On the 11th anniversary of his UFC debut, former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida thrilled the fans in his hometown of Belem, as the 39-year-old eked out a five-round split decision over middleweight prospect Eryk Anders at Arena Guilherme Paraense.
Scores were 49-46, 48-47 and 47-48 for the No. 13-ra
Machida began the fight by firing kicks at Anders’ legs, and with a little over a minute gone, one of those kicks put Anders on the deck. Machida followed him to the mat and landed some strikes, but Anders stayed busy from his back. “The Dragon” stood and kept chopping at his grounded foe’s legs until Anders was able to rise with 90 seconds remaining. But the former University of Alabama football standout wasn’t able to close the distance on the Brazilian.
A straight left hand by Anders in the opening minute of round two allowed him to get inside and lock up with his foe, but Machida got loose and went back to the outside to continue his long-range striking. Anders did get a couple more lefts in just before the end of the frame, but he wasn’t able to follow-up.
An early body kick by Machida was caught by Anders, who dumped his opponent on the mat, and though the Brazilian got up quickly, on the way up he caught a knee that opened a cut on his forehead. Anders remained patient, which allowed Machida to maintain control, but again, a late left hand got the former champion’s attention.
Both fighters got busier early in round four, and around the midway point of the frame, an Anders left hand mixed with an off-balance Machida put the veteran on the deck briefly. When the two rose, Anders tried to keep his opponent pinned to the fence, but Machida got loose. With under a minute left, Anders got a takedown that Machida jumped right up from, sending the fight into a fifth round.
In a fight that was close throughout, it was no surprise that the fifth and final round was just as tight, with both fighters getting in their shots. But with less than 30 seconds left, a big takedown by Anders was an important scoring move, even if he didn’t get to keep Machida there for long. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough on two of three judges’ scorecards, as “The Dragon” snapped a three-fight losing streak and resurrected his career with his first win since 2014.