Someone draped the red, white and blue American flag over Chris Weidman's shoulders seconds after he retained his
Perfect match for the black and blue accents of physical damage left on Weidman from the show of heart he gave in beating former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida by unanimous decision Saturday night at Mandalay Bay.
Judges Chris Lee (49-45), Marco Rosales (48-47) and Glenn Trowbridge (49-46) scored the fight in Weidman's favor as the champion improved to 12-0.
Earlier Saturday, UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey of Venice needed only 16 seconds to beat challenger Alexis Davis by technical knockout.
Weidman was in far deeper.
Instead of protecting a lead he built by outpunching Machida and wrestling the veteran to the canvas in key moments, Weidman found himself in a fight for survival in the fourth round, left gasping for air after an onslaught of Machida punches to the champion's face.
Asked if he was hurt by Machida's rally, Weidman answered, "Probably. I can't remember now."
Machida (21-5) closed the fourth with a vicious left to Weidman's face.
"He's as good as I thought," Weidman said. "Quick. You think he'll do something, and it's the opposite."
Instead of succumbing to Machida's resurrection, Weidman met the challenger's best punches to start the fifth and rallied with his own array of hard lefts and rights, staggering Machida, who was cut under the right eye and in the center of his forehead.
Weidman then worked for another takedown, but couldn't hold it for the final 30 seconds, as Machida rose to deliver a final, desperate flurry of punches and knees.
Weidman, his own face mashed up, again stood firm and motioned with a hand for Machida to bring more just as the final bell rang.
"The plan was to keep the fight standing," Machida said. "He's a great champion and he deserves the title."
Though Rousey recently defended the UFC competition she faces as a sufficient test of her skills, Saturday's outcome left that theory open to great dispute as she destroyed the organization's No. 2 challenger Davis. Rousey (10-0) has now ended nine of her mixed martial arts bouts in the first round.
She greeted Davis with a hard right hand to the face, grabbed her neck, kicked her in the body and spun Davis to the mat with a judo throw.
There, Rousey kept Davis (16-6) in a headlock and delivered nine consecutive right hands to the head, forcing referee Yves Lavigne to stop the fight — Rousey's fastest stoppage yet.
"As soon as I opened her up with the jab she was definitely rocked and probably out," Rousey said., "so I thought to myself it's time to throw her and finish."
The UFC's search for a capable challenger will be of note. The top contender is lesser-known Cat Zingano. The organization has talked to the more popular Gina Carano and with the far more legitimate threat, Cris Justino.
Rousey was jokingly told she likely couldn't do better than Saturday.
"I think I can," she said.