(“Stitch” Duran and the ring doctor tend to Machida. Mike Mastrandea for FIGHT! Check out the full gallery here.)
When Lyoto Machida retained the UFC Light Heavyweight title at UFC 104 with one of the narrowest unanimous decisions in recent memory, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was dumbfounded. His effective kicks left the champion bruised and battered, complete with broken ribs, a broken hand and a chip in the bulletproof armor that had led many to previously proclaim that we were in the “Machida Era.” Rua wasn’t the only who was confused by the decision. It was hard to find more than a handful of observers who didn’t see the fight for Rua as the phrase “never let it go to the judges” reared its ugly head repeatedly in the aftermath of 104.
Just under seven months later, Rua walked into the cage as the fan favorite while Machida was still a favorite in the eyes of the oddsmakers, who installed him as a 2-1 favorite. Like many, they assumed that the talented champion would come up with a game plan to check and counter Shogun’s leg kicks and perhaps take the fight to the ground. Neither they nor Machida counted on Rua deciding to rely on his hands instead of his legs. Rua went back to the “go-for-broke” style that made him a beast in Pride and caught Lyoto with a big right hand behind the ear that floored the champion. Shogun followed Machida to the ground, secured full mount and put him to sleep three or four punches later. Rua displayed exceptional class in the win as he actually stopped hitting Machida and started to release the mount before referee Yves Lavigne even stepped in to stop it.
Rua’s incredible performance brings him Light Heavyweight gold, the Knockout of the Night bonus and a sense of justice and retribution. It also changes everything in the division. Rua has already said he would fight Anderson Silva, which has to be sweet music to the UFC brass’ ears. Lyoto and Anderson repeatedly cited a brotherly relationship as the reason they would not agree to fight. Rua has now solved that problem and eliminated the obstacle to Silva making a move to 205 if he beats Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort. Things just got a lot more interesting at 205.
Justice was served on Paul Daley as well, but he got his dose after the event concluded, not in the cage. After getting dominated by Josh Koscheck’s wrestling for three rounds, Daley sought Kos and hit him with his best shot of the night a good five seconds after the fight concluded and was, justifiably, cut from the UFC by Dana White. During the sanctioned portion of the fight, Kos fought off the temptation to test his standup skills against “Semtex” and repeatedly took Daley down, controlled him on the ground and mixed in an occasional submission attempt. In the first round, Kos may have had his acting skills on display as Koscheck clutched his eye after an illegal knee from Daley that clearly missed Kos’ peeper. The scene was eerily reminiscent of Kos’ fight with Anthony Johnson and his performance tonight prompted Joe Rogan to suggest that he receive an Oscar. For the win, Kos now gets the opportunity to coach opposite GSP on TUF 12 and fight the talented Canadian for the title late in the year or early 2011. In their first fight, Kos was dominated for three rounds in GSP’s first fight after his loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69. While Kos has transformed himself into a well-rounded mixed martial artist, I think he does everything GSP does a few notches below the champion and I’d be surprised to see things turn out any different than they did in the first meeting.
(Mike Mastrandea for FIGHT!)
The Machida Era may be over. The Kimbo Era is definitely over. Kimbo was thoroughly dominated by Matt Mitrione for two rounds before it came to a merciful end in the final minute of the second round. Mitrione, who may not have known a submission if it hit him in the head on TUF 10, almost had Kimbo done with an early triangle and a late Anaconda choke in the first round. Matt caught a fatigued Kimbo with a few leg kicks in the second causing him to look like a guy who didn’t want to be in the cage anymore. Matt ultimately secured full mount and a defenseless Slice did little to escape or defend himself except cover his face with his arms. The blueprint to beating Kimbo appears to be to catch him with a few leg kicks. He caught Mitrione flush several times in the fight and the former NFLer walked right through them. If Slice is to have any shot at a career in MMA he MUST cut to 205. He only weighed 225 for this fight, so 205 should be a no-brainer if he is really serious about the sport. I can’t think of anyone in the UFC that he has more than a fluke chance of beating. Apparently Dana can’t either as he was quoted as saying that Kimbo is done in the UFC.
• Alan Belcher dropped Patrick Cote on his face (legal) not his head (illegal) and then took his neck and choked him out for the Submission of the Night. Afterward, “The Talent” called out Anderson Silva. Let me save you the time of checking the videotape…it was Cote and not Belcher that was dropped on his face. Belcher is ready for a step up in competition, but not that big of a step.
• Jeremy Stephens scored a split decision victory over Sam Stout along with the Fight of the Night bonus. Stephens was the more powerful of the two and hung in there technically with Stout, usually getting the better of the exchanges and inflicting greater damage. Sam had Jeremy in trouble in the third but couldn’t put him away and deservedly lost the fight.