For most fans and writers Lyoto Machida had already done enough to earn shot at the UFC LHW title prior to UFC 94. After all he was 5-0 inside the octagon, and had dominated every opponent the UFC had put in front of him. Let me just say that I'm a fan of Lyoto Machida. If you are a regular reader of this blog you would know that. However, I just don't feel that he's earned a shot at the UFC LHW title just yet. There's only one factor from him achieving #1 contender status in my opinion. Follow me after the jump.
The fact of the matter is Lyoto Machida is an impressive 6-0 inside the octagon. However, none of those opponents have been highly ranked opponents in the UFC LHW division. Machida's highest profile win was against Tito Ortiz last year at UFC 84. You have some that believe that his win over Thiago Silva last night gurantee's him a shot now, since Silva was an undefeated prospect. However, the fact of the matter is Silva had not beaten anyone of note within the UFC LHW division either. So basically that win didn't do much for Machida besides showing the ability to finish his opponents.
I have Lyoto Machida as the #4 LHW in the world. Some of that ranking is from Machida beating everyone the UFC has thrown his way. The other part hinges on the other top ten UFC LHW fighters beating up on one another. For instance, we had Keith Jardine beating Chuck Liddell. Then Chuck Liddell beating Wanderlei Silva. Then Wanderlei Silva beating Keith Jardine. The UFC LHW division is the most stacked division in all of MMA. There's no way to justify a fighter leapfrogging the game's elite without beating at least one of them. This is why Lyoto Machida needs another win to secure a title shot. It has nothing to do with his style or ability to finish fights. Machida is a great fighter and I think he has the best strategy of all the fighters fighting. He inflicts the most damage while taking the least amount of punishment.
In order for Lyoto Machida to earn a title shot, he needs to fight and beat a top 5 fighter. The perfect match up would be Forrest Griffin. Griffin is a former champion, and is currently ranked by me as the #3 ranked LHW in the world(my rankings will be updated tomorrow). Griffin is currently rehabbing a hand injury suffered in his loss to Rashad Evans at UFC 92, and is expected to back in action around August. Machida could fight Griffin at that point, setting up a showdown between the winner of Rashad Evans/Rampage on the end of year show in December. Of course, this scenario depends on Machida beating Griffin, and Rampage beating Keith Jardine at UFC 96.