The UFC will make its third appearance in seven days on Saturday when UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage storms the Pepsi Center in the UFC’s birthplace of Denver, Colorado. Opening the main card are two heavyweight hopefuls “Hapa” Travis Browne (8-0-1) and Rob Broughton (13-4-1). Next on the slate is a pair of bouts between fighters staring gloomily at Dana White’s extra sharp career-severing axe as “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi (29-8) 1-2 squares off with Nate Diaz (12-8) and Mark Hunt (6-7) takes on “Big” Ben Rothwell (27-7). Playing co-main event is a welterweight war between prolific wrestlers “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-5) and Matt Hughes (43-8). Finally, the main event features the smack talk fueled old guard vs. new blood title fight between seemingly unstoppable incumbent champion “Bones” Jon Jones (13-1) and the outspoken former champ and PRIDE superstar “Rampage” Quinton Jackson (31-8). Jackson may have had a mercurial relationship with the sport as a whole but one thing he has never changed his tune about is that he wants his UFC light heavyweight belt back. In his way is Jon Jones, a young, talented, natural warrior who hasn’t so much as broken a sweat in his domination of every fighter he has faced so far in his MMA career.
At First Glance: This match appears on first inspection to be a fight booked more for entertainment value than actual sustenance. “Rampage” is the very definition of a fan favorite. He is loud, outspoken, arrogant, funny, and devastating in the cage. At 2-1 since the end of 2009 with no impressive performances and one controversial decision win, he is not really the best candidate for a title shot at this point. He does, however, put butts in seats, whether it’s at the arena or in front of a TV screen. Jones, fresh off recovery from an injury that put the kibosh on his fight with “Sugar” Rashad Evans (16-1-1), has the eyes of the MMA nation on him as the avatar of a new era of MMA fighters. Both fighters can easily end the fight on command, but whether Jones wins or “Rampage” wins, one thing is certain, Zuffa will win in a big way.
In Depth: On a technical level, “Rampage” is way out of his league. Jones is a more proficient striker with huge advantages in speed, precision, and reach. He is a more skilled grappler as well with superior wrestling and submission skills. What “Rampage” does have though is power and drive. Raw, crippling, fight-ending brute force and a burning need to satisfy his own ego with possession of the UFC Light Heavyweight Belt are very dangerous things when one is referencing Jackson. While the most likely course of this fight will be the former PRIDE star suffering an embarrassing beating at the hands of the seemingly unbeatable “Jonny Bones” Jones, he always has the ability to end the fight in short violent order. For Jones, the fight is another example of the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. All he needs to do is the same thing he has done in every other bout: control the distance and set a pace that is well beyond his foe’s ability to match. Jones is in a class all his own in the light heavyweight division at this point. He isn’t unbeatable, but he certainly ranks in a close second.
Wild Card: “Rampage” himself is the wild card. When he shows up focused and driven, he is a very scary fighter to watch. Jackson turns normally fight-ending submissions into brutal pro-wrestling style slams and exchanges in the pocket into lengthy bouts of unconsciousness when he comes to the cage with an agenda. If Jones starts landing big and closes for the kill thinking Jackson is on the ropes there is a good chance that he will find himself staring at the lights after “Rampage” validates his namesake with a brutal left hook.
The Verdict: Though Jackson is the ultra-dangerous kind of fighter who can instantly end the fight just when it seems he is about to go down, Jones is the kind of fighter that leaves his opponent no chance to land that kind of blow. When he gets the edge, he pushes the pace until his opponent bursts under the pressure and then starts pushing harder. The fight will be one of the most exciting of the evening, but only because fans will know in the back of their minds that “Rampage” is never truly out of the fight until the one-sided beating ends. Jones via TKO (Strikes), Round 2