Lyoto Machida’s bout against Vitor Belfort at UFC 224 wasn’t exactly a spectacular fight, per se. But, it had a spectacular end. What was largely a six-minute staring contest ended in the blink of an eye, when the ‘Dragon’ uncorked a signature snapping front kick to the jaw that sent Belfort crashing to the canvas, unconscious.
Despite having landed similar shots before, and despite the eerie similarity to Belfort’s KO loss to Anderson Silva back in 2011, Machida admitted to assembled media after the fight that he didn’t really plan on throwing the kick, he merely saw the opportunity and took it.
“That’s just something that presented at the time, that I saw,” Machida said. “I was moving, I was faking, doing my stuff, and suddenly I saw the hole. I saw the opportunity and do my kick. And I did my kick.”
What followed after appeared to be a somewhat uncharacteristic moment of bravado for the former light heavyweight champion and middleweight title contender. As Belfort slumped to the canvas, and the referee rushed to to intervene, Machida calmly placed his hands on his hips, and looked to admire his work.
However, it turns out that the pose was entirely incidental, and Machida was merely waiting to see if Belfort was truly out and if the fight was over.
“So, in that moment, I was thinking that... I have to respect my opponents, because the martial arts teach everyone this, to respect,” Machida explained. “So respect, and at the same time bow to your opponent when you do something. Even if you win, or you lose, you have to respect your opponent. So, at that moment I put my hands on my waist, here, it was because I was expecting any reaction from Vitor Belfort. But as soon as I realized he couldn’t do anything, I just sit down on my knees and bow in respect of everything that he did for the sport and for the person, and for the professional.”
But, that doesn’t mean that he was necessarily overly concerned with Vitor’s safety in the moment, either. Machida revealed that, in the middle of a fight, he largely blocks out any emotion.
“I block everything,” Machida said, when asked if he was worried about Belfort after the KO. “But, I have to realize that I have to control the situation. When I have the control of the situation, I can stop or do something more. But normally, when I see my opponent, that he is laying down and, like, passed out... So, the thing that I have to do is just to stop and control everything and see. And that’s it. I don’t need to do anything. Because, if I do something and he’s passing out at that moment, I can’t affect him too much.”
The win marks the Brazilian’s first KO since defeating C.B. Dollaway back in 2014. A series of decisive losses, coupled with some trouble with the UFC’s USADA drug testing program have made the last three years something less than spectacular for top-ranked contender. But, after his latest highlight, Machida wants to assure fans that he’s returned to form.
“I’m back. And I’m ready for my next opponent.”