Poor MMA Judging Strikes Again, Lyoto Machida Robbed at UFC 163

By Rich Bergeron
Davis Celebrates Win Over Machida
Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Lyoto Machida (19-4) and Phil Davis (12-1, 1 NC) fought a relatively lackluster fight at UFC 163 in Rio De Janeiro, but Machida was clearly more dominant through most of the fight. Even in his own home country, it wasn’t enough to earn him a decision. All three judges scored this bout 29-28 for Davis, thanks mostly to a pair of takedowns that Davis really didn’t take advantage of.

The first takedown happened near the end of a first round where Machida landed a flurry of damaging strikes and outworked Davis. The next one came late in round two, and Davis couldn’t get much done from the top position. Though both men were tentative to press the action for much of the fight, Machida showed excellent defense and superior striking ability throughout all three rounds. When the two did exchange, it was Machida who was quicker on the draw. He simply landed the harder, more accurate shots.

The loss kills any chance Machida had to earn a rematch with UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. It is also the second time the Brazilian suffered a bogus decision in the Octagon. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was the beneficiary the first time the karate specialist lost on the score cards in a fight he obviously won.

That fight–at UFC 123 in November of 2010–ended with Jackson raising Machida’s hand. Jackson’s body language before the scores were announced was that of a man who lost, and he admitted as much in the post-fight interview. This time around, Davis exploded with joyous celebration when he heard the decision favoring him. Machida just stood there in stunned silence.

There is no excuse for the poor judging of this fight. Machida’s style may be more defensive than most fighters, but Davis is basically the UFC’s new Cheick Kongo. He is the kind of physical specimen that looks imposing and dangerous, but never seems to capitalize on his superior strength and size. He has incredible reach and wrestling skills, but he rarely uses them dynamically. If he scored takedowns earlier in the first two rounds of the Machida fight and spent the majority of the fight in full control of Machida, the win would have been a given, but instead his performance resulted in a gift.

The only logical explanation is that the judges just didn’t appreciate Machida’s approach. Those who hope the former champion will adapt his game continue to be disappointed. From fight to fight there seems to be no evolution for Machida. He’s the same fighter every time out, only with varying degrees of aggression.

This time he fought a cautious fight against an opponent who refused to push the action or pose a real threat. The loss amounts to penalizing Machida for not living up to his potential rather than giving him the victory for doing the bare minimum it took to beat Davis. That’s not fair to the sport or the fans who saw a fight Machida won only to watch the wrong guy’s hand get raised after the final bell.

This is yet another example of horrible MMA judging in which takedowns are given way more weight than they deserve. Cage generalship should be the ultimate decider of who wins a round, and Machida clearly maintained control through the bulk of the first and third rounds. Only round two was close, and the case could even be made that Davis lost that one, too.

The fact that this fight was so uninspiring from bell to bell was bad enough, but the decision being so disastrous made the lack of excitement even worse. Usually it’s the hometown fighter who ends up with a decision he didn’t earn, but this time a fighter came in and did his best in front of a friendly crowd only to be denied the fruits of his labor. For a guy like Machida, who may never see another title shot before he retires, it’s a real shame. For his sake, there should be an asterisk next to this decision in the record books.

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