It has the potential to be a calculated chess match or an absolute snorefest.
Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida has come under criticism in the past for his bounce-and-pounce style.
In the cage, the methodic strategist spends as much time sizing up his next move as he does fighting.
But with four men vying for the next light-heavyweight title shot Saturday night, an underwhelming victory is not an option for the karate ace.
Plenty to play for
UFC president Dana White has been clear that the fighter with the most impressive victory at UFC on FOX 4 will get the winner of next month’s Jon ‘Bones’ Jones/Dan Henderson title fight.
Machida will take on Ryan ‘Darth’ Bader at the event. Brandon Vera will face Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua.
“Any one of these four fighters can take things into their own hands and make a title shot happen,” said White.
Given his history of long lulls as he tees up his finishes, Machida may be the fighter under the most pressure.
But the Brazilian says he’s coming off the best training camp of his career and has added a few new weapons to his arsenal in preparation for Bader.
“My striking is very sharp, and I’ve worked on my wrestling because Bader is a strong wrestler. I’ve made some radical changes in my training,” said the 34-year-old who has a 17-3 record.
“Although karate will always be my main focus.”
That can be both a blessing and a curse for Machida — depending on Bader’s ability to take him down and frustrate his plotting.
Bader says he’s not intimidated by Machida’s enviable resume.
“Machida is a former champion but so were three out of my last four opponents,” says the American wrestler who boasts a 14-2 record.
“I’m no longer looking at these guys as fighters I used to watch on TV — they’re now my peers, my rivals. Machida is no different. No one is invincible and it is now my time to beat him and go on to a title shot.”
Bader says his decision victory over Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson at Japan’s UFC 144 has changed his outlook on fighting.
“The win over Rampage felt like the start of a new chapter,” says the 29-year-old.
“After dominating Rampage my confidence went through the roof and I’m now more than happy to face anybody in the light heavyweight division.”
He says he’s also not the same fighter fans may remember from The Ultimate Fighter 8.
“I used to be just a wrestler with a big overhand right, but I’ve added many more skills to my game now,” said Bader.
“I’m better than ever. Fights against Rampage and (Jason) Brilz have shown my stand-up is a lot more technical and smooth.”
UFC on FOX 4 is available on FOX.