If you are looking for an event that features four former champions to battle in the co-main events and hoping to recapture championship glory look no further than UFC 123.
The first pairing of future Hall of Famers featured a storied rivalry. Welterweights Matt Hughes and BJ Penn will meet a third and final time to once and for all settle the score. In their first meeting, UFC 46- Supernatural, Penn got the better of Hughes in the form of a rear naked chokehold submission, with a mere 21 seconds left in the first round, winning the UFC Welterweight Championship. The rematch, which took place at UFC 63, saw Hughes TKO Penn 3:53 into the third round, avenging his title loss and regaining said strap. An interesting dynamic comes into play for the rubber match. Penn, coming off back-to-back losses to current Light Heavyweight Champion Frankie Edgar, has decided to take his talents back to the Welterweight Division. The kicker is, his maximum weight is alleged to be 165 pounds, which falls five pounds short of the set requirement, 170 pounds. Meanwhile, Hughes is rumored to weigh in anywhere between 175 and 180 pounds, which would give him a 10-15 pound edge should Penn check in at his rumored amount. With Penn coming off two consecutive losses and Hughes riding the wave of a three fight winning streak, Penn is the more desperate of the two combatants. Couple that with the likelihood of him being the lighter of the two fighters and his speed, I’ll take the Prodigy to rediscover his winning ways.
The latter main event will be survival of the fittest, as Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida will go one on one with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. These two have a lot to do with why UFC’s Light Heavyweight Division is the cornerstone of the company. Both are former champions who are coming off losses. First, Machida is returning to the octagon after a KO title loss to reigning champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 113. One event later, Jackson loss a unanimous decision to current number one contender Rashad “Suga” Evans. Given these scenarios, it’s clear that this main event has title implications. UFC President Dana White can downplay the implications all he wants, but you better believe the winner of this one is next in line for the winner of Rua/Evans, once the champion fully recovers from recent knee surgery. If you are still buying into White’s suggestion that Machida or Jackson will not get an immediate title shot after October 20th, look into the audience when UFC decides to give face time to the celebrities in attendance. I’m willing to bet the farm that both Evans and Rua will be there to witness this collision live. As far as how this pans out, I’m taking Rampage. Reason being is that Machida will keep him away with his Muay Thai strikes, but Jackson has the aggression to break that distance and get inside of him. If Jackson has learned to check/counter chin kicks, his chances of victory will grow greatly. In addition to that, the lesson we can take from UFC 113 is that Machida possesses a vulnerable chin. Rua was able to expose it. With that said, is it unreasonable to think that Jackson, who has the hardest hands in the Light Heavyweight division, can also knock Machida out? Not at all! With that said, I’m taking Rampage to move a step closer to title contention.
For those of you who will not be able to walk into Michigan’s Palace of Auburn Hills, you can always buy the fight on Pay-Per-View or hit your local sports bar to catch this epic event. Check back with me soon to get my UFC 123 recap. Enjoy fight night!
By Antoine Hoffman