'Dragon' Machida rises again

Ric Fogel for ESPN.com

The MMA bandwagon makes violent, wheeling turns in all directions, and after his epic, crane-kick stoppage of Randy Couture at UFC 129 on Saturday in Toronto, Lyoto Machida’s must be running on bald tires.

“The Dragon” seemingly ushered in a new era of MMA after taking the light heavyweight title from Rashad Evans at UFC 98. At that point, Machida was unbeaten in 15 bouts, with a stellar ledger of victims, including Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar, Tito Ortiz and Thiago Silva. His vexing style was MMA’s version of the knuckleball.

Nobody knew how to hit him, and he operated on such evasive lines of attack that opponents froze up and were dissected alive.

Mauricio Rua changed all that, and, after a close decision loss to Quinton Jackson at UFC 123, “The Machida Era” was dismissed as a mere quirk in the MMA timeline.

Against Couture, Machida looked exactly like his old self. And while “The Natural” was 47, there is no question he remains a dangerous guy in tie-ups. Yet during the few instances in which he grabbed Machida, the slick Brazilian expertly slipped away.

Machida notched a big win regardless of Couture’s age, showing his inventiveness and ability to stay baffling and effective at the same time. A great leg kicker or counter-fighter may well be the best style to defeat him, but you can bet plenty of light heavyweights sighed heavily after seeing Machida work his magic again. Nobody wants to deal with a guy like that. Getting your butt kicked is part of being a professional -- fighters accept that -- but getting embarrassed while getting it kicked takes it to a whole different level.