Quinton Jackson: Whom Should He Face in His Last UFC Bout?
Many are fed up with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The thing is, he still has one fight remaining on his contract with the UFC.
Even though he is making things as difficult as possible for UFC president Dana White, he is still popular and good enough that his final fight is a valuable commodity.
The light heavyweight division is completely in flux right now, and a fight with Jackson actually does a lot to help sort out the large pack of fighters sitting below Jon Jones and Rashad Evans.
Luckily for Joe Silva, there are plenty of fights out there that make sense. More importantly, there are also a few that can make the UFC a good bit of money.
Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua
Rua was originally supposed to be Jackson's final opponent, though this did not come to pass after Jackson underwent double knee surgery. The fight still remains a viable and entertaining option. Rua and Jackson fought each other in Pride, with Rua winning by TKO.
This is a fight Jackson should be excited about, as one of Jackson's biggest (and stupidest) complaints about his recent UFC struggles is how he has been repeatedly pitted against wrestling-focused fighters like Rashad Evans, Matt Hamill and Ryan Bader.
Rua is an excellent Muay Thai striker and boxer, which should make for a back-and-forth slugfest.
Granted, it is hard to tell if Rampage would be able to get motivated for this (or almost any) fight, but he would not be able to complain about his opponent this time (in theory).
As mentioned, there are serious questions regarding how motivated Jackson will be for his last fight. Rashad Evans, though, would likely be able to light a fire inside Jackson.
Evans and Jackson had one of the ugliest rivalries in UFC history, which began when Evans was still champion and Jackson became the top contender by beating Evans' teammate, Keith Jardine. “Rampage” got sidelined by injuries and Evans ended up losing the belt to Lyoto Machida.
In order to ensure a bout between the two, Jackson was tapped to coach opposite Evans during The Ultimate Fighter season 10. The two seized this opportunity to bicker constantly, but had it pay off when they finally fought at UFC 114 and attracted over one million buys.
Still, Evans can get under Jackson's skin like none other. That could inspire Jackson into putting in those extra hours at the gym and could make his final fight one that matters to him on a personal level.
Oh, and it could easily grab 500,000 buys. That is always nice.
Alexander Gustafsson is on the rise in the light heavyweight division, and after five straight wins over some quality opponents, the Swede deserves to fight somebody in the top ten. Jackson would do nicely.
The UFC is clearly trying to groom Gustafsson for a title fight with Jon Jones. He remains a couple fights away from having that sort of resume, however, and fighting Jackson would be a perfect test to determine how ready he is for that kind of a fight.
The UFC gets plenty out of this by building a viable opponent for Jones, and Gustafsson will officially make it to the big time. It would also almost certainly be an entertaining bout that would make a strong co-main event on any card.
This is rematch is possibly the most entertaining option on this list. Jackson is still a good striker and should get excited for a chance to show the world that he really is better than Griffin.
Griffin, meanwhile, remains the same tough (but not especially talented) fighter he was when they first did battle.
How this would line up schedule-wise remains to be seen, but with Griffin set for a rubber match with Tito Ortiz at UFC 148, it may be a little tough to set up.
Phil Davis' last fight was a lopsided loss to Rashad Evans, but he remains one of the top prospects in the UFC, and one of the better fighters in the light heavyweight division. As with Gustafsson, Jackson would be an excellent test to see where he stacks up amongst his peers.
Davis ripped through some strong competition, including now-middleweights Brian Stann and Tim Boetsch, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Rashad Evans was a huge step up from that group, though, and it showed, leaving questions as to just how good Davis really is.
Davis has the skills and cardio to outlast and out-grapple Jackson. Though this fight makes sense on paper, there is undeniably a certain amount of humor and pleasure tied into pitting Jackson against another wrestler for his last fight.
If the UFC wants to bend to Jackson's wishes for an opponent that will turn the Octagon into the Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots ring, Thiago Silva is easily the top choice to face Jackson.
From 2007-2009, Thiago Silva was the hotshot knockout artist of the light heavyweight division. He had dynamite hands and never really showed off his black-belt skills in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The fight would almost certainly be a striking war with neither fighter leaving their feet. With Thiago Silva set to take over for Jackson against “Shogun” Rua, it ends up being a bit contingent on his performance in that fight.
Regardless, this would be exciting for fans of big punches, even though it lacks the marketability of some of the other options.
Jackson vs. Machida was surprisingly high-selling, drawing an estimated 500,000 buys, even though both were clearly past their prime and coming off losses. The fight ended in a highly controversial decision win for Jackson that shocked many, including Jackson himself.
A rematch makes sense, though, and the two remain opposites stylistically, with the wild-swinging Jackson and cerebral, disciplined Machida. Even though Jackson technically has the win over him, he has nothing to lose by facing him again.
Machida, meanwhile, is set to face Ryan Bader at UFC on Fox 4 in August. Depending on how long Jackson is under the weather for, this could end up happening.
This bout is a great choice for Machida, as he would likely be favored to beat Jackson and, in doing so, would vault back into the division's top five.
Dan Henderson is pretty easily the most overrated fighter in MMA today. Seriously! People have Henderson on their pound-for-pound top 10 lists! Seriously!
This overestimation of the aging veteran is great for Henderson, though, as he is set to face Jon Jones for the title in September.
This is in spite of the fact that Henderson stands nothing beyond a puncher's chance to beat Jones, given the enormous differences in size and reach, as well as Henderson's seriously questionable cardio and takedown defense.
This, ultimately, is what makes Henderson vs. Jackson II a great idea. The UFC wants to keep Henderson near the top of the division in fans' minds. He is certainly capable of beating Jackson, and that alone makes this bout a smart move for both Hendo and the UFC.
The Ultimate Fighter season 1 runner-up has been quietly on the rise the last two years. After dropping fights against a young Jon Jones and a very old Mark Coleman, Bonnar picked himself back up with strong showings in a pair of fights against Krzysztof Soszynski.
He has kept on winning since with victories over Igor Pokrajac and Kyle Kingsbury. His next opponent remains to be seen, but will probably be against another mid-tier type of fighter.
If he wins that, he will be owed a step up in competition. Jackson fits that bill, and Bonnar would certainly be elated to take such a fight. The two would likely combine for a slugfest that can qualify as a co-main event for a PPV.
Whether or not Roy Nelson is seriously going to try and move to light heavyweight remains up in the air. If he is, though, it is not uncommon for fighters changing divisions to have a meet-in-the-middle catchweight bout, a la Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva at UFC 99.
Quinton Jackson has never been big on the whole intense training and weight-cutting thing, so the opportunity to skip it should be appealing. Given Nelson's spotty striking, yet-to-be-seen takedowns and seemingly iron-clad chin, this is the sort of bout that would play right into Jackson's hand.
Nelson is likely going to be cut if he loses his upcoming bout with Dave Herman, but still has a fairly high opinion of himself (he actually said he should have gotten the decision against Fabricio Werdum).
If he puts together a pair of wins, he is probably going to be confident enough to call out somebody like Jackson en route to his light heavyweight debut.