Yet again in 2009, the judges’ call in a five-round main event led to some hot-tempered backlash. Outrage aside, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua’s performance against light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 104 on Oct.24 proved revelatory.
Rua, despite losing the decision to Machida 48-47 on three scorecards, essentially laid out the game plan of how to outpoint the champion, who heretofore seemed almost impossible to hit, let alone beat. Rua used crisp muay Thai technique to catch the zig-zagging Machida with leg and body kicks. Rua ate his share of counter punches, as both men fired off combinations simultaneously, but he landed nearly twice the strikes Machida did, according to CompuStrike. Rua became the first fighter to take a round over Machida in the UFC. The performance moved Shogun from No. 4 to No. 2 in Sherdog.com’s 205-pound rankings.
UFC President Dana White said he thought Rua won in a post-fight press conference and immediately went to work making what should be a more-anticipated rematch. White has targeted UFC 108 on Jan. 2 for the return match, according to the Wrestling Observer.
Judges Cecil Peoples and Marcos Rosales gave rounds one, two and three to Machida, and rounds four and five to Rua. Judge Nelson Hamilton gave Machida rounds two, three and four and Rua rounds one and five. Three Sherdog.com judges scored the bout for Rua, two by a 48-47 count and one by a 50-45 score. The live crowd sided with Rua, as well, shifting from “Machida” chants at the outset to “Shogun” chants by the close. Rua said his corner told him he was winning the fight as it entered the championship rounds.
Fans and fighters alike took to Twitter and blogs to decry the decision. One prominent voice who weighed in was Quinton Jackson, who said the score was so bad that it made him think shady business was afoot. One thing not in dispute at UFC 104 was how impressive undefeated heavyweight Cain Velasquez looked in dismantling rugged veteran Ben Rothwell.
Despite a 40- to 50- pound weight disadvantage, Velasquez hit emphatic takedowns consistently, battering Rothwell with all manner of ground-and-pound and dirty boxing. While Rothwell was almost entirely on the defensive in round two, there was some discontent with referee Steve Mazzagatti’s stoppage. Rothwell was scaling the fence and trying to get to his feet when the fight-ending blows landed. The win vaulted Velasquez into Sherdog.com’s top 10 rankings at heavyweight. His No. 9 slot ranks him one ahead of the next fighter set to challenge for the UFC heavyweight title -- Shane Carwin.
UFC 104, the promotion’s first event in California in two years, went down before a crowd of 14,982 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The show drew $1.9 million at the gate, down from the $2.9 million take for the only other UFC card at the Staples Center -- UFC 60 in 2006, headlined by Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie. The UFC had trouble with advance ticket sales and looked to dole out more complimentary tickets to fill the building than for any other event this year.
The company could still afford a significant payroll of $922,000. Machida was top earner with $200,000 in disclosed pay, followed by Rua at $155,000. Heavyweight Patrick Barry also managed to top the six-figure mark, collecting not only a win bonus for his knockout of Antoni Hardonk but also two $60,000 bonuses for “Knockout of the Night” and “Fight of the Night.” His total haul was $134,000. Barry suffered a left wrist injury that required surgery and could shelve him for two months, MMAJunkie.com reported.
Two fighters who had issues making weight -- welterweight Anthony Johnson and lightweight Gleison Tibau -- ended up with victories.
Tibau came in two pounds heavy but worked diligent takedowns to stifle Josh Neer -- who also slightly missed weight -- and picked up a unanimous decision. Johnson came in at 176 pounds against Yoshiyuki Yoshida but still notched a hard first-round knockout, loading up on a right straight to put away the Japanese fighter. Johnson cited a knee injury that caused him to balloon to a high of 220 pounds before the fight and indicated he would consider moving up in weight in the future.
The weight issue not only cost Johnson 20 percent of his purse, which he forfeited to Yoshida, but also a $60,000 bonus for “Knockout of the Night.” White said Johnson would have received the bonus had he made weight. Johnson was rewarded in one way for the win, however. He was matched against divisional force Josh Koscheck in the co-main event slot at UFC 106 on Nov. 21.
In the other main card bout, Joe Stevenson picked up his third straight impressive win, dropping rabid short elbows for the second-round submission of Spencer Fisher. Elsewhere, Chael Sonnen knocked Yushin Okami off his perch near the top of the middleweight ranks, hitting takedowns and controlling the Japanese standout for the duration.
For the second consecutive pay-per-view, the UFC aired a live one-hour preview special on Spike TV. Barry’s dramatic win over Hardonk and Ryan Bader’s unanimous decision over Eric Schafer were aired, along with Stefan Struve’s triangle choke win over Chase Gormley. It earned Struve a $60,000 “Submission of the Night” bonus.
The Spike broadcast drew an average of 1.4 million viewers, identical to the audience that watched the pre-UFC 103 special in September. The preview did not appear to lead to a boost in buys last time out, as UFC 103 notched a rather low 375,000 buys.
Also picking up wins at UFC 104 were Kyle Kingsbury -- who took a decision over Razak Al-Hassan -- and Jorge Rivera -- who scored a third-round TKO over Rob Kimmons.