UFC 123: Ten Things We Learned

UFC 123 Review

The UFC’s return to the state of Michigan was a successful one, as the main events delivered intrigue and excitement, while the five other fights scheduled for our viewing consumption came through as well. There were a lot of questions going into this event, and we have a bunch of answers in the aftermath.

Former UFC light heavyweight champion
Machida’s Style Costs Him a Victory

This isn’t to take anything away from Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who came out of Auburn Hills with a victory and a pair of potentially marketable title fights to be a part of in 2011. That being said, Lyoto Machida’s style was as responsible for Jackson’s win as his opponent was.

There are a lot of fighters who employ a counter-striking strategy, but Machida takes it to the nth degree, and it cost him on Saturday night. Though Jackson didn’t connect a great deal in the opening round, neither did Machida, which makes Jackson’s forward movement the deciding factor on the scorecards.

For Machida, this is something he will need to address moving forward or else risk the same situation repeating itself. While he will not change his style entirely, a return to the more aggressive approach he used against Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans is the only way to prevent this same thing from happening in his future fights.

A Change is Needed

Whether it is an expansion of the current scoring system, an increase in the number of judges sitting around the cage scoring the fights or bumping big-time fights like this to five-round affairs, a change in the way fights are judged is obviously needed.

Using the 10-point must system, “Rampage” rightfully won the fight; he was the aggressor in the first two rounds, and when there isn’t a lot of damage being done, that wins you the round. When there are only three rounds to determine the winner, earning a pair of uneventful rounds is enough to steal the fight.

While the main event was an example of why many fans favor the Pride scoring system of selecting a winner based on the fight as a whole, there are flaws in that system as well. Using a 20-point system could produce more representative scores (20-19 for close rounds, 20-16 for more one-sided rounds for example), but subjectivity still comes into play.

As always, there is no easy answer and no quick fix; progress is a process and change doesn’t happen overnight. That being said, many people agree that an investigation into improving things is necessary, because the current system is broken.

A Motivated B.J. Penn is Scary

It only took 21 seconds, but it was enough time to show both the brilliant and frustrating side of B.J. Penn.

Walking to the cage, you could see the fighter coming to the cage wasn’t the same man who stood across from Frankie Edgar for 50 minutes earlier in the year. There was a hunger in his eyes, and he was in tremendous shape, all of which translated into a quick knockout of Matt Hughes in the culmination of their feud.

His fast finish of Hughes showed how talented and dominant a focused and motivated Penn can be, but at the same time, it illustrates all the frustrations people have about Penn as well. If he can come in and clobber Hughes in no time flat, why can’t “The Prodigy” get up for his fight with Georges St. Pierre or his pair of fights with Edgar?

If this is a true turning point for Penn, the next year could be incredibly entertaining, starting with a main event pairing with Jon Fitch in Australia. Only time will tell if Penn will maintain this focus moving forward. If he does, watch it.

Hughes Has Some Decisions to Make

The former welterweight champion was at a loss for words when Joe Rogan asked his thoughts on the fight and his future, and it made perfect sense. Hughes trained hard for this fight and was on a roll coming into the bout, but got finished in just 21 seconds, and now he has to figure out where he goes from here.

While Hughes could certainly fill a gatekeeper role in the division, there is a good chance the proud Hall of Famer wants no part of such a position. He’s been selective in accepting fights over the last few years, and being a stepping stone for emerging talents doesn’t sound like something that would interest him.

The problem for Hughes is that there aren’t really any compelling fights for him outside of a role like that; he’s either going to have to face the younger set that has been calling him out for some time or hang out in Hillsboro and transition out of being a fighter.

It’s a daunting decision and one that Hughes won’t make hastily.