The last few days have been surprising to say the least when it comes to the reaction stemming from Saturday evening's UFC 104 main event title bout between light heavyweights Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida. We've heard accounts of the fight being scored 50-45 in favor of Rua to Anderson Silva believing it was a 50-45 win for Machida. We' ve heard angry mobs of fans and Ron Kruck claim it was a "robbery" decision while others claim that Machida simply wasn't damaged enough to be defeated because he was the champion.
There are numerous points I want to touch on, but the overall theme here is that this fight was simply a very close decision battle between two elite light heavyweights in the world today. I think that's the ultimate focus that most fans should be looking at instead of how Rua was supposedly "robbed" by the California State Athletic Commission judges.
First and foremost, Brent Brookhouse was correct in his opinion about how a fighter "must beat the champion". The judges are there for that very reason, and I haven't heard talk of the "must beat the champion" clause in an organization's bylaws since Cage Rage. Cage Rage was the only organization that made it known to challengers for the belt that they must convincingly beat the champion. If a 48-47 decision was the obvious conclusion in favor of the challenger, the champion would likely walk away with a title defense under his belt.
But there are points in Chad Dukes' assessment that I disagree with. I've watched this fight over five times now, and I'm still surprised to hear that Rua was simply way more aggressive. While he stalked Machida for most of the fight, he waited for each opportunity to counter and made Machida make the first move. Sure, positionally within the cage -- Rua was moving around and backing up Machida, but Machida was always the aggressor in the exchanges for the most part. Is this an argument to say that aggression should go to Machida? Honestly, I doubt it came into play that much in the decision process.
Other arguments revolve around Machida losing this fight 50-45. I won't say that these fans are crazy, but I would say that I didn't see the fight go down like that at all. In fact, I scored the bout 48-47 for Rua with Round 1 being possibly one of the closest rounds I've seen that I can remember. It's amazing what you find when you re-watch these bouts without commentary and by truly watching the exchanges, something the judges don't have the luxury of doing.
Rogan's commentary was easily a swaying factor for some fans. In viewing the fight a few times over, it was amazing how ignorant some of the commentary was for Machida. I can't blame Joe though. Most of the action and exchanges were simultaneous, i.e. Rua would throw a heavy leg kick while eating a solid straight jab. Rogan chose to focus on the leg kicks more than Machida's counter, and it really comes down to what he chose to talk about because at specific points in the fight -- it's fairly tough to start talking about one fighter's exchange and another fighter's exchange while more exchanges are still happening in the fight.
That isn't a huge part of this argument though, and most fans can go back and look at the fight in a more objective manner without the commentary to sway them. The casual fans who sat beside me watching this fight felt it was razor close even with Joe's commentary, so it couldn't have been that deciding to everyone.
Then there's the small group of fans who point to the Compustrike and FightMetric numbers for this fight and say "See, it was robbery". Judges don't have the luxury of counting each blow precisely. Compustrike might actually miss blows, but Rami over at FightMetric meticulously breaks down fights using slow-mo frame by frame replays and things of that nature. His number are accurate, but every method has flaws as well. We don't know what the judges thought in regards to effective grappling, aggression, and Octagon control, and we know judges don't have the means to successful count each landing strike per round. It's unreasonable to think that these methods should convey what the judges saw or act as a supporting argument. Sure, after the fight happened -- we can look at those and say it was blasphemy, but I think that's a rather unfair argument.
In the end, the fight was very close. Some of the rounds were difficult to judge, and while a lot of fans believe sitting cageside is going to help these judges determine winners accurately, it can be a deterrent as well. Nick Lembo talked with me about the views from cageside sometimes being tough for judges if the action is on the opposite side of the cage. It'd definitely be difficult to see who's landing blows with the aggressor's back to the judges, so I can understand those problems to an extent.
But even in trying to watch this fight and think... "Well, maybe the judge is on the opposite side of the cage right now...", this fight was just plain tough to call. 48-47 Rua was my scorecard for nearly every viewing of this fight, but I could probably watch this again and come to a conclusion that Round 1 was a draw.
Instead of arguing about this with all of the bashing in our community over the last few days, let's take this fight for what it's worth, a great battle between great fighters. It was close, but we're getting a rematch that should ultimately decide the real champion. In a division that has seen better days, the UFC really needs the rematch to allow some other light heavyweights to come out of the woodwork and establish themselves, and it should be another technical showdown for us to enjoy.