Who’s to blame for Shogun Rua’s loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 104? Shogun Rua for not finishing the fight or the judges for scoring the fight for Machida?
The men who should be facing the wrath of those who felt Rua had won should not be Hamilton, Peoples and Rosales, who rendered their opinions in a very technical, taut affair. Rather, Rua supporters should be angry at his corner men, who continually told him he was well ahead.
Rua said he didn’t press the action in the final two rounds because his corner had told him he was in control. If that’s true, it’s that advice that cost him the fight. And it’s always the worst kind of advice to give a fighter in any match, but particularly a technical fight like Machida-Rua.
He could have won the fight. And he probably should have won the fight.
But he only has himself and his own people to blame. Had they sent him out with a sense of urgency for the fourth and fifth rounds, history might have been different on Saturday. Rua managed to shatter some of the Machida Myth with his performance, but he didn’t leave with the belt around his waist.
As outraged as many are at the call, the culprits aren’t Messrs. Hamilton, Peoples and Rosales.
Rather, the bad guys in this scenario are Rua’s friends, partners and coaches who were all too willing to pat him on the back and cheerlead rather than to encourage him and go and finish a fight he had within his grasp.
It’s a nice thought in hindsight. Sure, knowing what we know now, Shogun should have tried to knock Machida out in the championship rounds. Based on how the judges scored the fight, it was his only way to officially win it. But that wasn’t Shogun’s game plan nor should it have been. If you’re fighting Brock Lesnar, is it smart to try and out wrestle him? No. Should you attempt to out strike Anderson Silva? No. Should you try to submit Demian Maia? No. It’s a horrible strategy to play into your opponent’s strengths, especially when they’re the best in the game at it, so why would you play into Machida’s superior counter-striking game by trying to knock him out when you believe your strategy is working and you’re winning the fight? Entering the final rounds, if you’re Shogun, is it not the wiser move to trust/hope the judges are scoring the fight correctly when you know your other option is the perceivable higher-risk proposition of falling into the same trap so many others have with Machida?
In retrospect it wasn’t, but it’s also not fair to blame Shogun for the judges’ incompetence. In most cases, I’d agree with the notion to never leave it to the judges, but fighting Lyoto Machida isn’t most cases. Shogun’s team crafted a brilliant game plan and Shogun executed it to near perfection. They felt they were winning the fight and acted accordingly. They may be guilty of assumption, but they’re not at fault for his loss. The judges scored it wrong and the numbers prove it, plain and simple. Shogun shouldn’t be blamed nor punished for losing a fight he actually won.
If anything, Shogun and his team should be commended for solving the mystery no one else could. It’s a shame that’s not the focal point today because three judges failed at their jobs.
Image via the Las Vegas Sun