Josh Gross from SI.com has reported that due to the short turnaround and nagging injuries, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson has declined the May 23rd title bout with Rashad Evans, whom will now defend his light heavyweight crown against unbeaten Lyoto Machida. Machida had already accepted the fight under the conditions that either Rampage lose against Jardine or not able to take the fight.
This will be a bout between two unbeaten fighters, both only recently garnering fan support, although Rashad still doesn't seem to be a fan-favorite for many. Rashad, TUF season 2 winner, boasts a 13-0-1 record with victories over Stephan Bonnar, Jason Lambert, Micheal Bisping, Chuck Liddell, and Forrest Griffin. His last fight was at UFC 92 against then champion Griffin, who he defeated via TKO in the third round. Machida, who went under the UFC radar for much of his early fights, has racked up a 14-0 record with wins against Rich Franklin, BJ Penn, Sokoudjou, Tito Ortiz, and his last victim Thiago Silva.
The fight has it's fair share of intrigue, as many hardcore fans have been clamoring for Machida to get a title shot for some time now. Looks as if their dream has come true and will go down on May 23rd. The battle of unbeatens isn't nearly the main factor in this one, it's whether a hole can be found in either fighter's game.
Rashad, best known as a wrestler, has greatly improved his striking ability throughout his last bouts. His granite chin and ability to effectively use his strikes to set up takedowns and to keep fighters at bay for a double leg or single let shot. Not to mention brutal ground and pound and knockout power in his right hand, which laid Chuck out for a good five minutes. The only chinks in his armor we've seen before is his cardio, which has vastly improved since the Michael Bisping debacle. However, a guy like Machida may take Rashad into the late round trenches, where he's never been before.
There's really one word that always comes to mind when describing Lyoto Machida: Elusive. That elusiveness has left his opponents baffled throughout the course of their fights. His super effective footwork and ability to rush his opponent and immediately circle out of danger not only frustrates guys but causes them to make mistakes, mistakes that they can't afford when facing someone as accurate as him. The Brazillian has not lost a round since entering the octagon at UFC 67. Therefore, we've yet to see any possible holes, other than the near fight ending triangle that Tito Ortiz was able to pull off, although Machida easily broke free.
I'm sure we'll all have fun breaking this fight down in the weeks and months to come. But I have a strong feeling that the only time we'll truly know what will happen in this bout is once Bruce Buffer announces a winner.