LOS ANGELES – While the rest of Lyoto Machida’s lunch party digs into steaks and cheesecake, he eats from a small plastic container of vegetables and pasta.
Machida doesn’t mind. It’s no small thing to drop 20 pounds as a mixed martial artist, and the Brazilian veteran believes he’ll get the payoff for his sacrifices at UFC 175.
Machida has won and lost a UFC championship belt during his lengthy career, and he moved down from light heavyweight to middleweight in his quest to win another title.
“I feel good and strong,” Machida said through a translator. “I knew I could do it, and I did it the right way. Now I’m going to show everybody that I can win at any weight.”
Machida (21-4) takes on middleweight champion Chris Weidman in the main event at UFC 175 in Las Vegas on Saturday night, headlining the promotion’s biggest event of the summer. Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey also faces Alexis Davis on the card in the UFC’s hometown.
Machida changed his body last year to move down from the 205-pound light heavyweight limit to the 185-pound middleweight class, but he didn’t change his approach. Machida’s slippery, unorthodox, karate-based fighting style is still a puzzle for his opponents, and respected middleweights Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi failed to solve it in his first two 185-pound bouts.
Machida believes his agility and power haven’t suffered in the change. He feels quicker than most of his opponents, and his highly technical fighting style has worked well against the smaller men.
Yet nobody has ever figured out how to take on Weidman (11-0), the former Hofstra wrestler with remarkable punching power.
Weidman is back in the cage for the first time since his second victory over Anderson Silva in devastating fashion. The former middleweight king broke his shin while kicking Weidman’s knee in the second round of their December bout, sending him howling to the Vegas canvas in pain.
Weidman first beat Silva a year ago, stunning the long-reigning champion with a second-round knockout. He was slated to defend his title against Brazil’s Vitor Belfort in March, but Belfort missed the bout after the Nevada Athletic Commission banned testosterone replacement therapy.
Weidman then was scheduled to face Machida at UFC 173 on May 24, but sustained a minor knee injury that required surgery. He is back at full strength for his second title defense, eager to prove his two strange victories over Silva weren’t flukes.
“I think everybody is always going to have critics out there,” Weidman said. “It’s not really one of my motivating factors to silence those critics.”
Weidman and Machida are an intriguing contrast of styles. Weidman’s wrestling abilities pose a challenge for Machida, who has had trouble against standout wrestlers before.
But Machida believes his elusive skills are daunting for middleweights, and he intends to join Randy Couture and B.J. Penn as the only two-division champions in UFC history.
“I don’t feel any added pressure, because I know I can do it,” Machida said. “I’m very well-prepared.”