Lyoto Machida knew he was in a must win situation on Saturday night in front of his hometown crowd and he made the most of his latest main event performance.
While it was definitely a back and forth battle through all five rounds, Machida handed Eryk Anders his first professional loss with a razor close split decision in the main event from Belem, Brazil.
Machida certainly knew his back was against the wall after losing three fights in a row with some saying retirement could be looming for the former champion. “The Dragon” disputed those calls by promising a return to form while taking on a young gun looking to make a name for himself against a legend.
With chants of his name echoing throughout the arena, Machida was very comfortable in the opening round with a strategy that started by battering Anders' lead leg with a series of flesh-rattling kicks.
Machida connected with one particularly hard kick that sent Anders down to the mat where he remained for a big part of the round with the former champion chopping away at his legs on the ground.
Anders finally worked his way back up again before the round ended, but Machida still controlled the distance until the horn sounded.
As the second round got underway, Anders finally found a home for his power shots as he connected with a left hand that blasted Machida flush. Anders rushed forward to try and pour on the punishment, but Machida recovered well and was able to slow down the action until separating back to the center.
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The success achieved in that initial exchange gave Anders the confidence he needed to stay on the attack with several powerful punches chipping away at Machida.
Anders kept up with his offensive onslaught in the third round including a brutal knee against the cage that split Machida's forehead and the blood immediately began pouring down his face.
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The former University of Alabama football standout stalked Machida throughout the third round with the blood giving the former champion a lot of problems as he kept wiping away at his eyes.
The cut man did his best to slow down the bleeding between rounds but it took just seconds into the fourth round for the trickle to begin again. Still, Machida composed himself and engaged in some exchanges with Anders where both fighters began landing stiff punches.
Despite Machida's best effort to keep things even, Anders was landing more effectively with better power shots throughout the five-minute session. Still, Machida was effective with his counter strikes once he was able to get outside of Anders' aggressive onslaught.
While Anders seemed to hit with more power, Machida refused to go away and he continued to fire away in return including several more kicks to the legs and body that connected flush.
When the fight ended, both fighters embraced as Machida and Anderson went to war for 25 straight minutes in front of the raucous crowd in Brazil.
The judges ultimately gave the nod to Machida with two scorecards coming back in his favor at 48-47 and 49-46 with the third official giving the fight to Anderson 48-47.
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Machida was elated to get the win in front of a home audience but it didn't take him long to turn his attention to another former champion who wants one more fight in the UFC before calling it a career.
“Michael Bisping. I'm here for you man,” Machida shouted.
Bisping has flirted with the idea of retiring recently but perhaps a matchup with Machida will be enough to keep him around the UFC for one more fight. Either way, Machida gets back in the win column following his performance against Anders on Saturday night.