From Lyoto Machida's controversial win, to fighters' reactions and the UFC's response, SI.com's Josh Gross and MMA FanHouse's Ray Hui felt it was time to weigh in. Here's what the experts had to say about the latest happenings in the cage.
Ray Hui: I wasn't as surprised by the fan reaction as much as the fighter reaction. This captivated fighters across the board, compelling them to chime in immediately afterward to publicly voice their displeasure with the decision. I found it fascinating that people considered Machida's peers were so strongly against the judging that they went out of their way to join the outcry. I'm guessing that they would have hated to be in Shogun's shoes when the final scores were announced.
And as close as the fight was, I find it curious that most (from what I've heard) fighters, fans and media scored it in favor of Rua. Yet, all three judges scored it for Machida. I wonder how much of pro-Rua voters would have changed their minds had it not been for Mike Goldberg's commentary.
Goldberg is catching flack for bringing up the "you have to beat the champ" adage. I know, MMA is a sport, and as a sport, a victory within the specified rules agreed upon between the competitors should be valid with no exceptions. But, you can refer to this fight or one hypothetically, would it sit well with you if a challenger was to be awarded the belt in a razor-thin decision for a fight you felt could have gone either way or one you scored as a draw?
Josh Gross: About this "you have to beat the champ" idea: I've never really bought into it. Why should a challenger be expected to do anything more in the name of victory than a champion? How is that sporting? They're on the same playing field, competing under the same rules. Whether by wide or slim margin, victory is victory if it's earned. This is why rematches have always played an important part in combat sports. We're asking highly skilled, highly motivated people to fight. As soon as they step inside a cage or a ring, pre-bout designations shouldn't matter -- especially in the eyes of judges -- and neither should the margins.
And though it's been covered inside and out, Machida's win, I believe, is a story that will linger. With a little time and distance, my hope is people will come to the conclusion that it was an extremely close fight, one with legit arguments on both sides, and not the "robbery" that so many people labeled it immediately afterwards.
Fighters, like plenty of others, really did have a strong reaction to the decision. The funny thing is I've never found them to be the best arbiters when it comes to handicapping or scoring a fight. But you definitely can't ignore the outcry, and I think you're onto something. I can't imagine competing as hard as they do, then leaving their fate it in the hands of "experts" who, too regularly for my taste, get it wrong. If we're taking adages here, fighters know all too well what can happen when they allow a bout to go the distance. Sometimes, of course, they don't have a choice; evenly matched bouts often lead to a decision. The hope is fighters will get a fair shake from officials when they do.
Hui: When I first watched it, I actually scored it 48-46 for Griffin, which is the same score submitted by two out of three of the judges. With that said, I would have also been fine with a draw.
With Jackson-Griffin, there was more going on in terms of definitive scoring. We saw knock/takedowns, submission attempts and positional advances. And, like Shogun, Griffin utilized leg kicks. But the toll was more apparent on Jackson, who had no answer for Griffin's kicks. Though both fights were close, and I know it's possible to defend either side in both cases, I found it harder to defend the Machida decision.
However, there is one thing that was worse in Griffin-Jackson: the UFC's decision to not grant an immediate rematch. In MMA, we often find ourselves complaining about nonsensical rematches, but this is one instance where it's completely warranted, and I hope the UFC doesn't throw us a curveball here, as it's only fair for the fans and, more importantly, for the fighters to settle it one more time. Machida was the one with his hand raised, but he, arguably, has more to prove the next time the two meet.
Gross: Agreed. If Dana White goes back on his word to make an immediate rematch between Machida and Rua that would be terrible. For what it's worth, I had Jackson-Griffin a draw; and there should have been a rematch after that one as well.
Gross: Well, here's what I liked about the card: The "white cage," or as I like to call it, the "Tuna Trap"; Yoshiro Maeda's effort against Chase Beebe; EddieAlvarez getting tested by Katsunori Kikuno; and Marius Zaromskis smashing his leg into Myeon Ho Bae's head. What I didn't like: Kazushi Sakuraba absorbing yet another beating (even if he pulled out a submission); and Alistair Overeem having his way with an overmatched James Thompson.
I released updated divisional rankings Wednesday, and by a wide margin readers sent more responses about Overeem (I have him ranked No. 6 at heavyweight) than anyone else. I'm not too excited about defending his spot at this point. You don't beat guys with standing guillotines anymore, and he's done that twice in two weeks. Safe to say those wins had more to do with the caliber of his opposition than anything he's doing.
The best thing about Overeem right now is he's active. He also seems intent on pursuing the K-1 World Grand Prix, which is fine, even if it does nothing for his MMA stature. He's obviously gifted, both physically and technically. Does that make him a legit threat to Fedor Emelianenko?
Hui: Sakuraba's performance only adds to his legacy, but at this point in his career, it's difficult to watch the man take a beating like that. Still, I found his ability to withstand the punishment and pull out the kneebar at the last minute, made his match the must-see fight of the night for me.
I wouldn't rank Overeem that high, but I won't ask you to defend his spot. Overeem is an intriguing personality, and you probably received the most e-mails about him because of the puzzling nature of him as a MMA fighter. It's hard to say where he belongs on the rankings because the elite opponents he has faced in recent years have been in kickboxing, not MMA.
Even though I don't rank him that high, because he hasn't had a noteworthy MMA win in years, Overeem poses a serious threat to Fedor Emelianenko. Actually, I think Overeem could be a serious threat to anyone in the heavyweight division, which makes it even more frustrating that he's accepting MMA fights that no one cares about. But it's all speculation at this point until he decides to shift his focus back to MMA. So let's see if Overeem lives up to his word of wanting to fight Fedor in April 2010.
READ MORE FROM RAY HUI AT MMA FANHOUSE