By Ron "The Yacman" Yacovetti
The Scene: UFC 104
At the close of what was a solid night of Mixed Martial Arts action, at the Staple Center in Los Angeles, CA, two co-main events ended with a collective one-two punch that irritated the crowd in attendance.
Both Cain Velasquez’s win over Ben Rothwell and Lyoto Machida’s win over Mauricio
"Shogun" Rua upset the fans that, up until that point in the evening, seemed very pleased with UFC 104.
The diagnosis for what caused so good a night to turn bad is an epidemic of bad vision, that will seemingly stricken ring or cage-side judges and officials in the combat sports community. I call it The Blind Flu. Symptoms include rendering a verdict that clashes so greatly with what actually happened that most would question if the afflicted were even at the event, had they not seen them with their own eyes.
It was in the theme of a jab, straight right hand combination, that this outbreak of Blind Flu went from bad to worse, with co-main event one, then two being ruled in such a way that a vast majority completely disagree with.
Here’s how it went down.
TYPE “A” BLIND FLU: Premature Stoppage of Ben Rothwell vs. Cain Velasquez
This particular lapse in judgment is the kind that is so close to what is a just call, that the reaction by fans and media alike is usually mixed. A majority of people in attendance at UFC 104, however, a group spearheaded by Ben Rothwell, were quite vocal about the fact that they felt the stoppage by referee Steve Mazagatti was premature.
And while the case for that is both reasonable and bothersome, it was not out of the blue. Mr. Mazagatti did walk over to Rothwell’s corner before the second round to caution him about taking unnecessary abuse. So, when he saw more of the same, he halted the action.
Round one, as I blogged that night, looked a lot like Cain and Unable. Take downs by Velasquez, then ground-and-pound work, were all that we saw happen in this fight. These guys would stand, then, as they say on shampoo labels...repeat.
Rothwell needed to stop Cain’s momentum before the man in black officiating did. However, round two was more of the same. No matter what position Ben and Cain were in, Cain was using his one free hand to slug him non-stop.
So, it is my belief that when fans witnessed the stoppage, it was not apparent to them that Steve Mazagatti had seen enough, heading into the second round, poised to save Ben from a gratuitous beating. This scenario is not horrible, as both of the possibilities, stopping the fight or letting it go on, seem fair.
Ben Rothwell is a tough and durable fighter, period. However, the sole reason why the stoppage did not seem too extreme is because there was not even a hint of evidence that the fight would look any different should it have continued. Cain Velasquez was going to continue to shoot in, score take downs, and throw his free hand(s) until Steve Mazagatti did stop the fight.
Now, here is where it became a more severe case.
TYPE “B” BLIND FLU: Inability to see what is before you
The main event between former Pride FC star Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and current UFC Light heavyweight Champion Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida was as good a matchup as one can hope for in MMA.
Two great strikers who can mix it up standing or on the ground entered the cage for what most also did not expect would go the distance. That was the first unexpected result to come of this bout, but certainly not the last.
Machida was an insanely heavy favorite to win. And why not? His statistics going into it made it seem easier to solve a Rubik’s cube with your feet than to beat him.
Shogun did what Dana White promised he would, he looked like the Shogun of Pride fame, aggressive, relentless and durable. This is what made the difference in the fight. Lyoto Machida did not get beaten up badly, but he did get outworked and moved backwards all but one round.
Machida seemed to be waiting for an ideal moment to open up the lightning speed strikes coupled with ghost-like defense, yet that moment did not come. Lyoto did show flashes of that technique which has made him steamroll over top competitors, but so sparingly that it did not amount to much.
The Rumor: Lyoto Machida had been dealing with an actual flu, going into this fight in a weakened state.
In a journalistic pursuit to not only know the truth, but report it as well, I reached out to Machida’s manager, Ed Soares. He was, as he has always been with me, courteous and responsive, calling me right back. The lingering effect of being at odds with so many about how his fighter should have fared was still apparent in his voice.
This is a man who always makes you feel he is so glad to talk to you. This time, he was just willing to talk.
In our brief chat, Ed Soares not only addressed the possibility that Lyoto had the flu before UFC 104, but also provided an official statement about the widespread disapproval for Lyoto retaining his title.
When asked pointedly, if Lyoto had been stricken by the flu leading up to UFC 104, Ed Soares stated, “No. He did not have the flu.” As I noted this on paper, verbatim, the call fell silent. Then, I asked for his camp’s statement about the reaction to Lyoto winning the fight, to which Ed replied, “Honestly...you’re not going to like this but, no comment. We have no comment.”
Truthfully, I was indifferent towards that answer. I did not seek an inflammatory answer or an apologetic one, laced with humility. I just wanted whatever Ed would share. I thank him for it once again; he is a great man who brings a lot to our sport.
UFC 104 was a stacked event that delivered on its promises. The unfortunate endings to the co-main events, which is obviously out of the UFC’s hands, merely put a damper on things.
Dana White publicly stated that he was also opposed to the Machida vs. Shogun outcome, declaring that an immediate rematch would be set.
If Lyoto Machida is the elite, super-athlete he seemed to be, like Anderson Silva, GSP and even boxing’s Roy Jones Jr., then he will likely take this uproar at his retaining the title seriously. The expectation if he does is what we often see when these gifted fighters lose in an out of the blue like fashion...a total, one-sided annihilation win over the man who beat them, in the rematch.
Let us hope whether that happens or not, that in the rematch we see the Lyoto Machida we know is inside that champion, released all over the octagon. A full on war between Machida and Rua would really be a killer main event. I sure hope we get to actually see that sometime soon!