Lyoto Machida put on a strong third round, and even showed off his wrestling, while battling to a split decision victory against Rafael Carvalho at Bellator 213.
The latest Bellator free agent signing was set to make his debut on Saturday night in Honolulu, Hawaii. At Bellator 213, Lyoto Machida was stepping into the Bellator cage for the first time. ‘The Dragon,’ of course, was a former UFC light heavyweight champion and middleweight title challenger. At age 40, he’d left the UFC on a two-fight win streak (against Eryk Anders and Vitor Belfort) to join brother Chinzo in Scott Coker’s promotion.
There were plenty of intriguing match-ups in Bellator for Machida, including rematches with Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, and Rampage Jackson. Yet before he could worry about any of those, Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida had to contend with former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho.
Carvalho, it should be noted, missed weight for the fight by a half pound.
Lyoto Machida’s Bellator debut began when Rafael Carvalho pushed ‘The Dragon’ up against the cage. That was the scene for the first half of the opening round, though Carvalho was able to open up Machida, bloodying his nose with a right hand. Machida would free himself, however, and work from southpaw, utilizing as always his karate-style stance. Machida attacked with a left, then had to block a kick. Carvalho was switching stances as well, and dumped Machida off a kick, though Machida did more damage from the bottom and immediately scrambled out. A counter right would land for Machida late, and they’d go to a second round.
Machida was forced to block a head kick early in round two. Carvalho came storming back on the attack, forcing Machida to backpedal out of harm’s way. He’d then tie up with the former UFC champ. Back in the open, they’d trade kicks, Machida going high, Carvalho low. Machida eventually gave his opponent a jolt with a partially blocked head kick. Carvalho began stalking Machida, and caught him with a left, sending Machida sprawling back. Machida popped right back up, and continued to threaten with counters, though Carvalho was in the driver’s seat. A brief break for an eye poke halted the action, after which Machida connected with a punch — then exploded in the final seconds of the round, charging across the cage to launch a front kick.
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The third opened with an exchange of kicks, followed by Carvalho going on the attack, and Machida retreating. Machida then surprised just about everyone by changing levels and scoring a key takedown. Carvalho attempted to pull off a kimura from the bottom, but lost it quickly. Moments later, Machida moved to full mount. Machida landed some shoulder strikes, then looked to drop an elbow which wound up being more of a forearm. Carvalho would scramble free, however, with just over ninety seconds remaining. Carlvaho then ate a knee, and returned fire with a low blow. When they got back underway, a trip saw Machida take the fight back to the ground, where he worked from guard. Carcalho would make it up, only for Machida to sink in a guillotine, but time ran out.
Machida said post-fight that his goal was to fight for the title in Bellator. Though off a split decision, whether he’s done enough remains to be seen.
Lyoto Machida def. Rafael Carvalho by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)