A vintage showing, it was not, but Lyoto Machida made his long-awaited homecoming count nonetheless.
Eleven years to the day after he debuted in the UFC, the 39-year-old edged fellow middleweight Eryk Anders by split decision and snapped a three-fight stoppage skid in his native Belem, Brazil to cap Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 125.
In the immediate aftermath of his first victory since December 2014, Machida called out soon-to-be-retired ex-divisional champ Michael Bisping.
He didn't quite turn back the clock, but Machida still bore shades of the man who held a light heavyweight crown many moons ago throughout the five-round headliner. The Brazilian remained on his bicycle as Anders took the center of the cage, chipping away at his base with low kicks for the bulk of the first two frames.
Anders remained patient and picked his shots, closing the distance with alarming speed when the mood struck, and while he never managed to hold Machida to the mat for more than a few moments, he soon had his foe dripping crimson after cracking Machida with a knee in transition.
The former Alabama linebacker landed the far more damaging blows, and had Machida retreating with every power left hand that found its home, but often followed his entries with takedown attempts the Brazilian easily defended as opposed to letting his mitts fly.
Machida diversified his kicking game as the fight wore on – repeatedly connecting to Anders' midsection – while darting into the pocket in spurts to land straight punches. He didn't score much in the way of a telling blow, but the karateka ultimatelyan all-too-patient Anders to earn the nod on two of three scorecards for a much-needed victory.
Anders – who’d challenged Machida to a dance in his home country after besting Markus Perez in December – lost for the first time in 11 pro bouts.
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