Fortunes changed for five at UFC 163

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
The UFC's first of four August shows, even though a pay-per-view, seemed in many ways to get lost in the shuffle coming in.

And coming out, UFC 163 held Saturday night at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, came across as just a Saturday night of fights. There were some very good finishes, but you didn't have much in the way of back-and-forth fights that anyone will remember for very long, particularly with the craziness of the schedule.

Last week was a FOX show and the next show, in two weeks, is the debut of UFC on Fox Sports 1, which is really the most important show of this crazy run of six shows in five-and-a-half weeks.

Jose Aldo is one of the best fighters in the world, and Chan Sung Jung has cult popularity due to his classic fights with Leonard Garcia and Dustin Poirier. He also has one of the sport's best nicknames - The Korean Zombie. But few gave him much of a chance with Aldo, and the consensus turned out to be correct. Aldo took every round before Jung's shoulder went out in round four and Aldo finished him.

But given the Zombie's style, the fight figured to be full of action and unpredictability. And that wasn't the case. Aldo (23-1) remained the class of the division and when it comes to fighting ability, and he should be mentioned in the same breath with the elites - Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez.

The show featured little in the way of a marquee undercard. While it's hardly rare in MMA when a show that doesn't look good on paper ends up filled with great fights, this wasn't that night.

Instead of action, or a new star being made or a great shock, when the dust was cleared, the most talked about things were judging and injuries.

The Phil Davis vs. Lyoto Machida fight was a big one at light heavyweight and ended up a game changer in the division. The funny thing is that the fight went almost exactly as almost everyone would have predicted going in. Machida controlled the stand-up game for most of the three rounds, but never came close to finishing. The fight wasn't terribly exciting, but that's to be expected with Machida, particularly when he faces a top level wrestler.

When the fight ended, the only question seemed to be whether the judges would give Davis the second round based on knees to the ribs after a takedown with 19 seconds left, even though Machida had controlled the rest of the round round in his usual deliberate fashion without really ever hurting his foe.

So when Bruce Buffer announced all three judges had it 29-28, it was like, sure that's viable, because Davis could have won the second round. Then when they announced Davis as the winner, it was more stunning than anything.
When a Brazilian fighter loses a close or questionable decision in his home country, you expect loud boos and maybe worse. And there were loud boos, on a delayed basis. The crowd first went quiet, almost in shock. Then they reacted, like the sound of the crowd was on a tape delay from Buffer.

Machida clearly won round three, even though judge Chris Watts gave it to Davis. In round one, Machida controlled the stand-up and did the most damage of the entire fight with a quick combination late in the round. But Davis got a takedown with 50 seconds left. He did some damage, but Machida was never close to the level of trouble Davis had in been earlier.

In a poll of media scores, 79 percent had Machida winning 30-27. The rest had him winning 29-28. In a poll of three judges, all gave it to Davis.

Dana White immediately made it clear he had Machida winning, also by a 30-27 score.

So what ended up happening in the big picture is you had two losers.

Machida's place in line to get a light heavyweight title shot is gone, partially because of the loss, and partially because his fighting style usually isn't crowd-pleasing. Champion Jon Jones submitted him already, and that show did disappointing pay-per-view numbers.

Even though Machida had been promised a title shot one year ago after beating Ryan Bader, he was put in a bad position, in asked to take that shot on short notice. Turning that shot down didn't help his cause. If another guy lost in this fashion, when everyone believed they won, it probably wouldn't be as devastating.

At 35, Machida may not have the time left to put together another long enough win streak to get back.

But for Davis, how much does the win really help when most considered it a loss?

When it comes to Fortunes Changing for Five, obviously the co-main event is where you start.

LYOTO MACHIDA - Machida (19-4), in many ways was the light heavyweight version of Jon Fitch. Nobody can deny his skill and his wins, but he's not crowd pleasing, nor a big drawing card, and he lost to the champion in a clear-cut fashion.

Whether he did enough to win or not, Machida looked heavier, and he didn't have the speed he's had in the past. His age suggests this decline should be expected, as there were no reports of an injury that limited his ability to train at an intense level.

Both Glover Teixeira and Daniel Cormier, provided he drops down, were likely to get title shots before Machida. But at some point, if he kept winning, whether somebody beat Jones or not, he'd get another title shot. But now the winning streak is zero, and at his age, the wins are likely going to be harder to come by.

PHIL DAVIS - In time, people may forget the controversy of his win and just look at his record (12-1, 1 no-contest). He wasn't helped as much by the win as had it been a normal win. But he was very lucky, in the sense he wasn't hurt by a match he easily could have been knocked right out of the list of top contenders in.

At one point, Davis vs. Jon Jones was a fight people had interest in, because both were physical freaks. Jones had been able to outwrestle everyone he has fought to date, and Davis was an NCAA champion. But Davis' stand-up was somewhat awkward, and he didn't progress into a great all-around fighter at the speed Jones did.

If Alexander Gustafsson can beat Jones on Sept. 21 in Toronto, Davis has an even stronger title shot claim since he is the only fighter who holds a win over the 6-toot-5 Stockholm, Sweden native that he nowadays trains with.

The silver lining out of Saturday is that Davis was far more comfortable standing. He wasn't that effective, but nobody is when facing Machida. And he was twice able to takedown a guy who had been nearly immune to takedowns from top level wrestlers.

A Machida fight is the worst one to be judged on what level somebody is, but there were signs Davis had improved significantly since his last fight.

JOSE ALDO - There are no shortage of bodies for Aldo to potentially face as featherweight champion right now.

There is Ricardo Lamas, who by record, was more deserving of a shot than Jung; Frankie Edgar, who came very close to beating Aldo via decision and is considered to be one of the best fighters in the sport; Cub Swanson, who has had some great crowd-pleasing performances and has won five in a row, four by stoppage; and Chad Mendes who has finished his last three foes in under 2:00, has shown great improvement, and has only lost once to Aldo.
There is also the specter of Anthony Pettis, who Aldo was originally scheduled to face on this show until he suffered a meniscus tear.

There are multiple options, both as contenders, or in him moving to lightweight, UFC's deepest division, and facing whoever is the champion there in a superfight.

Right now, no mortal can stop Aldo, but injuries, like he has right now, have fared far more successful at derailing him.

THALES LEITES - A jiu jitsu whiz, Leites (21-4), returned to the UFC after four years on Saturday with a win over Tom "Kong" Watson.

Leites lost a decision to Anderson Silva in a title fight, and then followed, losing a snorefest with Alessio Sakara that he arguably should have won on Aug. 8, 2009, and was cut.

After winning six of seven, a new version of Leites, far more muscular, showed up knocking on the door Saturday. Watson was a tough trial horse that a lot of people expected to knock the Brazilian out. But what happened is Watson had no answer for Leites' ground game past being tough enough to survive a variety of submissions that would have finished most.

Leites clearly proved that he belongs in UFC, but at what level remains to be seen.

JOHN LINEKER - Lineker (22-6), a Brazilian, who is one of the youngest contenders in any weight class in UFC at 23 years old, came into Saturday ranked in the No. 7 slot for a shot at Demetrious Johnson's flyweight title.

Lineker had one major strong point - in a division criticized for lack of finishes, he's got legitimate power and accuracy in his fists. His win over Jose Maria was his second straight TKO.

On the flip side, it was the second time in his four UFC fights that he missed weight, in this case coming in at 129 - a full three pounds over, and he didn't even attempt to make it after weigh-ins. The weight cost him 20 percent of his purse, and may have knocked him out of the running for best fight, since UFC tries to avoid giving bonuses for fighters who miss weight.

Lineker simply can't afford to miss weight again, because with three stirkes, the UFC could insist on him fighting at bantamweight, and he's physically too small for that division.

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