Machida surprised to get Jones title shot

UFC President Dana White with fighters Joe Jones (left) and Lyoto Machida at a press conference...

UFC President Dana White with fighters Joe Jones (left) and Lyoto Machida at a press conference promoting December's UFC event in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, Oct. 12, 2011. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

TORONTO - The last time Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida was in town he sent mixed martial arts legend Randy Couture into retirement minus a tooth. Things won’t be quite so easy for the Brazilian fighter on his return trip to Toronto in December.

The 33-year-old Machida (17-2-0) will face Jon (Bones) Jones at UFC 140 as he tries to wrest away the light-heavyweight belt he once held from the now American champion.

But the elusive Machida will have his hands full with the athletic 24-year-old Jones (14-1-0) who has carved his way through what some believe is the deepest division in mixed martial arts, capturing his belt in March of this year by handily defeating Mauricio (Shogun) Rua at UFC 128 and then defending it in convincing fashion against Quinton (Rampage) Jackson at UFC 135 in September.

The two fighters sat quietly on a podium at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday afternoon with UFC head honcho Dana White between them playing master of ceremonies as the hype machine for the Dec. 10 event clicked into high gear.

“I told you guys I would deliver a main event to Canada,” White said to hoots and hollers from a large and enthusiastic crowd of fans who had gathered at the press conference to watch the drama unfold.

“Without a doubt, this is the strongest market on the planet,” White said of his promotion’s prompt return to Toronto.”

It had appeared that Jones’ next highly anticipated title defence would be against Rashad (Suga) Evans, but Evans had to bow out because of injury. That came as a disappointment to some fans, but in Machida, Jones may encounter an even more formidable opponent.

Both fighters are very skilled and Machida has a mixed bag of tricks that just might be what is needed to dethrone the 6-foot-4 Jones.

“I like this fight stylistically,” White said. “I said before he fought Rampage, ‘If Jon Jones can walk through Rampage just like he did Shogun and everybody else he has fought, then he is the real deal.’ And stylistically I love this fight against Machida. Machida is very evasive, he strikes from different angles, he’s very hard to hit … If Jon Jones goes in and runs through Machida like he has everybody else, the sky’s the limit for this kid ... Lyoto Machida has been around for a long time and he was undefeated for years, and his style is going to be very tough to match up with.”

Jones said he doesn’t foresee the change in opponent being of any trouble for him.

“You know, I realize what I can lose and lose in the fight that’s in front of me now,” Jones said. “So when it comes to the question of getting up for a fight, that’s definitely not an issue … I’m actually taught to think that no fighter is a big fight, it’s just another fight. Don’t fight the legend, just fight his body and see what happens … The way I’ll deal with his style is to just be myself. He’s never competed against anyone like me, and I’ve never completed against anyone like him. It’s just a study to figure out his tendencies and take it from there.”

While the Air Canada Centre card isn’t as historic or large as was UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre, where Machida sent an aging Couture sprawling to the canvas with his now famous “Karate Kid” kick, it promises to be just as exciting.

Along with the Jones-Machida main event, former champion Frank Mir will take on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, another former belt holder, in a heavyweight clash, while light-heavyweight Tito Ortiz faces Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, in what could be the Huntington Beach Bad Boy’s last go-round if he isn’t triumphant or at the very least very highly competitive.

The card will also boast seven Canadians, including fan-favourite Mark Hominick taking on (The Korean Zombie) Chan Sung Jung and highly touted B.C. native Rory MacDonald facing Brian Ebersole. Both Hominick and MacDonald fought at the Rogers Centre when 55,000-plus fans flocked to see the UFC’s first-ever foray into Ontario.

Machida, who seemed to have been in White’s doghouse for saying he wasn’t getting the title shots he deserved, said he was surprised when he was asked if he would fight Jones.

“It really caught me by surprise but I’m a guy who really believes everything happens for a reason,” Machida said. “This is a business, but I don’t feel at all that the UFC had anything against me and I knew my time would come. I guarantee on Dec. 10, I will be very prepared and I’ll overcome his athleticism with my technique.”

On Dec. 10, Machida will find out if this is indeed his time.

Tickets for UFC 140 Jones vs. Machida go on sale at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Tickets will be available at the ACC box office and Ticketmaster. Tickets for Fight Club members go on sale Thursday from 10 a.m.


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