Let the Debate Begin: Machida/Shogun

We’ve got controversy people.

This past weekend should have marked another fine chapter in what has been an otherwise great year for UFC and MMA in America. Instead it became one more example—along with the Cerrone/Henderson fight in WEC recently—that showed why the ten-point must system of scoring fights is only suitable for boxing. Like the WEC fight, this one saw a unanimous decision winner by close scorecards that were off each time. In the case of the Cerrone/Henderson fight, it came down to how you looked at the first round. In the case of Machida/Shogun it was something far worse.

The way the Mallignaggi/Diaz decision gave boxing a bit of a black eye back in August, this decision will no doubt give MMA a bit of a black eye, and deservedly so. After watching this past Saturday’s title fight, there was no doubt in my mind that Mauricio “Shogun” Rua should have handed Lyoto Machida the first loss of his career and won the UFC light heavyweight title in the same arena where he made his UFC debut, a loss to Forrest Griffin. Instead, Machida somehow escaped with a unanimous decision win 48-47 across the board.

I scored the fight 49-46 for Shogun. This was a fight I had been anticipating for quite some time as I am a fan and supporter of both. The fact that Shogun was at 100% for the first time since his days in Pride made the fight even more compelling. However, when it came down to the fight itself, the hype was all there was to love about it. While not as boring as the last all-Brazil UFC main-event—Silva/Leites in April—the fight did not have the action that was expected from the two and the style clash turned the fight into one that featured bursts of action instead of something more consistent. But the fact that it went the distance was a surprise and the fact that Shogun didn’t gas out, a problem he had in his UFC fights against Griffin and Coleman, is definitely noteworthy.

A miscarriage of justice is a light way of describing what transpired at the Staples Center this past Saturday night. How three judges sitting in front of the cage could have each scored the bout three rounds to two for Machida is something I can only chalk up to being some kind of sick joke. I gave Machida round three mainly on the heels of the wild exchange he and Shogun had as the final minute of the round began; Machida won the exchange and that was enough for me to give him an otherwise even round. The two rounds before and after all featured Shogun controlling the cage and landing a seemingly never ending barrage of leg kicks and body kicks that turned those regions of Machida a nice shade of red from the bruising. That is not to say that Machida didn’t fight back at all, he did, but it wasn’t the same Machida that beat the snot out of Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans earlier in the year. It seemed more like the Machida that couldn’t finish Nakamura back in ’07 despite Nakamura barely putting up a fight. Yeah, Machida was able to play a pretty good defensive game throughout the fight, stopping basically all of Shogun’s charges and slowing the fight down in the instances where he needed to slow it down. However, playing a good defensive game is only part of the equation—something the judges obviously forgot—as Shogun landed more punches, landed more kicks, controlled the cage for basically the whole fight, and showed no signs of fatigue or hurt from the blows Machida was able to land. By the end, Machida did seem to be moving much slower than the beginning of the fight as the accumulated kicks to the body and leg had done their job.

The UFC 104 undercard spanned different weight classes, although the major highlights from the undercard featured heavyweights. Cain Velasquez annihilated Ben Rothwell in a fashion that is typical of Cain, but atypical of Rothwell. Rothwell’s loss to Arlovski was from one punch, but this was something much more savage than that. For Velasquez, he now officially joins Junior Dos Santos, Anotonio Rodgrigo Nogueira, and Shane Carwin as the only true contenders for Lesnar’s title.

The other heavyweight highlight came in the form of Patrick Barry’s $120,000 win ($60,000 for KO of the night, $60,000 for fight of the night). After losing to one of the cooler submissions I’ve ever seen against Tim Hague back in May, Barry bounced back with a very nice TKO win over former training buddy Antoni Hardonk that actually reduced Barry to tears.

As for Machida/Shogun, a rematch HAS TO HAPPEN. This isn’t even a question of if, it’s a question of when. I would absolutely love to watch this fight with anyone (the fight’s judges included) who believed Machida won, because that explanation has to be heard to be believed. The sad part is that Mallignaggi/Diaz was a much closer fight (and a boxing match at that) that resulted in a screwjob decision, but that fight also had the added measures of being in the hometown of Diaz (Houston) and having all three judges being from either Texas or Oklahoma. In this case, the only real excuse is poor judging. Even the commentators couldn’t believe the decision and could be heard during the fight preparing themselves for the title change that wouldn’t occur.

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