The main event between UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung was the headliner of the card, but the biggest discussion starter coming out of UFC 163 was Phil Davis' controversial unanimous decision win over Lyoto Machida.
Before properly discussing the fight, a few misconceptions need to be dispatched. First the idea that this is payback for the "home cooking" that takes place on Brazil cards were Brazilian judges award decisions to Brazilian fighters. Despite Brazil having an athletic commission, they import the officiating crews the UFC bring into town for their events. There are scant few Brazilian judges on these cards, and the UFC consistently takes judges on the international cards that just make poor decisions. It is important to note that all three judges, Sal D'Amato, Chris Watts, and Rick Winter, were not from Brazil and have seen heavy action in UFC cards in and out of the U.S.
Second, it is already being commonly invoked that Machida defended eight of ten Davis' takedown attempts. This is a fallacy of scoring arguments as the Unified Rules judging criteria does not value defense a great deal, and only awards credit to defense if it directly leads to offense.
And in the end, while I scored the fight on my personal card for Machida, it has been demonstrated the act of defending a takedown alone does not swing judges. Also in Machida's career, he has paid for slow starts and low volume striking, similar to the Rampage Jackson fight were Machida did control the distance and pace of the first two rounds, but didn't put a real stamp on or claim ownership of the round in a decisive fashion.
And yes, while the takedowns at the ends of rounds by Davis likely were overvalued, this decision wasn't a flat out robbery. It was a close fight. Davis actually attempted and landed more strikes than Machida. It was a close fight for two rounds, but the third round was clearly Machida's and Watt's score of Davis winning that round is very tough to swallow.
In the end these kinds of decisions will happen with Machida because his low volume, defensive style is not very compatible with how MMA fights are scored.
On to other thoughts about the card:
- In the main event, both Aldo and Jung got away from the sources of their success. Jung's aggression evaporated in the glare of a UFC title fight, and the result was a very hesitant fighter who had no chance against Aldo. The champion on the other hand reportedly hurt his foot on the very first kick he threw and as a result was unable to work his signature leg kick attack. As a result the fight was something of a clunker, but that is sports.
- Jung losing on a dislocated shoulder off a partially blocked punch was just an awful way to lose. Aldo showed real killer instinct going right at Jung when it happened, the fight game is called the hurt business for a reason folks.
- Regardless of the outcome Jung's title shot was a big step for South Korean fighters. South Korean could quickly emerge as the hotbed for talent in Asia. It has strong national Judo and Wrestling programs and, of course, is the epicenter of Taekwondo. Athletically Korea is a rising power in many sports and we are seeing more Korean fighters make their way into the UFC. Almost all of Zuffa's recent moves in Asia have been geared towards getting footholds in China and Japan. From a business point of view that may make sense but we've yet to see real MMA talent come out of China. While certainly an international sport power, Chinese programs really take off when the state gets behind them and we've yet to see that happen with MMA. Japan's MMA scene is on a down swing, and India, along with the Southeast Pacific region, are still very young in their MMA development. The stage seems set for Korea to take the lead when it comes to producing quality MMA fighters from that region of the world.
- Getting back to Davis and Machida, while I think Machida won, Davis did show some real strides in his striking game. He was much more fluid and his kicks were sharp and he landed to Machida's body several times. It is a very positive step for Davis, who could find himself in a title fight soon, either against Jon Jones or for the vacated belt whenever Jones decides to move up to Heavyweight.
- Machida and Davis on every level is a great argument for more five-round fights in MMA. Machida started to really find his range in the third round, which forced Davis to dive on the legs more, which resulted in more crazy scrambles. In short, the fight was just getting cooking and the action stopped. Also, two more rounds would have possibly given the judges more decisive action to work with when turning in their final score cards.
- Cezar Ferreira got a quick win with a nice arm in guillotine choke, which was good because that fight was hard to really care about.
- Thales Leites remains a solid Middleweight who will guard the gate between the lower half of the UFC Middleweight division and the upper half of the division. Leites is best known for his extremely poor showing in a UFC title match with Anderson Silva, which many questioned if he deserved in the first place. Many fans have torn down Leites based on that fight but he is a capable Middleweight and showed it by pitching a veritable shut out against Tom Watson.
- John Lineker got a weird injury-driven win also, with his (T)KO of Jose Maria Tome. While a win is a win, it seemed some of Lineker's flaws shined through, throwing one big shot while Tome threw combinations and mixed up shots.
- I don't think it was possible for Vinny Magalhaes to look any worse than he did against Anthony Perosh. Vinny walked right into a right hand and likely ended his UFC career, if not his MMA career in that moment. Reportedly Vinny left his gloves in the cage, supposedly signaling his retirement. We'll see if that holds up or is confirmed, but that would be a brutal way to end one's career.
- Amanda Nunes made a smart move be refusing to touch gloves with Sheila Gaff, a known fake tapper, and then made short work of the German on the ground. This was a solid win for Nunes who is still very much a prospect at just 25-years-old and an 8-3 record.
- Sergio Moraes had a brilliant triangle win, set up by some excellent grappling. The pass to side control and then the move mount were sublime.
- Ian McCall got the win and showed off good skills in the fight, but also seemed to get away from what was giving him so much success in the first round as the fight wore on. He is still an elite Flyweight and certainly belongs fighting other elite Flyweights.
- Rani Yahya moves his win streak to three straight with a through out grappling of Josh Clopton. While it didn't end in a submission, that was mostly because Clopton shelled up on the ground and the match was a clinic in positional grappling. But Yahya's faults are still there, he spends a lot of energy wrestling with inferior grapplers and his ground striking is still very weak.
- Ednaldo Oliveira provided an excellent example that reach doesn't negate or make up for a lack of striking ability, as Francimar Barroso commanded the distance of the fight and won a clear decision.
- Brian Stann did an excellent job as a commentator last night. Flat out fantastic job on the mic, and I looked forward to hearing more from him both with college football, and hopefully MMA.