This weekend one of MMA’s legitimate stars will take to the Octagon for one of the final times in his storied career. While it may seem premature based on his relative success and overall durability, UFC light heavyweight Quinton Jackson has remained firm on his stance of retiring from the ring by 35. In fact, “Rampage” even expressed the notion he would have already hung his trademark chain up had he beaten Jon Jones last September to become champion.
Jackson, who turns 34 in June, probably has five fights remaining (maybe four) before letting his final howl fly including Saturday night’s scrap with Ryan Bader at UFC 144. As such, the UFC needs to be intelligent with their matchmaking to capitalize on his marketability before it’s too late. There’s no reason to waste him on a young buck like Alexander Gustafsson or Phil Davis, nor a past-his-prime veteran like Vladimir Matyushenko. Jackson needs opponents who are either relevant divisionally or who have names carrying weight.
Here are five suggestions to pull from:
Forrest Griffin – Jackson wants a second shot at Griffin after losing the belt to him in 2008, especially given the controversial nature of the judges’ scoring. Griffin also only has a few fights left in him before calling it quits so why not put them together, perhaps on a FOX card, and let the mainstream public soak it up?
Mauricio Rua – The seasoned Brazilian is another opponent Jackson lost to in the past, albeit in far more convincing fashion, he’s called out in the recent past as a potential opponent. Their history, accomplishments, and popularity could easily headline any PPV and each could use the significant win the bout would deliver for one.
Rashad Evans – Since we’re on the subject of 205ers who have taken Jackson’s lunch money from him it’s only natural “Sugar” ‘Shad should get mentioned. Their fight was also fairly close with Jackson being outwrestled more than beaten down. With their combined trash-talking ability and dislike it would also make for a natural pairing, unless of course Evans becomes champion in April when he takes on Jones in which case Jackson’s not in the picture.
Rich Franklin – Franklin’s glory days are behind him but he’s still competitive when healthy and is one of the few light heavyweight stars out there Jackson has never locked horns with. “Ace” is solid in all areas and could surprise some against the Jackson.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – Like Franklin, “Minotoro” would be a fresh match-up for Jackson who also offers comparable skills in terms of striking/grappling. He’s also in a similar position to Jackson in terms of divisional ranking so the fight would make sense from that standpoint as well.
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PHOTO CREDIT – UFC