Considered possibly the best 205-pounder in the world after winning the PRIDE Grand Prix in 2005, Rua completed an epic second career act after knee injuries threatened to steal his best days. Rua floored Machida with a right hand behind the ear and knocked the champion unconscious with ground-and-pound en route to the first round stoppage before 17,647 fans at the Bell Centre.
"As athletes, we have problems and troubles we have to overcome," Rua said through his interpreter and manager Eduardo Alonso. "The toughest times fighters can face are injury times. My worst times in life were injuries two years ago. That was very tough, with people criticizing me a lot. I worked so hard. Going through criticism, I tried to think, 'Someone has to pay the bill for what I'm going through.' I tried to do that with this fight. It's payback for when I wasn't fighting."
It was a completely different affair from their first meeting, when the two went the entire five-round distance in a razor-close fight at UFC 104 last October. While most onlookers thought Shogun victorious, all three ringside judges scored Machida the winner in the tactical affair.
Because of the controversy, UFC President Dana White -- in a rare move -- granted Shogun an immediate rematch, which was delayed by Machida's subsequent hand surgery.
For the rematch, Rua made one slight alteration to his game plan, which focused heavily on leg and body kicks the first time around. This time, he went for the head. He said that in analyzing their first bout, he realized Machida's hands were not always up in proper defensive position after kicks, and that was exactly the opening he exploited to lead to the finish this time around.
Machida came into the rematch as the favorite, but the Montreal crowd exploded at Rua's stunning finish. His ground strikes knocked Machida out, and it was so obvious that Rua pulled away even before the referee could call a halt to the action.
The previously unbeaten Machida (16-1) left the cage with a badly swollen left eye, and the first blemish on his record.
"To go out and knock out Lyoto in the first round the way he did, to say it's impressive is stupid," Dana White said. "It was unbelievable, incredible."
Rua (19-4) won the $65,000 knockout of the night bonus to put a bow on his fantastic night and career comeback. Just a little over a year ago, Rua was on the receiving end of tremendous criticism for what many perceived to be a lethargic performance against the then 44-year-old Mark Coleman. Three fights later, he's arguably the best in the world, and unquestionably the best in the UFC.
"I never had any doubts on myself," Rua said. "Through hard moments I believed in myself and my dream, and now I achieved my dream of becoming the UFC world champion."
Rua's win was the clear highlight of an otherwise entertaining but bizarre event, which concluded with two fighters on the TV portion of the card losing their jobs for entirely different reasons.
In a horrific display of sportsmanship, welterweight slugger Paul Daley sucker-punched Josh Koscheck well after the final bell of their co-main event fight, leading to White cutting him.
Koscheck had just completed a systematic, three-round grinding win over Daley, taking him down repeatedly and stifling the Brit's renowned striking attack in the process.
After the final bell, Koscheck got off the downed Daley, but Daley followed him a few steps and unleashed a left hook that landed. Koscheck did not retaliate, instead walking to his corner as ref Dan Miragliotta pulled Daley away.
While Koscheck was announced the winner in an obvious decision, the only question that remained was what punishment Daley would receive as a result. White acted swiftly in saying Daley's days in the UFC were over forever.
"He's done," White said. "I don't care if he's the best 170-pounder in the world, he'll never fight in the UFC again."
Surprisingly, Koscheck did not seem bothered by the incident, revealing that he may have played a role in it by taunting Daley in the fight's final moments.
"You're going to have to ask him what I said, but it wasn't very polite," he said. "He eye gouged me a couple times, I'm still having trouble seeing from his fingers. But he'll come back. He's still young in his MMA career. I think he'll be back and live to fight another day."
The other fighter who no longer has a job after living the Bell Centre was Kimbo Slice, who was cut after losing via second-round TKO to Matt Mitrione.
Slice perfomed relatively well in the first round with a pair of slam takedowns against Mitrione and escaping a pair of submission tries as well, but Mitrione turned the tide with vicious leg kicks that stole Slice's base.
Mitrione took advantage of his wobbly opponent, eventually ending up on top and brutalizing Slice with ground and pound before the ref ended things at 4:24 of the round.
"Kimbo's done. We're going to cut him," said White, who added that he gained a deep respect for Slice for the way he carried himself through his brief UFC run.
In a key middleweight bout, Alan Belcher beat the returning Patrick Cote with a second round rear naked choke.
The two fought a spirited first round and Cote had just landed a series of strikes in the second when they fought against the cage. With Cote bent over trying to secure Belcher's legs for a takedown try, Belcher picked Cote up and slammed him down. He then quickly transitioned to back control and locked in the submission for the win.
Afterward, Belcher called out the division's champ.
"I'm happy I finally started fighting to my potential," Belcher said. "No more goofing off. I know if I breathe right, I can pick anyone apart. You know who I'm talking about."
When announcer Joe Rogan asked him who, Belcher didn't hesitate. "I'm talking about Anderson [Silva]. Everyone knows who can take it to him, who can stand with Anderson. I want that title fight. Give it to me."
For his efforts, Belcher won the evening's Submission of the Night Award.
In the final televised fight of the evening, Jeremy Stephens earned a mild upset over Sam Stout in a close, split decision.
Stephens lived up to his reputation as a power puncher, dropping Stout and bloodying him early before Stout came back and made it close.
"Sam Stout is a warrior," Stephens said afterward. "I was just more powerful."
In preliminary bouts, Joe Doerksen submitted Tom Lawlor in the second round, Marcus Davis scored a second-round TKO over Jonathan Goulet and John Salter was awarded a TKO win after Jason MacDonald broke his leg in the first round of their middleweight bout.
In fights that went the distance, Johny Hendricks won a majority decision over TJ Grant, Joey Beltran earned the judges' nod over Tim Hague, and Mike Guymon outpointed Yoshiyuki Yoshida.