Quinton “Rampage” Jackson isn’t saying much. Maybe he said all there is to say after an exhausting media tour to promote the A-Team movie he starred in following his decision loss to Rashad Evans in May. Or maybe we’ve just been spoiled by Rampage’s rants on anything and everything over the years.
That’s okay though. And if Jackson’s low-key approach to Saturday’s UFC 123 main event against Lyoto Machida means that he’s saving his energy, his wit, and his focus for his opponent, then we could be in for quite a treat this weekend.
One thing’s for sure though; as a 205-pounder, the 32-year old Jackson is likely in his physical prime as a fighter, a scary proposition for the peers that hoped he would walk off into the sunset after over a decade in the fight game.
Unfortunately, Jackson has not resembled a prime, top of the food chain prizefighter in his last two bouts. In the first, in March of 2009 against Keith Jardine, Jackson squeezed out a razor thin unanimous decision that earned him Fight of the Night honors but little else. The verdict looks even worse now after Jardine lost four consecutive bouts following the Jackson fight, two by knockout.
Jackson would go off to shoot The Ultimate Fighter season 10 and The A-Team after the Jardine bout, returning in May to face Evans, his TUF10 coaching counterpart. Again, it wasn’t vintage Jackson, and outside of a brief surge where he hurt Evans and had him in trouble, he was unable to call up the fighter who ruled the 205-pound weight class just a couple years earlier.
Thankfully for the Memphis, Tennessee native, the past is the past, and with one swing of his fist on Saturday, he could be back in the title picture with the prize eventually being one of two men he’d like to get a little payback from – Evans or the current 205-pound ruler, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who beat Jackson back in PRIDE in 2005. On a recent media teleconference, Jackson said that if he has his way, he would fight “whoever has the belt. But you know, I want to beat everybody who beat me so it don’t matter.”
And having already avenged earlier defeats to Marvin Eastman and Wanderlei Silva in the Octagon, he would love to add both Rua and Evans, along with Forrest Griffin to that ‘to do’ list.
One name he doesn’t want to add is Machida, yet stylistically, he may provide the most problems for the aggressive Jackson. Simply put, Rampage is at his best when he’s being Rampage, pressuring his foes and making a physical fight out of it. Yes, he’s had success with his counterpunching during his time in the UFC, but if you’re going to counter, you don’t do it with one of the best – if not the best – in the world in Machida. It’s just like Machida trying to trade left hooks with Rampage; it wouldn’t end up too well for ‘The Dragon.’
So how does Jackson turn up the volume on the old Rampage and get in Machida’s face without eating some precision, fight ending strikes first? He may just have to get it in his mind that in the Octagon, there is Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and there is everybody else, and that as unique as Machida’s style is, his is just as unique and dangerous, and that on Saturday night, he’s going to make Machida worry about him and not vice versa.
“I'm going to fight my fight and not worry about anything Machida does,” said Jackson, who appears to have already gotten the memo.