Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shogun Rua - Return To Form

104 in Review / 10.25.09

Guerrilla had been on a hot streak, decisively picking correctly most of the recent main events in the UFC. Despite technically picking well with our call on Machida, the fight didn't go according to plan. "The Dragon" likely felt the same way. Like all fighters, dominance is fleeting.

Coming into the main event at UFC 104 there was one dominant question on the minds of fight fans and the press: which Shogun was the fluke - the loser vs. Coleman, or the winner vs. Liddel ? The line spoke for itself, and many fans who once worshiped at the feet of Rua as the P4P best in the world were clearly not willing to reverse their decision to distance themselves from a former master in steep decline. Still, in hindsight perhaps writing off a fighter of that regard as "shot" was a little premature ? Just a little. Considering Rua is still a month away from being 29 years old, maybe the disrespect went too far. It's fair to say that many fans who have not checked his bio in a while will be surprised to read that number. Shogun Rua is well under 30. But the years of war spent in Pride have left an indelible mark in the minds of the faithless. Too many fans were all too ready to accept that the downturn of Rua was for real, and not just a setback for a man tending serious injuries on his way back to the top. Count Guerrilla in that category. The Coleman fight in particular (despite the win for Rua) left a lasting impression that Rua could not handle the "next-gen elite" Lyoto Machida.

To be honest, I have to say that my personal gut feeling changed substantially when I saw Shogun in the cage prior to the fight. He just looked 100% to me, while Machida appeared, well ... concerned. Unlike any of his previous 15 wins, at no point in the match did Machida look completely confident of victory. Certainly not after the first round, which it is said, was perhaps the first round Machida had lost in his MMA career (and that is astounding). I think it's safe to say that Machida recognized within the first round, if not within the cage prior to the handshake, that Shogun might again be a beast.

The decision was poor and that is obvious so we just won't dwell on it. But for those quick to pounce on Dana White and Zuffa and cry conspiracy, let's just have a quick reality check. As heavy handed as White and "the brothers" are reputed to be (and it is their right to be so), the possibility of a corrupt decision influenced by the UFC itself is total garbage. Let's just squash that nonsense now.

As convenient as it was for the UFC to have an undefeated, perhaps invincible fighter in each of the 170 lb, 185 lb and 205 lb divisions, the stupidity it would take to risk the franchise (which by the way makes roughly a zillion dollars a year) by trying to fix decisions is laughable. Zuffa is many things but stupid is not on the list. What's more, White clearly thought Shogun won the fight, and if you're even a tiny bit skilled at reading lips, White clearly said as much to Rua in the cage immediately after the fight. And while the decision was poor, it was at least not an outrageously bad decision, the likes of which boxing has been plagued with for 100 years. Rua should have been 48/47 or there abouts on each of the judges cards, which is roughly how the estimable Sherdog had it. Despite the fact that Shogun clearly won (solidified by taking the 5th round) it was a close fight, made even closer by the fact that Machida was a sitting Champ. We are not in the camp that claims this was the worst decision in the history of fighting (which our clearly excited and up in arms friend Jamie Varner stated on his FaceBook page). However, there most definitely should have been a new Champ at 205 lbs this morning. The lesson here is clear - once you are considered the most dangerous man on the planet, you are forever a threat to anyone. J.Wise- 10.25.09

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