Five Things We Learned from UFC 96: Rampage Jackson vs. Keith Jardine
For a fight card that most MMA fans thought was less than stellar, UFC 96: Jackson vs. Jardine turned out to be a decent show.
There were some great knockouts, no submissions, and only three fights that went to the judges' scorecards.
As with all cards, this one taught the fans a few things going forward. There was a controversial stoppage, contenders established themselves, and struggling fighters reemerged with solid showings.
Lyoto Machida must wait for a title shot thanks to "Rampage" victory
With Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's unanimous decision victory over Keith Jardine, Jackson will now go on to battle Rashad Evans for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
This fight will happen sooner than most had expected, as it is now the main event at UFC 98. This replaced the previously scheduled rematch between Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar for the unified Heavyweight Title since Mir is injured.
With back to back victories over Jardine and Wanderlei Silva, the former champion has earned a shot at regaining his belt.
The undefeated Lyoto Machida has earned a shot at the title as well, but he looks like he is moved to the back burner yet again.
The Dragon's convincing stoppage of Thiago Sliva at UFC 94 showed fans that not all of Machida's fights are boring. However, the stigma of not having exciting fights is still in most people's minds.
Machida should watch the Evans versus Jackson fight very carefully since he should get the winner. Unless the UFC can find another way to justify another, more crowd pleasing former champion jumping to the front of the line.
Did I hear someone say Liddell and Griffin?
Shane Carwin: as good as advertised
With his devastating knockout victory over Gabriel Gonzaga, Shane Carwin showed the world that he is the real deal.
He is a big, strong specimen that is still undefeated. Since most of his wins were against less than stellar opposition, there was a question of whether he was as good as the hype would lead you to believe.
This win should have answered any question with a resounding, "Yes."
The sexy choice for his next fight is to put him in with the winner of Mir and Lesnar. He probably needs one more victory over another top contender before he is ready for a championship bout.
I think facing either Cain Velasquez or Cheick Kongo should be in the cards first.
Should he steamroll either of these opponents as he has every other man to stand across the Octagon from him, then pencil in Carwin as the next man to battle for the heavyweight belt.
Kendall Grove and Brandon Vera are not leaving the UFC without a fight
There had been rumblings that if Brandon Vera and Kendall Grove did not win their respective fights then they would each be released by the UFC.
With both earning TKO victories, it looks like they will be around for a little while longer.
Grove was an unimpressive 1-2 in his last three fights going into his tilt with Jason Day. But with a big two punch combo, finishing with a dynamite right hand, Grove dropped Day early in the first round.
After following with a barrage of elbows to his downed opponent, the referee stepped in to stop the fight and give "Da Spyder" a much needed victory.
Vera finally showed off after dominating Muay Thai in earning his TKO victory in the second round over Michael Patt. He once again showed the striking skills that made him look like a future star in the sport by using leg kicks to earn the stoppage.
Vera had dropped three of his last four fights, with his lone victory being his first fight at light heavyweight over Reese Andy in a very lackluster effort.
This win should get the "Truth" back on the right track to establish himself as a major player at 205.
TUF produces more good fighters than just the season winners
When the UFC first introduced the viewing public to the reality series "The Ultimate Fighter", many hardcore fans and some fighters were not convinced of the actual ability of the guys coming from the TUF house.
There was talk that these guys did not deserve their spot in the UFC since they were only TV stars not real fighters. Three former participants that did not walk away with the trophy are helping to change that mindset.
With Matt Hamill's highlight reel KO of Mark Munoz, Matt Brown's annihilation of Pete Sell, and Gary Maynard's dominate performance against Jim Miller, the doubters may be going silent.
These TUF veterans showed that not only are they deserving of UFC fighters, but they also showed that they are ready to make noise in their respective weight divisions.
The debate over intelligently defending will rage on
I will admit that I have not personally seen the Aaron Riley versus Shane Nelson fight. But the controversy cause by the way this one ended is being well documented all across the Internet.
This marks the second straight UFC event that has had referee stoppages being questioned. Following the Josh Koscheck and Brian Cobb losses at UFC 95 by referee stoppages, the early end to the Riley versus Nelson bout will keep this topic alive for debate in the foreseeable future.
The standard is being called "Intelligently Defending Yourself."
If the referee deems that you are not protecting yourself or not making an effort to get out of a seemingly dangerous position, the fight will be stopped. Some referees tend to be a much better judge of this than others.
This is always going to be a hot topic amongst the media and all of MMA.
While it is not fair to a fighter to stop the match early if they are not totally out, how long does a referee wait before it becomes hazardous someone's health?
In the case of Koscheck, he looked like he was out before he hit the mat, but claims to have recovered enough to continue. Cobb was scooting backwards trying to avoid damage, but was not doing anything to deflect the onslaught of punched.
Both of those could be seen either way, but the referee has to make a snap decision on behalf of protecting the downed fighter.
The Riley stoppage seems to be the worst of the bunch. By all accounts, Riley was stunned, but not unable to continue. The crowd was definitely in Riley's corner about the premature stoppage.
I have read that even Joe Rogan threw out some expletives regarding how badly Riley got robbed.
This discussion will not go away anytime soon, but it should not be overlooked as it is a very important issue. I hope that the stoppages do not to come too quickly so as to ruin many potential great fights.
But don't stop them too late so that the violence becomes so horrific that the phrase "Human Cock Fighting" comes back into play.
This will always be a fine line to walk. Just praying for the good of the sport that all involve will tread lightly.