UFC's Lyoto Machida in perfect position to make waves at middleweight

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COMMENTARY | The Ultimate Fighting Championship's middleweight division keeps getting more interesting.

First, new champion Chris Weidman shook up the division with his UFC 162 win over former kingpin Anderson Silva.

Then on Friday, Sept. 27, the 185-pounders were hit with a series of interesting developments. For one, former top contender Yushin Okami was cut from the UFC. Then, news broke that an eye injury had forced Michael Bisping, ranked No. 4 in the division rankings, to withdraw from his fight with fifth-ranked Mark Munoz.

The man who stands to benefit most?

New middleweight Lyoto Machida.

Machida, the former UFC light heavyweight champion, not only drew the headlining fight with Munoz at UFC Fight Night 30 on Oct. 26 in Manchester, England, with Okami also out of the picture, but "The Dragon" is now also poised to make a quick leap up the rankings if he can win his middleweight debut.

There was a time when mixed martial arts had entered "The Machida Era." Using a combination of karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling and even Sumo, the Brazilian was virtually untouchable, winning every round through his first seven UFC bouts.

Machida (19-4-0, seven KO/TKOs) won his first 16 professional fights before losing the light heavyweight title to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 113 in 2010. Since then, "The Dragon" has gone 3-3 with a loss to Jon Jones and close decision defeats against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Phil Davis. His wins have come against Dan Henderson, Randy Couture and Ryan Bader.

Why does this matter? The 35-year-old is entering the middleweight division still highly competitive, and with a victory over Munoz, Machida could quickly put himself in the 185-pound title picture.

That's where Okami comes in. "Thunder" exits the UFC as its No. 6-ranked middleweight, leaving a void in the heart of the division.

Ranked below Okami at the time of his release? Luke Rockhold, Francis Carmont, Costa Philippou and Chael Sonnen.

Though skilled, their UFC credentials are not on Machida's level.

Meanwhile, other fighters have seen success after dropping weight classes. Demian Maia is now 3-0 since moving to welterweight, while Urijah Faber, Frankie Edgar and Kenny Florian all saw quick title shots after dropping weight.

Plus, 185 may ultimately prove to better fit Machida's body type.

Prior to his highly controversial UFC 163 loss Davis, "The Dragon" said: "I am not a very large guy for light heavyweights, so I don't find difficulty at all in fighting as middleweight. I am waiting [for] a better position from my managers and after this fight we are going to see what will happen."

He's in a good position at 185 pounds.

Munoz will be a huge test, so come Oct. 26, we'll see how good of a position Machida's truly in.

UFC middleweight rankings as of Sept. 27:

Champion: Chris Weidman

No. 1 Anderson Silva

No. 2 Vitor Belfort

No. 3 Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza

No. 4 Michael Bisping

No. 5 Mark Munoz

No. 6 Yushin Okami

No. 7 Luke Rockhold

No. 8 Francis Carmont

No. 9 Costa Philippou

No. 10 Chael Sonnen

Paul Putignano lives in Southern California, where he has covered mixed martial arts and a wide array of sports across the Greater Los Angeles area. His work has been published in a variety of newspapers and online publications.

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