The Five Fights That MUST Happen in 2010, No. 3: Rampage vs. Shogun 2

Elton HobsonCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2010

That’s right folks,the latest instalment in the series is another rematch.

But hey, nothing wrong with a rematch, right? Not according to a lot of fans.

Top-ranked fighters only fight three, at best four times a year, they say. Don’t waste those precious fights on something we’ve already seen before. We’re in a recession, for God’s sake!

But I disagree. So often, a fight can hinge on the slightest turn of fate , the smallest margin of error. An instant, an inch, a zig left when a zag right was needed, can decide the better man that night. In my mind, it does not necessarily determine the better fighter. Indeed, the rematch may give you an entirely different outcome from the first fight.

Repeat matches establish certainty. We knew the Matt Hughes era is over when he was steamrolled twice by Georges St. Pierre.

We knew the Rich Franklin era had ended after Anderson Silva’s two complimentary plastic surgeries.

We knew that “Minotauro” would always be considered second to Fedor in PRIDE because of his two decisive losses to “The Last Emperor."

We know that Tito Ortiz cannot defeat Chuck Liddell (are you listening, Dana?). And so it goes.

And right now, “Rampage” vs. “Shogun” is the most intriguing rematch in the UFC.

These men first met in the opening round of PRIDE’s 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix. Rampage was a powerful wrestler coming off a controversial decision win over Shogun’s brother Murilo “Ninja” Rua. Shogun was hottest prospect at the famed Chute Boxe Academy and about to break big onto the world stage.

In all, it took just under five minutes for Shogun to destroy Rampage with brutal knees in the clinch. He would go on to win the tournament itself and write his name into MMA history.

But Quinton  Jackson is not the same fighter he was five years ago. Give Juanito Ibarra all the shit you want, the man was responsible for Jackson’s emergence as a serious, elite level striker.

Since relocating to the Wolfslair Academy he has only gotten better, mixing his wrestling with his striking as never before. Besides, this man was on the receiving end of the most brutal beat down in PRIDE history —and avenged it in equally brutal fashion.

Sure, he still doesn’t seem to give a shit about kicks—offensively or defensively. But every single one of his UFC opponents has been dropped by a strike at some point in their fight. Fact is, if he hits you, he hurts you.

I don’t think it’s possible for this fight to happen in the first half of 2010. Shogun is facing Machida in the rematch of the century and Rampage has a little business of his own to take care of.

Assuming Shogun wins the belt, his first challenger would likely be the winner of the Rampage/Rashad match, meaning this fight could come about naturally for third quarter 2010.

Also, if Rampage and Shogun both lose their respective fights, I see no reason why this fight couldn’t happen regardless. It would still make sense in the title situation and is a guaranteed barn burner.

Despite Rampage’s displayed weakness to leg kicks and Shogun’s propensity for dishing them out , I’m going against my gut and picking Rampage in this one. I think he’s proved he’s not susceptible to the clinch like in his PRIDE days, and has the chin and the guts to weather the storm of Shogun’s assault to land the one shot on the button he would need to put him to sleep.

By the way, we have a new winner for the “Most Compromising Photo in MMA ” award (my condolences to the previous winner ).

It’s not that I fault Dan Hardy for trying—hell, everybody says GSP’s opponents should train wrestling and then when they do, they shit on him for it. It’s just the look on his face—so earnest, so optimistic—like The Little Engine that Could , only the book ends with the plucky little train derailing in a fiery crash.

GSP is bringing in Gegard Mousasi to help him break a sweat, and your strapping on your singlet up in England.

If I were you, I’d call Matt Serra and ask him what the cheat codes are.