Lyoto Machida was declared the unanimous decision winner in his first UFC LHW title defense against Shogun Rua Saturday night. Whether people liked it or not, all 3 judges scored it the same, 48-47 for Machida, which meant that they all saw Machida winning 3 of the 5 rounds. Like almost everyone watching UFC 104, I was in disbelief, but after a good night's sleep, I wanted to dig deeper in order to better understand how it was possible that all three judges could have come to such a conclusion without being coerced in some form or manner.
There was an argument, from the very few Machida supporters, that fight fans were being too heavily influenced by the commentary of the UFC play by play team of Goldberg and Rogan, but to me, that doesn't hold much weight considering that the majority of fans in attendance (who do not hear the on air audio), were also very loud in their disapproval of the decision. For myself, who was surrounded by Machida supporters during the PPV, and who, for the most part, were paying very little attention to the commentary, also agreed that there would be a new champion crowned last night.
I decided to re-watch the fight, with the volume off, with a fresh pair of eyes and with the idea that I would try to understand how it was possible for the judges to award Machida the victory. The detailed notes are found below. Not captured in those notes was my own surprise about how easily an argument could be made on how Machida, in the eyes of the judges, won both Round 2 and Round 3. Shogun may have been the aggressor throughout the fight, but Machida seemed to be able to pick his spots at the right time. He is also known as a counter-striker, so you would have to think that the judges may have given him some additional leeway because of that as well.
As far as Round 1 is concerned, there is a strong argument to be made that Rua simply did not do enough to win the round. Lyoto Machida is the champion, and as the champion, it is up to Rua to clearly win the majority of the rounds, which he simply did not do.
Before I have a bunch of Shogun supporters ripping me for my opinion, understand that this is NOT how I would have scored the fight if I was the judge. My scoring would have gone with Rua winning Rounds 2, 4 and 5, and Round 1 would have been declared a draw. If I had to assign a winner to the opening frame, it would have gone to Machida, but that still gives the win to Rua 48-47. However, the purpose of this exercise was to try and understand the mindset of the judges. I highlighted only the significant exchanges that I felt would contribute to the scoring for each of the fighters.
Machida VS Rua, From A (unofficial) Judges Point of View (POV)
Round by Round, Minute by Minute
Machida more aggressive, throws knee combinations, easily brushes off any offense by Rua
Most of it is spent with Rua keeping Machida pressed up against the cage. Rua is more active, but nothing effective is landing. Rua fails in a take down attempt (but still takes Machida down momentarily) and Machida is pressed back up against the cage
Machida again able to throw Rua off him, and both fighters avoid the other’s strike attempts
Rua lands the first body kick to Machida’s left rib cage, but Machida counters with 2 strikes to the head. Minute ends with Machida throwing a left and connecting on a leg kick that slightly staggers Rua.
Much like the previous 4 minutes, a lot of circling and measuring, but Rua lands 2 effective kicks to Machida’s.
Round 1 Judges POV– Draw, however it can be argued that Machida, as champion, gets the round since Rua did not do enough to earn it. Judges could have been swayed by Machida’s displays of swagger in the ring.
Rua is the aggressor and does land a kick early on. Rua maintains the pressure until Machida rushes Rua with strikes to close out the first minute (Rua blocks or avoids all attempts).
Action continues, with Rua continuing to stalk Machida, and lands another body kick. Rua goes for the knee, but appears to be knocked back by Machida body’s as he was moving forward. Rua rushes in to press Machida to the cage, but almost gets caught by a knee coming in.
Machida escapes from the cage and then lands to strong leg kicks on Rua. Machida throws another leg kick which was blocked by Rua
Rua charges Machida and lands another kick to Machida rib cage. They circle, and Machida catches Rua coming in with a jab. Flying knee by Rua lands, but Machida shrugs it off and throws Rua to the cage.
Machida avoids a front kick, and then lands a knee to Rua’s body. Rua keeps Machida pinned to the cage, and lands knees to Machida’s thighs.
Round 2 Judges POV: Rua may have been more active in strikes, but Machida was more effective, catching Rua with more effective cleaner strikes.
Rua lands a hard body kick that hurts Machida. Machida reponds with 2 hard body kicks of his own. A few more kicks by Rua fail to land.
Both fighters continue to avoid each other’s strikes, but Machida is the first to land a hard kick to the body.
Rua presses the action, and gets the better of an exchange of leg kicks.
Another hard kick to the ribs is landed by Rua. Rua then rushes Machida, but nothing lands. Rua again rushes Machida, and starts to land, but Machida fights back and then pushes Rua backwards.
Machida tries to steal the round by attacking Rua, getting him pinned up against the cage, and throwing a flurry of combinations. Reply shows that nothing really lands, but judges do not have the benefit of replay.
Round 3 Judges POV : Machida’s round easily.
Both fighters circled, both fighters avoided strikes, and both fighters landed an equal number. Complete trade off
Same as the first event, expect Rua’s block to brush Machida’s leg to the sites gets Machida off balance, and Rua rushes in for a take down attempt.
Machida stuffs the take down attempt, and rushes Rua who manages to block all the punches
This time Machida runs into a Rua knee, and Rua follows up with a strong leg kick to the ribs.
Rua quickly lands another strong kick to the ribs
Judges POV: Another close round, but unless Round 1, Rua does do enough to win it clearly.
Both fighters are far more active to start off this 5th and final round. Both Rua and Machida take turns to attack, but Rua ends up getting the better of the exchanges.
Rua lands another body kick, and almost seems to stagger Machida with a right hand.
Machida tries to catch Rua again with a knee to the head, but Rua makes him pay with another hard kick.
Rua is the aggressor, but nothing of significance lands.
Rua continues to dictate the pace of the fight and controls the action
Judges POV – Another clear round for Rua, but simply a case of too little, too late.
Final Result - 48-47 Machida