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UFC 123 – Rampage Wins Split Decision

Rampage Machida

UFC 123’s main event featuring Quinton “Rampage” Jackson versus Lyoto Machida, two former light-heavyweight champions, had a surprising outcome for many UFC fans who, like myself, expected a Machida win by decision.  It was also a more entertaining fight than I feared we might see.

Jackson was quoted in the days leading up to the fight saying he likes to entertain people and put on exciting fights, admitting his last performance wasn’t exciting.  Based on his last couple of trips into the octagon, I wondered how much entertainment ability Jackson had left . And given his opponent was Machida, who has never been one to bring a lot of excitement to a fight by virtue of his elusive fighting style, I expected this main event to fail to impress and go down as another boring, less than should be expected of a main event performance.  Fortunately, I was mostly wrong.

Machida came into the fight in a position he’s never been in before in his MMA career.  Stepping into the octagon following the one and only loss in his career, a devastating knockout to now light-heavyweight champion, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.  Machida responded well, showing no ill effects of that loss.

Jackson appeared in much better condition than his previous fight, a decision loss to Rashaad Evans, which can likely be credited to a more focused training camp without the distractions of promoting a movie.

The contrast in styles between these two fighters made for an interesting fight.

Jackson being the more aggressive fighter often preferring to brawl yet possessing good technical skills.

Machida, known for his elusive, karate-based style which he uses to frustrate his opponents into missing and then focusing on a well-timed counter-attack to land blows.

This is basically what we got.

Not surprisingly, Machida started out playing stay away from Jackson and attempting a number of leg kicks, which Jackson has never been very good at defending (largely exposed in his fight with Forrest Griffin). Jackson’s strategy was to push forward and aggressively hunt Machida down with strikes. Jackson’s offence was too predictable, however, as he lunged forward with punches only and did not vary his attack with kicks or takedown attempts. He was able to solve some of Machida’s elusiveness by clinching and pressing him into the cage.

The most action in the fight occurred during an explosive exchange in the third round beginning with Machida rocking Jackson and driving him to the fence with strikes. Jackson replied with a flurry, but was taken down by Machida and eventually mounted. After an arm bar attempt, Jackson picked Machida up in an attempt to slam him, but Machida let go and they were back to their feet. Momentarily. Machida had Jackson back on the mat looking for another submission attempt in the final seconds of the fight. It looked like it would be enough for Machida to pull out the win, but Jackson won a split decision.

Interestingly, in the post-fight interview, Jackson told the world that Machida “whooped my ass” and that he thought he had lost the fight. Call it a lucky win. Rematch to come.

The co-main event featuring a tie-breaking, third meeting between Matt Hughes and BJ Penn saved this card from total embarassment for me. Going in, I had doubts that Penn would perform well moving back up to fight at 170 lbs, but he certainly proved me wrong with a very quick TKO victory at 21 seconds into the first round over the aging Hughes.Glad to see Penn back in the win column. Hughes please retire.

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