I have debated with myself and deliberated extensively about this fight. Yet, I still have not come to a firm conclusion as to who my winner is. I’ve picked a winner, but I’m more reserved in this decision than I’ve ever been in forecasting a fight.
On one end, you have Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The former UFC Light Heavyweight and Pride Fighting Championship Middleweight champion possesses the heaviest hands in his division, and arguably all of UFC, if not the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. He is the first fighter to unify a UFC and Pride championship. He has beaten some of the best this industry has to offer; Chuck Lidell, Dan Henderson, Wanderlai Silva, Lyoto Machida, just to name a few. His ability to trade punches with anybody he faces, his strength and wrestling prowess (of his Pride days) have collectively made him one of the more notorious fighters in the sport.
And then there’s Jon “Bones” Jones. At the tender age of 24, Jones has buzz sawed his way through the Light Heavyweight division, cutting down such household names as Brandon Vera, Stephan Bonner, Vladimir Matyushenko and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who he dethroned to become UFC’s youngest champion. Having a skill set comprised of wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and striking makes him the puzzle that opposing fight camps have yet to figure out. Given the phenom that he’s become, it’s unfathomable as to where he’ll be once he reaches his prime.
Both fighters step into UFC 135’s title bout facing their toughest opponent to date. The champion is a takedown tactician. The ease and fluency in which he gets opponents to the canvas are nothing short of marveling. With that said, I’m not sure of Jones’ success rate with taking Jackson down. As mentioned earlier, one of Jackson’s strong suits is his strength. An aspect of this battle that interests me most is Jones’ takedown attempts. What’s going to happen when Jackson counters with his strength, stuffing Jones’ progression? Will Jones get caught in Rampage’s clutches, becoming vulnerable to some dirty boxing/clinching, or will Jones’ elusiveness prevail? Another area of concern for me is Jones’ chin. No fighter will test his chin the way Rampage will. Be it in the clinch or straight stand up, how well can Jones take one of Jackson’s scud missiles?
On the flip side, Jackson has his own vulnerabilities that could be exposed. In my humble opinion, Jones is the most nimble, agile and unpredictable fighter in the game today. He can strike and take down an opponent from impossible angles. That can cause a problem for the former champion, who tends to get winded as fights progress. Also, Jackson, who once upon a time was an acclaimed wrestler in the sport, has become one-dimensional. It would behoove him to recapture his wrestling prowess if he wants to claim a third UFC championship. Did I mention Jones has an 84.5 inch reach? Can Rampage work his way through Jones’ reach to get inside and impose his will? Jackson boasts about being in the best shape of his career. He’ll need to be Saturday night, September 24th.
UFC is the kind of sport where truly, anything can happen. Jackson has made it clear he wants his belt back, and he is capable of doing just that. I can’t see the title changing hands in the near future. If Jones is as smart of a fighter as I think he is, he’ll dictate the pace and fight his fight, thus retaining the UFC Light Heavyweight strap.
This is going to be one for the ages that can’t be missed. I’ll be back soon with my recap of how Jones solidified his legacy against one of the sport’s greats. Have a safe weekend and enjoy the fights.
By Antoine Hoffman