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UFC on Fox 4:

Lyoto Machida on Jon Jones: ‘I can beat him’

Machida gets winner of Jones vs. Dan Henderson next after knockout victory at Staples Center

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lyoto Machida looks on during a press conference

Machida makes a statement

KSNV coverage of UFC on Fox 4 fight — Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua win, Aug. 4, 2012.

LOS ANGELES — Failing to pry the UFC light heavyweight championship away from Jon Jones proved more of a life-changing experience for Lyoto Machida than actually holding the belt for a year.

Machida relocated his family 6,000 miles from Belem, Brazil, to Los Angeles to find better training partners in the aftermath of the UFC 140 loss. The former 205-pound division champion received his payoff Saturday night at UFC on Fox 4.

Machida knocked out Ryan Bader in the second round of the co-main event to surpass Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who had a fourth-round TKO victory over Brandon Vera afterwards, for the next title shot.

“That’s very important to me, how bad a guy wants a fight,” UFC President Dana White said. “Lyoto Machida wants it bad. I’m sure Lyoto has laid in bed every night since that point thinking of all the things he should have done, what he could do and what’s possible. Now he gets it, so we’ll see. We’ll find out.”

Machida will meet the winner of the UFC 151 main event between Jones and Dan Henderson, either at the end of the year or in early 2013. The 34-year old is confident about either matchup.

While still in the octagon after beating Bader, Machida raised his voice to yell “the Dragon is back.” At the post-fight press conference, Machida unflinchingly diagnosed his chances against Jones, who defeated him by second-round TKO last December.

“I believe in myself for sure,” Machida said in English, which he’s rapidly picking up since moving to America. “I can beat him.”

Machida holds the distinction as the fighter to have given Jones the most trouble. He found his rhythm against the champion in the first round and landed numerous punches, winning the frame on one of the judges' scorecards.

Even more impressive than hitting Jones was Machida’s rout of Bader. He was barely touched by the wrestler and pounced on the first mistake he saw.

Bader came forward with his hands down, allowing Machida to counter him unconscious with a right hand at 1:32 of the second round. For comparison’s sake, that’s nearly three minutes faster than Jones stopped Bader last year.

“Lyoto is top-five and he deserves right now to be the next contender,” Rua said through a translator. “I’ll wait for my opportunity.”

It speaks volumes when the fighter who lost the title shot offers no protest. Rua’s indifference — at least compared with Machida — was one of a “laundry list of reasons” White cited when asked about his decision to make Machida the top contender.

White said a spur-of-the-moment fan vote came back overwhelmingly in Machida’s favor. He also shuddered to think of the scene had he not given Machida the honor.

“Those guys would have been standing over there and hounding me all night,” White said of Machida’s management. “That’s what would have happened if I wouldn’t have given Machida the fight.”

White had heard enough from Machida’s team already this year. “The Dragon” hadn’t fought in nine months before Saturday, but not by choice.

Immediately after losing to Jones, he began flooding White with calls about booking a fight to get him back to a championship bout. Scheduling an opponent that made sense prevented it from happening until UFC on Fox 4.

Suffice it to say, Machida made the most of the situation. Even though he tried to play it off like the next fight wasn’t on his mind, Machida has spent plenty of time dreaming of another showdown with Jones.

“He has a weak point, but it’s very hard to see because Jon is very elusive in his fights,” Machida said. “All the time, he changes his style. Sometimes he kicks, sometimes he punches. He’s a good wrestler. Maybe I have to train more wrestling to avoid his takedown.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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