Machida dove in with a crushing right hand that appeared to land and visibly hurt the iron-chinned Mousasi as the horn sounded shortly thereafter.
Official Result: Lyoto Machida (20-4) def. Gegard Mousasi (34-3-2) by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46).
What was the high point of the fight?
Definitely the 4th round sequence of back-and-forth grappling, with both men working hard to improve their position on top. It was high-level stuff between two excellent fighters.
Where do these two go from here?
Machida may have broken his foot, which is no surprise given how hard he landed those kicks on Mousasi as he seemed unfazed. The title shot is dependent on what the UFC decides after Chris Weidman/Vitor Belfort in May.
Mousasi sees a big opportunity slip away, as Machida was just a little bit too much for him to handle. He still acquitted himself well, and is more than capable of beating top 10 middleweights, so perhaps a fight with Francis Carmont or Mark Munoz suits him well.
Watch now, later, or never?
Personally I'd go with now, because I thought it was a brilliant and highly competitive technical match-up. It was a deserved FOTN (not that there were many thrillers on this card), but I wouldn't be opposed to a "later" viewing. Regardless, you should watch it at some point.