"What?!?" I shouted convulsively at Bruce Buffer's words. "Which fight were they watching?" my brother blurted. It was a Saturday night, and after a gruelingly technical battle, Lyoto Machida had apparently just snuck the victory of the century. Sometimes such a decision victory leaves a deep empty void in your soul whose only company is the question, 'How is this possible?"
Since then I've been keeping a close eye on the post-UFC 104 commentary, and there are a few things circulating around I'd like to clear up.
No. One: 'To be the champ, you have to beat the champ.'
It hasn't even been 48 hours since the fight and already this idea has been thrown around a lot. Unfortunately, I think it probably has a lot to do with less technical fans who still feel compelled to explain what seemed like an awful decision.
For this we can probably thank Mike Goldberg for mentioning it off-handedly once or twice during the fight itself. I don't think he would've meant for people to get carried away with it, but sometimes convenience can produce terrible things.
It is a completely bogus explanation for the evenings' events. To my knowledge this has never been a rule in practice, and since the fight I have not heard any judge echo the sentiment. I think Shogun's supporters ought to be irritated at the thought, Machida fans should abandon the idea, and nobody should be under the impression that this was actually the deciding factor in what was actually a great fight.
No. Two: Speaking of Mike Goldberg, the announcing was awful...
Okay, I won't pick on just Mike "Wild Mid-fight Sensationalizing Is My Crack" Goldberg. Though not all bad, I frequently find Joe Rogan's commentary to be a bit rudimentary. However, I've never known Rogan to miss so much in a single fight. We're all fallible human beings and (just like the judges) Rogan does not have the benefit of instant replay while he's recounting the fight.
And on a related note that Machida is one fast mother-f**ker. After watching the fight a couple more times with the benefit of an open mind and instant replay, it is amazing just how much Rogan and I both missed.
More than once Rogan cited a 'punishing body kick' which was actually blocked (and on one occasion was clearly to the leg unless you have anatomy confusion). At more than one point Rogan also announced something along the lines of a 'great left by Rua' which leaves me utterly confused (is he talking about that half-hearted glance as Shogun backs up?).
Moreover Machida's counters were effective on numerous occasions, frequently landing straight lefts to Shogun's face during Rua's kicks. Numerous times Shogun also suffered the same body-shattering knees that crumpled Tito Ortiz.
I don't know what caused this imbalance, and I'll admit the UFC announcers frequently do a much better job, though that isn't saying much. I can only imagine that it had to do with a gap in expectation and reality. Everyone I know and every pre-fight opinion I read agreed that Shogun was probably going to be taken to task.
The point has been made that the fans in attendance, who notably disapproved of the decision, aren't subjected to the live commentary, and this point is 100 percent dead on. However...
No. Three: Watching is watching, and judging is judging
I cannot say for sure how much Rogan and Goldberg's cheerleading affected my view during the course of the live fight, but one way or another my sensation throughout was one of Rua slowly racking up leg and body kicks while Machida rarely if ever answered. At the end, I did feel that Rua had won the fight.
But that's just the thing: As it stands right now judges aren't asked to judge the end of fights. They are asked to judge them round by round, and this repeatedly drives a wedge between the expectation of the fans and the call from ringside.It is a completely different way of evaluating experience: One is charged with emotions (and should be), and the other explicitly attempts to stuff emotion and evaluate on a whole different set of criteria.
And I'm not sure anybody would like it the other way around. If you think people are irritated with the decision now, imagine a fighter as elusive as Machida avoiding and tiring out his enemy, having no incentive to do any retaliatory striking, for four rounds, and then unleashing aggressively in the last five minutes.
The more I look at it, the less bothersome the decision really feels.