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5 All-time most controversial decisions in UFC title fights

  • Jon Jones' recent win over Dominick Reyes was a controversial call, but these 5 judges' decisions were arguably more questionable.
Scott Newman
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 12 Feb 2020, 23:15 IST

#2 Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua – UFC Light-Heavyweight title, UFC 104

Despite largely outstriking him, Mauricio Rua wasn
Despite largely outstriking him, Mauricio Rua wasn't given the judges' nod against Lyoto Machida

Even before UFC 247, the UFC Light-Heavyweight title had been no stranger to controversial decisions; some would point out Jon Jones’ win over Alexander Gustafsson as being one of the more questionable, but far more egregious was Lyoto Machida’s 2009 defense against top contender Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua.

Coming into the fight, few were giving Shogun a chance; the former PRIDE superstar had looked like a shadow of his former self in UFC action and had earned his shot by beating Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell, two fighters miles past their primes. Machida meanwhile was unbeaten in 15 fights and when he’d dethroned Rashad Evans to claim the title, announcer Joe Rogan was swift to christen the victory as “the beginning of the Machida era”.

The key to the success of ‘The Dragon’ had been his speed and movement; essentially, nobody had been able to actually hit him cleanly with punches. Shogun, though, had other ideas. Rather than aim punches at the champion’s head, he instead attacked him with a series of low kicks and body kicks, breaking him down from the bottom up.

Machida did answer back with some clean strikes of his own, landing a hard body kick in the second round and a nice flurry to end the third, but for the most part, ‘The Dragon’ was firmly on the defensive for the majority of the five rounds. When the fight ended, it seemed inconceivable that he could hold onto his title.

And yet all three judges somehow called the fight in Machida’s favor, unanimously scoring the fight 48-47 for the champion. To say the crowd – who were pro-Machida prior to the fight beginning – were stunned would be an understatement.

This was a robbery of the highest order – and worse still, one of the judges, the experienced Cecil Peoples, actually attempted to defend his call in a later interview, stating that “leg kicks don’t finish fights” – despite that move being used to finish a fight at UFC 92 less than a year prior.

Published 12 Feb 2020, 23:15 IST
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