Chris Weidman (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)The Better Contender: Lyoto Machida Presents Bigger Challenge For Chris Weidman Brian McKenna March 7, 2014 Spotlight With the decision by the Nevada State Athletic Commission last week to ban testosterone-replacement therapy, it was only inevitable that Vitor Belfort would be forced out of his upcoming fight against Chris Weidman for the UFC middleweight title, which was set to take place in Las Vegas. Say what you will about “The Phenom” and his dependency on TRT, but in order for him to continue to fight, he will need to take several months to allow his body to return to its natural state so that he can learn how to fight again without the testosterone. His withdrawal from the fight has left the door wide open for fellow Brazilian Lyoto Machida, who stepped into the role of title challenger fresh off of his five-round decision victory over Gegard Mousasi last month. Awarding Machida the No. 1 contendership made sense for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is simple: it is the more intriguing fight. The fight’s intrigue is in large part centered on the fact that it pits a former champion against a current champ. Yes, technically Belfort held the light heavyweight championship, but he won the title by a total fluke. In 2004, at UFC 46, Belfort defeated Randy Couture by TKO just one minute into their fight to capture the belt. The stoppage, however, was caused by a severe cut. Belfort lost the title in a rematch later that year. Machida, meanwhile, won his title when he completely overwhelmed and dominated Rashad Evans. “The Dragon” picked apart Evans en route to a second-round knockout at UFC 98. Another reason why Machida presents a bigger challenge for Weidman lies in how these two Brazilians match up against wrestlers. Throughout his career, Belfort has struggled against fighters who like to wrestle their opponents to the mat. He has lost to Tito Ortiz, Dan Henderson and, of course, Couture (twice). And Machida? Well, he has defeated Ortiz, Henderson and Couture. “The Dragon” seems significantly better suited to take on Weidman and defend against the wrestler’s takedowns. TRT had become one those gray-area problems within the sport prior to the NSAC’s ban. According to doctors, taking testosterone was most often a necessity for athletes who used steroids earlier in their career. Although there are legitimate reasons for lacking testosterone naturally, the use of TRT often pegged a fighter as someone who took steroids earlier in their career. Regardless of the outcome of Machida’s fight with Weidman, we can now say with relative certainty that we won’t have to have the conversation afterwards about TRT. Now that we don’t have to prepare ourselves for a potential asterisk branded onto the belt at the end of the fight makes, the fight becomes more enjoyable. Belfort has looked like a monster physically, as well as in regards to his abilities. The knock on the 36-year-old is that TRT has contributed to his recent string of successes. The criticism of Machida, meanwhile, stems from his laid-back style. However, since he has changed weight classes, that boring fight stigma has been lifted off of his shoulders. He delivered in his middleweight debut against Mark Munoz when he landed a big knockout in that fight. Although he went to a decision against Mousasi in his next bout, he completely controlled and dominated the pace of the fight. Some may have called that second middleweight bout boring, but it wasn’t the fault of the Brazilian At middleweight, “The Dragon” has returned to the form that we saw when he rose up the ranks at 205 pounds, a far cry from those times when he took on Phil Davis, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Henderson and helped viewers fall asleep. When the main event at UFC 173 was set to be Weidman defending his title against Belfort, it stood as a good main event. Now that the Serra-Longo product must defend the strap against Machida, it goes from a good main event to a great one. There is no need to get involved in any inevitable “woulda, coulda, shoulda” argument with the controversial TRT at the center of the discussion. It’s just a battle between two men to see who emerges as the division’s best, free from controversy.