The Robbery of Shogun Rua
There is a reason that the light heavyweight championship in the UFC has been so difficult to defend, there are several elite fighters at that weight class. With the champions holding a 1-4 record since May of 2007, having the light heavyweight title had almost become a curse at this point, but everyone thought the streak was over with Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida.
Not only was Machida undefeated, he hadn’t even lost a round in the UFC. That’s 7 straight fights without losing a single round. Trying to figure out the puzzle of Machida seemed more daunting than string theory. Machida finally seemed to be the champ who could potentially reign for years, like the current champions in the UFC’s other weight classes.
It was Machida’s style that was so disheartening. With his karate base, combined with a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu and excellent takedown defense, he seemed nearly untouchable, that is, until last night.
No one gave Mauricio “Shogun” Rua much of a chance. The Vegas odds for his victory were the worst they have been for a title fight since Georges St. Pierre fought Matt Serra the first time around, and we all know how that ended. While Shogun was believed to be the top light heavyweight in the world two years ago, his current 2-1 record in the UFC has been less than impressive. Coming off knee surgery, he was defeated via rear naked choke by Forest Griffin, he put on a poor show in defeating a 90 year old Mark Coleman, and he knocked out a reeling Chuck Liddell who has a 1-4 record in his past five fights.
That being said, he came into the title fight at UFC 104 in the best shape of his life. UFC commentator Joe Rogan mentioned multiple times that his standing heart rate was as low as a marathon runner. From the beginning to the end of the fight, Shogun continuously put the pressure on Machida. Machida’s style, which can be compared to a coiled cobra leaning back and preparing to strike, was completely neutralized by repeated leg and body kicks.
Every time Machida came forward to strike he was countered by a power shot to the leg or body. Machida has always been a patient fighter, waiting for an opponent to leave an opening but Shogun left none. It was Machida who was forced to adapt his style, and with every attempt to be aggressive, he was popped again and again. His side and legs were red and raw by the 3rd round. When Machida attempted to relax, Shogun would come forward with takedown attempts or clinches against the fence. He was taken completely out of his game.
The only spark of life I saw from the Dragon was near the end of the third round, when he pressed forward with a quick flurry of punches that had the crowd roaring, but alas, to me that was the last time he did anything resembling wanting to win this fight.
In the 4th and 5th rounds, Lyoto appeared to be slowing down. To me, those repeated leg and body shots were taking their toll. He had been completely taken out of his game. While Shogun never went for the kill, he did far more damage in this fight than Machida. My friends and I were repeatedly frustrated by Machida’s apparent nonchalant attitude in the final two rounds. Didn’t he know he was losing the fight? Why wasn’t he pressing the action? Machida is one of my favorite fighters, and when this fight went to a decision I had all but given the title to Shogun Rua. Hell, even Joe Rogan was all excited talking about a potential light heavyweight title fight between Shogun and Anderson Silva (Machida and Silva are teammates and have said they would never fight each other).
When they announced the decision, I was shocked, unanimously 48-47 for Machida. My friends booed, the sports bar we were at booed, the entire Staples Center in Los Angeles erupted in boos. There was no way in hell that Machida won three rounds. I didn’t even think he won two rounds. I scored the bout 49-46 for Rua, and this is coming from a huge Machida fanboy. I felt Machida won the 3rd round with his flurry of punches at the end but that was it.
He was consistently on the defensive, his attacks were negated by powerful counters to the legs and body, and he took much more damage than Shogun. It simply should not have happened this way, and it is incredibly unfair to not only Mauricio Rua and his training camp, but all UFC fans around the world. It’s the worst judging blunder since Michael Bisping against Matt Hammil in front of biased UK judges at UFC 75.
The solution is incredibly simple though. Since there are no dominant contenders for the light heavyweight title, I call for an immediate rematch. As soon as both fighters are physically and mentally able, they need to fight again. Shogun deserves this, and fans of mixed martial arts deserve this.