Machida Vs. Rua: A Close Fight, Judging Criteria Explains Why
Last weekend?s main event at*UFC*104 made armed bank robbery look like a petty crime, well at least to many*die-hard*and casual fight fans alike.
Three mixed martial arts judges, one of whom goes by the name of Cecil Peoples, felt that the*Rua*leg kicks and clinch knees aside*Lyoto*Machida*beat Mauricio*Rua unanimously.*
Many fans are livid. In fact*UFC*commentator Joe*Rogan*was so shocked he coined a follow up to his ?Machida*Era? line to now being the ?Machida*Error?.
After sitting back and watching the fight again the fight looked a lot closer then fans make it out to be. A lot of Rua's leg kicks that looked like they landed were actually blocked or missed upon slowing down and rewinding the film.
These blocks and misses are something the ring side judges were able to see well in real time.
What the fans may have misinterpreted is in fact a tribute to the high speed at which Rua*was throwing his leg kicks and*Machida?s incredible elusiveness as a fighter.
Fightmetric.com had Mauricio*Rua*landing twice as many strikes as*Lyoto*Machida. Unfortunately, fight statistics don?t tell the whole story of an*MMA*fight that goes to the judges.
In order to understand some of the reasons why*Machida*vs.*Rua*was so close and why*Machida*was awarded a unanimous decision one has to consult ?The Unified Rules for Mixed Martial Arts ?.
I?ll admit I was not aware of all the details and nuances of*MMA*judging criteria and I will wager that most of the fans screaming ?bloody Mary? after the decision don?t know them either.
I figured this would be a good time to read up on the*MMA*Judging Criteria.
First of all a fight is judged round by round by three judges, the winner of a round is awarded 10 points and the loser is awarded 9 points or less. If the judge feels the round was a stalemate, each fighter gets 10 points awarded.
Due to the fact that a fight is judged round by round, a judge cannot watch further rounds and then re-score earlier rounds after.
Case in point,*Rua*landed knees and kicks to the legs of*Machida*in the first two rounds.*Machida*never looked badly hurt in rounds one or two and arguably three. In rounds four and five Machida*looked slowed down by the kicks to the legs and he looked tired.
However, the three judges can?t watch the fourth and fifth rounds and think that theRua*leg kicks and knees in earlier rounds seem to have done more damage then appeared at first, let?s go change the scores in the earlier rounds.
MMA*judging criteria simply does not allow for that.
Now what exactly is an*MMA*bout judgement based on exactly?
A fight is judged based on effective striking, effective grappling, octagon or ring control, effective aggressiveness and defence, the weight attached to each area gets lower as we go down the list from effective striking to defence.
Obviously as stated in the rules, if a fight takes place on the canvas most of the time, then effective grappling becomes more important then effective striking. This was not the case in*Machida*vs.*Rua*seeing as how the fight was fought standing up in its entirety.
Effective striking means the fighter who lands more heavy strikes.*Rua*landed more strikes, but were they necessarily heavier then*Machida?s strikes? In rounds one to three I would argue no.
Rua*lost his footing a total of three times after*Machida*landed strikes and combos in rounds one to three.*Machida*on the other hand does not stumble or look phased after any of Rua?s attacks in rounds one to three.
Rua*also slid into failed take down attempts to try and avoid further damage from knees to the body thrown by*Machida.
Machida*never backpedalled uncontrollably in to the cage or shot for*take downs*after Rua*strikes landed in rounds one to three.
In rounds one to three Machida*arguably landed more heavy strikes then*Rua*and*Rua*landed more strikes overall.
This situation makes the rounds very difficult to judge and without knowing what unfolded in rounds four and five it is easy to see how a judge could have given the striking advantage to*Machida*in rounds one to three.
In rounds four and five,*Rua*lands more strikes with more power then*Machida, but being given two rounds out of five no matter how lopsided they are will not win you the fight.
There was no ground game in this fight so effective grappling did not really play a factor in this fight.
Next up is probably the most argued point in the fight, Octagon control.
Fans who felt*Rua*deserved the fight argue that he pushed the pace and maintained control of the octagon. Please read the following definition of octagon control.
?Fighting area control is judged by determining who is dictating the pace, location and position of the bout. Examples of factors to consider are countering a grappler?s attempt at*take down*by remaining standing and legally striking; taking down an opponent to force a ground fight; creating threatening submission attempts, passing the guard to achieve mount, and creating striking opportunities.*
This is where I would argue that*Rua*and his corner were not aware of what Octagon control is defined by in the judging criteria. Why you may ask?
Rua*attempted and failed at nine take downs. After three failed*take down*attempts anyone with common sense would expect a fighter to abandon the*take down*and keep it standing. Unless the fighter felt getting their opponent to the ground was an important key to victory.
What*Rua*effectively showed the judges by attempting and failing nine take downs*was that he desperately wanted to get the fight to the ground, but he could not get it there.
The argument that*take down*attempts show that the fighter is being active and trying to control the octagon isn?t anywhere in the judging criteria, many people are under the guise that it is.
Judges have to follow the criteria when judging a fight; they can?t make up new rules or criteria on the fly.
On the flip side,*Lyoto*Machida*stuffed nine of nine take down attempt by*Rua. Telling the judges he didn?t want any part of the ground game that his opponent appeared to have desperately wanted.
Machida*not attempting any take downs enforced the fact that he is a striker who wants to stay on his feet.
Rua*landed effective leg kicks no doubt, that is where the majority of his strikes landed.
That being said, after landing an effective leg attack on*Machida,*Rua*would often back out and not follow up with a striking combos.*Rua*was showing a lot of respect for Lyoto?s counter striking abilities.*
Lyoto*on the other hand would follow up his heavy strikes or counter strikes with striking combos that would stumble or back up his opponent, particularly in rounds 1-3.
Is it really that shocking that maybe the judges gave octagon control to*Lyoto Machida? After reading the judging criteria, I would say that at the very least it isn't a log shot.
Mauricio*Rua, his corner men and any other mixed martial artist should know that failed take down*attempts fended off by your opponent aren?t going to help you in the scoring of a fight.
After three, maybe four failed*take down*attempts,*Rua*and his corner men should have realised that these failures were hurting octagon control as oppose to aiding it and stopped the attempts.
I would argue that a few of those failed take down attempts were after*Rua*took damage from*Machida, particularly knees to the body.
Although it is a good technique to avoid damage, in order to score points with the judges according to the criteria they abide by*Rua*had to make those take down attempts count.
As far as effective aggressiveness goes, the fighter that moves forward and lands strikes without getting hit is being effective. Moving forward and landing a lot of strikes while taking a lot of strikes is not effective.
The fighters in rounds one to three were very close to one another,*Machida*moved forward and landed a lot and he countered a lot of Rua?s kicks with his left hand.*Rua*on the other hand landed a lot of effective leg kicks and moved forward himself as well.
As far as defence goes, both fighters were defending well as evidenced by the fact that neither fighter was finished.*Machida*was hit more, but his elusiveness turned a lot of potential heavy strikes into weak ones and he defended nine take downs.
Rua*avoided damage by attacking and backing out, he also avoided potential knockout blows by limiting himself to throwing kicks as oppose to hands.*Rua*had a very good game plan against*Machida.
Of course this fight was very close and with the way rounds four and five went, it is very difficult to accept the fact that*Machida*was awarded the victory.
However, if one watches the fight a few times and actually pays attention to the unified judging criteria, one can definitely appreciate the fact that the fight was much closer then first observed.
Rua?s game plan was the right one to beat*Machida, but two things cost him this fight. His corner men telling him he was winning the fight at the end of round 3 and continuing*take down*attempts that never saw fruition.
The result wasn?t as wrong as people may have thought and I think a rematch is most definitely required. I along with all the other*MMA*fans out there are looking forward to watching the Karate master and the*Muay*Thai specialist go at it again.*