Lyoto Machida's unanimous decision victory over Mauricio Rua was a lot of things. It was ugly, It was hard fought, It was close, but, the one thing it was not was wrong. Everything about this fight was controversial, from the ringside commentary to the supposedly "stunning" decision. It seems everyone who watched this fight has a strong opinion about it one way or the other. The MMA community has been raging over the merits of the judges' decision since it was first handed down and the debate hasn't stopped.
The fact is, this was a fight that was colored more by the ringside commentary than by the action going on inside the octagon. From the opening moments, Rua unleashed a consistent flow of Muay Thai leg kicks that didn't stop until the final bell. Those leg kicks were vicious, hard and damaging. They were also the only offense Shogun was able to mount all night. While no one can deny the effective precision of Rua's leg kicks, it is also true that they did not put Machida on the canvas one time during any of the five rounds of the fight. Nor did the leg kicks damage Machida's leg movement enough to allow Shogun to score a take down at any point in the match.
For his part Machida absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment to his legs, but at the same time was able to launch effective counter punches that seemed to go unnoticed by the announce team of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg. Consistently throughout the fight, Rua's crisp Muay Thai leg strikes were met with a straight left or right hands by Machida that would send Rua back-peddling from the engagement. Interestingly, just as consistently, Rogan and Goldberg seem to comment only Rua's part of the exchange in excited and laudatory tones. So it appears that while the ringside commentators that night were failing to see Machida's counter-attacks, the ringside judges did see them and scored them accordingly.
The amount of outrage that has followed this fight seems to fall upon the theme that this was a one-sided matter, with Rua striking and battering Machida at will with no response from the champ. If the fight the commentators described that night had actually taken place in the ring then that would certainly be the case. Yet, that simply is not what happened and the commentary provided that night covered only one side of the match.
Throughout the fight, Rua at no time was able to follow up on his effective leg kicks or at any time put Machida in any real danger. Instead, most of his kicks where countered by Machida with hard straight lefts and rights up the middle that caught Rua on a consistent basis. Furthermore, Shogun's limited attempts at a takedown were also defended and rebuffed. Interestingly, the only pressing flurries which seemed to put anyone in danger occurred when Machida pressed the action in the latter part of round 3 and unleashed a flurry of punches pinning Rua against the cage before the round ended.
Machida and the judges have taken a lot of heat over the decision since the fight. The myth of the of the Rua dominated victory being "stolen" out of his hands by the judges has taken root in the popular consciousness of most in the MMA community, even if that account has no basis in fact. That is thanks, in no small part, to the one-sided hyperbole from the announce team. When one thinks that at no time did Rua press Machida or take him down in the match, after repeated attempts, it becomes very difficult to reconcile those facts with the supposed "domination" by Rua.
Commentary aside. This fight was very close between two very skilled mixed martial artists. Rua's leg kicks would have eventually overtaken Machida if the fight had lasted another round or two. But scoring it on the 10 point must system per round, as the CSAC judges were required to do, it is clear that the unanimous decision was not only legitimate but warranted. The fight described by the announce team was one-sided and the decision inexcusable. The fight that actually occurred in the octagon on October 24, 2009 for the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship was close, hard fought and fairly won by the champion.