Jack Dempsey / AP
Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011 | 10 p.m.
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Jon Jones will make his second light heavyweight title defense before the end of the year.
For the second time, it won’t be against previously announced challenger Rashad Evans. Jones (14-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) will instead face Lyoto Machida (17-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) in the main event of UFC 140 on Dec. 10 in Toronto.
Evans was unable to accept the bout after finding out a dislocated thumb he suffered in a UFC 133 victory over Tito Ortiz would take three extra weeks to heal. In a statement released Thursday, Evans said he was not upset with UFC President Dana White for giving his title shot to Machida.
“The UFC has to keep making fights that entertain the fans,” Evans said. “I would have done the same thing as Dana in his position. I'm asking for the fans to support me as I rehabilitate my hand, and I promise I will be back fighting very quickly."
Most UFC champions only fight twice a year, but the 24-year old Jones is healthy and ready to appear in his fourth bout of 2011. He beat Ryan Bader at UFC 126 to receive a title shot and followed it with championship victories over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Many consider Machida, 33, to be Jones’ most significant challenge in the 205-pound division. It wasn’t long ago that fans hailed Machida, like Jones, as an unbeatable force and probable long-reigning champion.
“Fighting (three) champions in one year,” Jones tweeted. “What a great challenge, feeling alive.”
The only downside is that Machida won’t exactly enter the high-profile matchup on a tear. He snapped a two-fight losing streak earlier this year by beating 47-year old Randy Couture at UFC 129, but White had previously said Machida would need at least one more victory to receive a chance at Jones’ belt.
That didn’t turn out to be necessary. The timing worked in Machida’s favor.
UFC 140 now has nine announced bouts. Las Vegas heavyweight Frank Mir will face Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the likely co-main event of the evening, while veteran light heavyweights Tito Ortiz and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will mingle in another featured affair.