Tonight at UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage, UFC Light Heavyweight champion “Bones” Jon Jones (13-1) will face off against veteran knockout artist “Rampage” Quinton Jackson (31-8) in the main event. There is only one guarantee in this fight and it is that it will most certainly not go the five rounds typically allotted for a championship fight. Jones will be looking to defend his belt for the first time in his short reign as champion while Jackson on the other hand will be looking to return to relevance and dominance in the division by reclaiming his title first in his bout with Jones, then his pride in the upcoming face-off with challenger “Sugar” Rashad Evans (16-1-1).
To say that Jon Jones has struggled during his rise to the top of the light heavyweight heap would be an outright lie. In his fights that have gone the distance Jones has dominated all of his UFC opponents. In his last four fights since his highly contested “loss” to “The Hammer” Matt Hamill (9-4), Jones has found a way to not just finish his opponents but batter and injure them relentlessly. It would be appropriate to call Jones a force in the division, as he yet to face an opponent who could truly match his skill. It remains to be seen as to whether or not there is a light heavyweight whom he has not faced that can give him the challenge he has lacked in his previous bouts. This is a challenge that Jackson is sure that he can provide.
“Rampage” Jackson has struggled to find his way back to the belt after losing his title to Forrest Griffin (18-7) in 2008. Since then he has gone 4-1, albeit it included a couple of uninspired decision victories over opponents some expected Jackson to walk through. While his record has not greatly diminished in the UFC like some other former PRIDE stars have, he is still looking for an opportunity to have spectacular performances against quality opponents and to hold the title once again. Typically he can find success against his opponents using superior footwork and boxing ability but Jones is not going to make this easy for him.
Both fighters have explosive knockout power; however Jones, touting an astounding 11.5-inch reach advantage, will have range on his side as well. Being the taller fighter he can play the aggressor and push the fight and still be evasive with his movements. Since he is known for mixing up his strikes, he will put “Rampage’s” defense to the test. In his most recent fight against “Shogun” Mauricio Rua (20-5) in March, Jones started off slow and even apprehensive against the former champion. While he mostly controlled the action and the pace of the fight, he did not explode offensively until the third round where it ended via TKO. The benefit of starting slowly against a fighter like Rua is that he tends to dart in and out for exchanges rather than stand in the pocket and swing. If Jones happens to get off to a slow start against Jackson, he runs the risk of being knocked out by “Rampage’s” effective counterpunching ability.
Jackson’s power has been highly touted for the majority of his career and rightfully so, as it is not exaggerated. Even in his most recent loss to Evans in the third round he was able to stun “Sugar” and almost end the fight due to the power he packs in his punches. Since he is the shorter fighter his angle to win would be to get inside of Jones’ reach and look for opportunities to counter-punch. Although anything can happen in a fight, Jackson does not have the weapons or the physical capabilities to out-wrestle or out-strike Jones. However, he does have the ability to knock out Jones if he can duck inside his range and deliver the blow.
Clearly Jackson is at a disadvantage in this fight but never has the phrase “having a puncher’s chance” ever been more appropriate than for this game fighter. While Jones will be the heavy favorite to emerge victorious and will more than likely strike his way to yet another dominant victory, “Rampage” Jackson should never be counted out.