LOS ANGELES – Lyoto Machida retained the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title, scoring a unanimous decision over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua that didn't sit well with the large Saturday night crowd in the Staples Center.
The fans booed Machida lustily after he took a 48-47 verdict from the former PRIDE Fighting Championship star. Rua hurt Machida with numerous leg kicks and bloodied his mouth, making Machida look vulnerable for the first time in his career.
Machida was never able to land the counter strikes that have caused problems for his first 15 opponents. Machida was forced to fend off Rua's kicks and also deal with Rua's movement.
It was a very tactical fight and both men scored their share of solid blows.
All three Yahoo! Sports reporters on hand scored the fight in favor of Rua, as this reporter and Dave Doyle scored it 48-47 and Dave Meltzer had it at 49-46. Rua seemed to pull out the final round with a solid five minutes.
Machida, though, scored enough points to pull out the closest and most controversial decision of his career. Prior to Saturday, Machida had never lost a round, but he lost two to Rua.
Cain Velasquez, long touted as one of the UFC's top prospects, proved he has arrived as an elite heavyweight with a dominant victory over Ben Rothwell.
Velasquez, the former All-American wrestler at Arizona State, took Rothwell down at will, beat him brutally on the ground and stopped him at 58 seconds of the second round.
Rothwell was expected to be a big challenge for Velasquez, who had been rocked several times by Cheick Kongo at UFC 99 in June.
But on Saturday, Rothwell was never in the fight. Velasquez took him down early and often, gained dominant positions and rained punches down upon him. In the final sequence, Velasquez connected with six consecutive right hands to the face of a defenseless Rothwell before referee Steve Mazzagatti jumped in to stop it.
The crowd booed and Rothwell protested mildly, but it was clearly a deserved stoppage.
Joe "Daddy" Stevenson looked good in a lightweight fight with Spencer Fisher. Stevenson took Fisher down in the second round and pinned Fisher to the mat, finishing him with a series of forearms to the face to earn his second consecutive victory.
"My little sister and my big sister used to team up on me and put me in that position to put makeup on me," Stevenson said, joking, after the bout.
Anthony Johnson got the pay-per-view portion of the card off to a rousing start when he knocked out Yoshiyuki Yoshida with one of the best right hands you'll ever see. Johnson pushed Yoshida to the cage with a pair of shots. When Yoshida came forward, Johnson landed a right cross that landed on the button and sent Yoshida into a heap, ending the bout just 41 seconds into the first round.
Johnson, who started his training camp at 220 pounds, came in six pounds over the 170-pound welterweight limit at Friday's weigh-in. He failed to make it, cutting down only to 176.
Yoshida agreed to the fight and Johnson was fined 20 percent of his purse. Yoshida got 10 percent and the other 10 percent went to the California State Athletic Commission.