Saturday night in Montreal Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua headline UFC 113 in a battle for the Dragon’s light-heavyweight championship belt. This is a rematch of their tilt at UFC 104, a five-round war during which Shogun was the first UFC fighter to not only win a round from Machida, but perplex and hurt him to the extent that it was assumed he’d leave Los Angeles as the new king of the division.
But you know what happens when you assume, especially with the recent track record of MMA judges. Three pairs of eyes awarded Machida the win – one person later admitting he made a mistake. This wasn’t the first to send the MMA community into an uproar. It’s just one of our five most controversial judging decisions of recent MMA history.
Shogun was Machida’s first challenger since the Dragon blasted Rashad Evans to win the light-heavyweight strap. In a fight expected to be another Machida victory, Rua hurt the champion with enough kicks to leave a large welt on the left side of his midsection. Alas, Machida was awarded a unanimous decision victory, 48-47 from all three judges. Much of the 16,000-plus on hand at the Staples Center booed loudly. The majority of MMA writers and a handful of fighters expressed shock, thinking Rua had won the fight. Message boards were nearly short-circuited with protests.
Here’s the kicker: Judge Nelson “Doc” Hamilton told Yahoo! Sports that he made a mistake in giving Machida the fourth round after reviewing the tape, claiming that his line of sight was blocked and adding that the bout’s commentary may have persuaded viewers to believe Rua won handily.
In the second round of the main event at UFC 105, Brandon Vera stunned and knocked down Randy Couture with two kicks and a punch. In the final round, Couture, pressed against the cage, looked up at the clock wondering when it would end. Leave it to the three judges to give the Natural the unanimous decision win (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), one that had many including UFC fighter and WEC analyst Stephan Bonner wondering if the system needs to be changed.
“I have a problem with how fights are scored sometimes,” Bonnar said. “Randy held him up against the cage for two rounds and really didn’t do any damage. Then one round Brandon almost had him out of there, but Brandon loses the fight 2-1 because that’s how it’s scored. To me that’s not fair. Usually if it’s a close fight and one guy does the most damage, he deserves a little more credit. I would have at least given him a 10-8 round and it would have been a draw. I’d get the half-round scoring system going.”
The one good thing to come out of this scoring fiasco is that Bisping, one of England’s sports heroes, wasn’t the one to get screwed – there’s no telling how badly he would have reacted had taken the L on his record. Despite pushing the pace and taking Bisping down many times in the first two rounds, Matt Hamill was the one handed a raw deal. One sane judge awarded the Hammer the fight 30-27, while the two others scored it 29-28 for the Count. And despite cries about the bout being held in England led to some shady decisions, it was the British judge that gave the fight to Hamill.
Of course, Bisping defended the decision, but with the polar opposite of grace, telling off a reporter by asking, “Do you want to go three rounds? … Of course I won the decision. Get the (expletive) out of here. Get that smile off your face,” before ending the tirade with an obscene gesture.
Tito Ortiz was already an established MMA superstar. Forrest Griffin was the upstart Season 1 Ultimate Fighter winner and he took the Huntington Beach Bad Boy to the brink on April 15, 2006. These judges worked on neither fan sentiment nor common logic. Ortiz was awarded the bout via split decision, but Griffin avenged the defeat at UFC 106 with one of his own.
Times are precious and cherished when we’re treated to such epics inside the Octagon. There was Griffin’s first fight against Stephan Bonnar, Diego Sanchez-Clay Guida, Ben Henderson-Donald Cerrone I and Gilbert Melendez -Josh Thompson II. At WEC 48, Leonard Garcia, himself one-half of a classic against Roger Huerta, went three furious and fabulous rounds with Chan Sung Jung in the second of two preliminary fights aired on Spike. The bout wasn’t a technical clinic but it was an absolute stunner, one that Jung took control of in the third, yet was awarded only one round to suffer a tough-luck loss. A rematch appears to be inevitable.