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There is no better venue than New York’s Madison Square Garden for a battle between two legendary fighters in Lyoto Machida and Chael Sonnen at Bellator 222. Before their much-awaited encounter, here are five of his many defining moments.
1. Double DownEarly in his career, Machida dominated two future Hall of Famers in Rich Franklin and Stephan Bonnar. Both fighters were previously undefeated, and Machida knocked them out in succession. He achieved the impressive feat after a successful professional debut in which he decisioned Kengo Watanabe.
Machida then faced Bonnar at Jungle Fight 1. “The American Psycho” was 4-0 at the time, and Machida stopped him in the first round. For his third professional bout, Machida finished Franklin with a front kick and punches in the second round at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003.
2. Dominating OrtizWhen Machida met Tito Ortiz, the latter was still a force in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight division. Before their bout, Ortiz was 5-1-1 in his last seven fights, including a title bout with longtime rival Chuck Liddell. Machida, on the other hand, was coming off a victory over Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, and stretched his dominance with a clear triumph over Ortiz, earning the nods of all three judges who scored the contest 30-27.
3. Silencing KOWith impressive wins over Sokoudjou and Ortiz, it was clear that Machida has cemented his name as a real contender for the belt. However, many fans cast doubts about his ability to turn in exciting performances. Outside of his submission of Sokoudjou, Machida had never finished anyone in the UFC.
That changed when he faced compatriot Thiago Silva at UFC 94. Many felt Silva has the power and aggressiveness to shut down Machida. But as if purposely addressing public clamor, “The Dragon” knocked out his opponent with a second left in round one, earning himself Knockout of the Night honors in the process.
4. First Back-to-Back LossesAfter capturing the UFC light heavyweight title from Rashad Evans, Machida faced a determined Mauricio Rua, who appeared to have the right game plan to answer the puzzle that was Machida. After the fight went the distance, the judges controversially scored the bout in favor of Machida.
In their rematch, Rua made sure to stop his opponent this time with a brutal first-round knockout. Machida next faced Quinton Jackson who beat him via split decision. That marked the first back-to-back losses of his professional career. He later bounced back with a convincing win over Randy Couture.