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Rua found the crack in Machida's armor

5/13/2010

MONTREAL -- No one is invincible: That's the belief Mauricio Rua carried into the Octagon Saturday night at UFC 113 for his rematch with light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.

But Shogun would rely on more than a deeply embedded belief as he prepared to right a perceived wrong that took place seven months ago in Los Angeles; he also possessed the key to defeating Machida.

After their first fight, Rua discovered a weakness in Machida's once impenetrable armor. Though he'd come up short previously, losing a disputed unanimous decision, Rua knew he would prevail this time around.

Rua discovered that The Dragon left himself open to right hands when transitioning from defense to offense.

"In my first fight with Machida, I tried to exploit the kicks a lot, and I noticed that every time he tried to attack … he was attacking, but not with his hands in the proper place -- with his face exposed," Rua told ESPN.com during the postfight news conference. "That's why I worked this time, not only on the kicks, but also on high overhand rights."

Rua wasted no time attempting to exploit the hole in Machida's game. He immediately went after Machida with kicks. Then he began to deliver right and left punches, several of which landed.

The more strikes he threw, the closer Rua would get to Machida's chin. Eventually, an overhand right found its mark.

Machida would go down, and Rua made sure he did not return to his feet.

"When I connected with the overhand right, I noticed that he was already going out," said Rua, who improved to 19-4-0. "Then I took the opportunity to keep punching him on the ground until the referee [Yves Lavigne] would stop it.

"I stopped punching before the referee called the fight. When we see the opportunity, we go in for the kill, because sometimes in a fight you only have one opportunity."

Their first fight was close, with Machida winning 48-47 on all three official cards. While Machida came away with the unanimous decision, many observers disagreed with the judges' scores.

Rua was among the dissenters and vowed to give the judges a night off during the rematch. He needed just 3 minutes, 35 seconds to send everyone at Bell Centre home early.

Machida (16-1-0) did have his moments; he took Rua down twice. On each occasion, however, Rua returned to his feet quickly.

Despite those brief moments when he appeared to have control, Machida never posed a serious threat to Rua.

The majority of this short fight was dominated by Rua, and he won it convincingly.

"Beating a guy like Machida the way he did in the first round, I don't even know the words to explain it," UFC president Dana White said. "It was awesome."

White refused to say who would likely be the new champion's first opponent. He appears to be keeping all options open; even a possible Rua-Machida rubber match can't yet be completely ruled out.

The Quinton Jackson-Rashad Evans winner is the front-runner for now. Their ongoing war of words will be resolved May 29 in Las Vegas.

"I don't know," White said. "This [Machida-Rua II] was a great fight, unbelievable. Rua looked incredible.

"Now we have to see what happens in that fight [Jackson-Evans]. To answer it [Rua's next opponent] tonight, I couldn't honestly do that."

One fighter who won't get the first shot at Rua is middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva. White is still fuming over the 185-pound champion's infamous outing against Demian Maia in April.

White isn't ruling out a possible battle between Rua and Silva in the not-too-distant future, but prefers Silva clean out the middleweight division first. That is something Silva might achieve within his next two fights.

Silva could find his way to the light heavyweight ranks, if he defeats Chael Sonnen -- whom he meets Aug. 7 in Oakland, Calif. -- and Vitor Belfort.

"Anderson Silva is going to fight Chael Sonnen and then probably Vitor Belfort, then he will move up," White said. "I like to see guys clean their division out first.

"I'm still unhappy with Anderson. I want to see Anderson perform in his next fight.

"The way that Shogun performed tonight is the way the best fighters in the world should perform. That's what people are paying for. When you bought your ticket or when you bought pay-per-view, that's what you're paying for, what happened here tonight."

It happened because Rua entered the cage believing that no fighter is invincible, not even the former light heavyweight champion.

Franklin McNeil is a contributing mixed martial arts/boxing writer for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which now airs on ESPN2.