It’s that time once again, fans and friends. Another major MMA event has come and gone, and it’s time for my unofficial “Best Performance of the Night” award. And to be honest, this was one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make since beginning my “BPOTN” posts. UFC 129 just had so many dramatic moments, so many can’t-miss finishes, and so many dramatic stoppages. It was honestly one of the greatest Mixed Martial Arts events I’ve ever seen. But above all else, one man’s knockout stands out. Here’s why Lyoto Machida’s dramatic KO win over Randy Couture took home “Best Performance of the Night”.
Let’s begin this latest entry in the series as we always do: let’s put this fight into context.
In a world where the term “legend” is thrown about a little too much nowadays, Randy Couture lives up to every definition of that term. His heart and determination has led to him beating the odds time and time again, and he’s beloved around the world as the UFC’s ageless wonder. He’s “Captain America”. He’s “The Natural”. And heading into UFC 129, he was on a three-fight win-streak that included two stoppages.
His opponent, Lyoto Machida, was supposed to be the man that would lead the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division into the next era. Few can forget UFC announcer Joe Rogan loudly proclaiming “Welcome to the Machida Era” after Machida won the Light Heavyweight Championship. Instead, Machida would fall to the same curse that has possessed every 205 champion since Chuck Liddell and lose his belt in his first few fights after winning it. Machida would then sink further and lose to fellow former champion Quinton Jackson by a pretty controversial decision. After starting his career with a fantastic 16-0 unbeaten streak, Machida was on a two-fight losing-streak headed into UFC 129.
Then the fight began, and Lyoto Machida proved once and for all that he is here to stay.
So many people talk about Randy Couture’s wrestling and how great it is. And make no mistake, it’s some of the best wrestling in the business, even to this day. But Lyoto Machida completely neutralized it. In fact, not only did he neutralize it… he made it look easy. Randy Couture would attempt to initiate a clinch one second, and the next second… Machida just wouldn’t be there.
By the time the first round ended, it was clear that Couture was baffled. It became apparent that parts of the “Machida Enigma” are still unsolved, despite Machida’s recent losses. And then the finish came: a strike right out of an action movie, a blow that rivaled Anderson Silva’s dramatic KO kick that stopped Vitor Belfort. After jumping into the air, Machida feinted with one leg before striking Couture flush on the face with his other leg. It was fluid, it was beautiful, and it was devastating. Couture immediately crumpled to the mat, and the referee halted the fight before Machida could do any more damage.
In the post-fight interview, Lyoto Machida was overcome with emotion and on the verge of tears. Without the aid of a translator, Machida thanked the fans in attendance and gave Randy Couture the respect he deserves, even raising his arm at one point.
Other than the time when he KO’d Rashad Evans to claim the championship, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Machida so good. This was the fighter so many people didn’t know how to defeat, this was the fighter that so many people thought would end “the curse”. Not only is Lyoto Machida back, he may be better than ever.
And as a Machida fan that’s followed him and supported him throughout all his ups and downs… who’s taken his side throughout all the accusations of being a boring fighter or a fighter who’s afraid to strike or a fighter that was all hype… as a Machida fan, seeing him win brilliantly and yet be so humble in victory was easily my favorite moment of UFC 129. It was an amazing event as a whole, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that Lyoto Machida deserves “Best Performance of the Night” for his stellar fight at UFC 129.
And what about you, fans and friends? Who took home your unofficial end-of-night accolades?