MMA: Rua out to right a wrong vs. Machida at UFC 113
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Almost nobody at Staples Center thought Lyoto Machida deserved to keep his UFC light heavyweight title after he fought Mauricio "Shogun" Rua last October.
Almost nobody except the judges.
For 25 fascinating minutes, Rua discovered and exposed cracks in the formerly impenetrable style of Machida, the Brazilian karate expert whose unorthodox abilities appeared to make him unbeatable. Machida had never even lost a round in any of his first 15 pro fights, yet Rua broke apart his game with leg kicks and tenacity.
The Los Angeles crowd mostly reacted with disbelief and anger when Machida won a unanimous decision with identical 48-47 edges on all three judges' scorecards. Even UFC president Dana White said he disagreed with the decision — and unlike the fans, White can do something about it.
He ordered a rematch to headline UFC 113 in Montreal on Saturday night, matching Machida against the countryman who solved mixed martial arts' biggest riddle last time out.
Rua wasn't a sore loser, and he refuses to get worked up about the chance to right what's widely considered one of the UFC's strangest decisions in recent years.
"This is all in the past for me right now," Rua said through a translator. "And what gives me comfort is the fact that I'm having another shot at a title, and I'll fight for the world championship again."
Machida and Rua will meet in front of Canada's famously passionate MMA fans on a card including Josh Koscheck's 170-pound fight with Paul Daley, along with Kimbo Slice's second UFC bout against former NFL player Matt Mitrione.
The pressure is on Machida in the rematch to prove he's still a confounding opponent. Machida, who had surgery on his left hand one week after the victory, has studied everything from sumo to boxing, yet he built his streak of eight consecutive UFC wins on a game grounded in the traditional martial arts, rather than wrestling.
"There's not too much that's going to change," Machida said. "I've worked on certain areas of my game to improve, but for the most part I'm going to come in and apply my strategy. ... The great thing about the rematch is that we're both a lot more familiar with each other than we were the first time we met, so I think it just makes the chance all that much greater for a better fight this time around."
Rua spent six months training for Machida last year, and he ratcheted up his work level for the rematch, even perhaps getting a head start while Machida recovered from surgery.
"I'm training for all situations so I can get no surprises when the fight starts," Rua said. "But actually I have to also think on different game plans and different approaches to the fight in case Lyoto comes up with something different. I have to be prepared."
Rua largely hurt Machida with a nonstop attack of leg kicks, preventing much of Machida's unorthodox style from ever getting off the ground. Yet such a strategy sometimes doesn't show up on the scorecards in MMA, where judges must weight multiple disciplines and methods of showing progress in a match.
Some judges highly value leg kicks, which were used by Jose Aldo and Matt Hughes in recent weeks to dominate fights. Other judges aren't impressed by the kicks, which cause soreness and movement-hindering bruises, but no blood or drama.
Rua would love to see more concrete guidelines for scoring such an attack, since he clearly got little benefit from the strategy at Staples Center.
"I don't think about controversy or any thoughts or what happened, because I think this can only hinder an athlete," Rua said. "The fight sometimes doesn't end really as the fans want, because it's not easy to do whatever you want. Obviously I always fight trying to look for a knockout, and that's what I'll do again. But Lyoto is a great fighter, so it's not an easy thing to achieve."