Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White made the "head-scratching" announcement at a pre-event teleconference with fighters and reporters. However, once word got out that Rua, and perhaps more alarmingly his opponent, Brandon Vera -- who hadn't had a meaningful win in almost six years -- were just one victory away from competing for a world title, White got "creamed" by fight fans for his decision.
So, naturally, he changed his mind, throwing Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader "into the mix." The most "impressive" winner would earn the right to challenge the winner of the UFC 151 fight between 205-pound division champion Jon Jones and Dan Henderson, who collide next month on Labor Day weekend.
It still wasn't ideal, considering Jones has already thrashed all four fighters rather convincingly. But, with a "super fight" with Anderson Silva momentarily out of the question, as well as no guarantee that "Bones" will beat "Hendo," the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion had to do something to keep the division moving and relatively fresh.
And for some reason it didn't feel the need, for now, to factor Alexander Gustafsson into the equation.
So all four men sauntered into the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., last night (Aug. 4, 2012), knowing full well that their next fight could possibly be the biggest of their careers. But, a win alone wouldn't punch his ticket, it would have to leave an impression with White and the rest of the world watching on network television.
The kind of impression that Machida's fist left in Bader's forehead midway through the second stanza.
Indeed, "The Dragon" scored the most impressive finish of the bunch. Rua and Vera went punch-for-punch, kick-for-kick, knee-for-knee and much more in their main event tussle, heading into round four tired and beat up. "Shogun" would ultimately register a technical knockout finish in the fourth round, but it took every ounce of energy to get it done.
Rua was tired. He said as much in his post-fight victory speech: It wasn't his greatest performance and he vowed to return stronger in his next bout. Unfortunately for him, it won't be for a world title because White awarded the shot to Machida immediately after the show concluded.
White mentioned Machida's all-around effort, spur of the moment online vote and a "laundry list" of other reasons for picking him over his fellow Brazilian counterpart. Rua's "indifference" about his performance, as well about being passed over, was also apparently included in his reasoning.
"[Machida] is the most impressive in not just the knockout, he just seems like he wants it more than Shogun wants right now," White told FUEL TV. "Shogun is not giving me the vibe that he wants this title fight. Shogun isn't overwhelming me with demands to fight for the title."
Indeed, he seemed defeated after the hard win over "The Truth." He certainly didn't grab the mic and declare that he was "back" and hungry to reclaim his belt like Machida. Even still, it was a "gutsy" performance that at least Randy Couture suggested was more deserving of the nod than the quick work of Machida. Nonetheless, when pressed about White's decision, Rua offered an uninspired response.
"No problem. Okay. I am not upset, it's okay," he said. "Lyoto is top-five and he deserves right now to be the next contender. I'll wait for my opportunity."
Perhaps the silver lining in all of this is that Rua can head back to the drawing board and finally fix a cardio issue that has dogged him ever since injuries attempted to rob the ligaments from his powerful knees. Maybe even another number one contender eliminator match can be made against the aforementioned Gustafsson.
After all, he did win convincingly and Vera didn't, which would have been a nightmare on Sahara Avenue.