They say you have to clearly beat the champion if you want to take his belt.
For five rounds Rua punished Machida, battering his ribs and thighs with brutal kicks, and yet somehow Rua still walked out of the Staples Center in Los Angeles without the belt around his waist. In a decision that was met with a chorus of boos from the fans in attendance, Machida retained his title thanks to the unanimous nod from the judges, all three of whom scored the bout 48-47 for the champion. Exactly what fight those judges were watching is still unclear.
The elusive Machida, who makes opponents miss before making them pay, was nowhere to be found in his first title defense. After finding his range early on, Rua had no problem landing repeated kicks to Machida's body throughout the championship bout, while successfully avoiding most of the typically effective Machida counter strikes.
By the end of the fight Machida's ribs glowed bright red and his face was bloodied like never before in his UFC career. The fighter who had never lost a round suddenly seemed to have lost at least three, if not more.
But for reasons that will likely remain a mystery, the judges didn't agree. When asked for his take on the verdict, a subdued Machida could only point out that with all the judges on his side, it must have been the right decision. Not that it would be the first time three judges all got it wrong together.
In the night's co-main event, heavyweight
Rothwell would last into the second, only to face more of the same from the relentless Velasquez. As he scrambled to his feet off another Velasquez takedown he absorbed a torrent of left hands to the jaw, prompting a referee stoppage that was peculiarly timed, but not altogether incomprehensible. With the impressive win against an experienced and game opponent, Velasquez may have positioned himself near the top of the elite list of UFC heavyweight title contenders.
In other action from UFC 104:
• Though some might have questioned
• AKA light heavyweight
• Lanky Dutch fighter