Last week, a particularly brilliant Bleacher Reporter constituent and columnist strapped on his brown baby-boomer vest, pulled that yellow No. 2 from behind his freakishly small ear, cracked his stubby fingers and blessed us all with a literary joyride through the crevasses of a finely tuned analytical article that examined the upcoming bouts of three Pride FC veterans at UFC 110—Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, and Mirko Cro-Cop.
The three aligning ex-Pride stars have all claimed a spot on the main card at UFC 110, creating a reunion of sorts in Sydney, Australia. Having all three MMA legends competing on the same card is intriguing simply for the fact that none of us fans have witnessed such an event, which has hosted each of these fighters in the same ring or cage since 2006 at Pride’s Final Conflict Absolute.
Not only were the fighters sharing the same canvas under the Saitama Super Arena, two of the three fought each other that night—Wanderlei suffered a devastating knockout via head kick courtesy of Cro-Cop’s imposturous left leg, a limb that closely resembles the trunk of a towering Redwood tree.
Had Nogueira defeated Josh Barnett, the lineage would have been complete with a showdown between Cro-Cop and the Brazilian, a final round conclusion to the open-weight grand prix tournament conducted that year by Pride.
In less than a couple of days, the three Pride musketeers will be joined by a fellow alumni in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who will be corning his Wolfslair teammate and Wanderlei Silva’s opponent, Michael Bisping.
Will having Rampage Jackson be Bisping’s ace in the hole?
Jackson and Silva’s professional history and personal distaste for one another has been well documented throughout the years. It’s a turbulent relationship seared with two of the most memorable knockouts in the sport—worthy of any highlight reel.
In three fights, Silva currently commands a 2-1 record, having derailed Jackson with a barrage of knees, twice, under the Pride banner. It should be noted that those fights were during Wanderlei’s impenetrable reign as Pride middleweight champion but that was years back and the most recent meeting between the two at UFC 92 ended with a vicious counter-hook to Silva’s chin, knocking him out cold.
The experience from fighting an opponent three different times breeds a certain level of unique experience that will surely give Bisping an advantage from a strategic standpoint. Ideally, the Brit, under the tutelage of Rampage, has absorbed the intricacies of fighting someone like Wanderlei—a powerfully aggressive striker that also carries a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Not only has Jackson been an incomparable addition to Bisping’s camp, he has also provided a temporary escape from the painful monotony of training. The Ultimate Fighter season three winner has been quoted in recent interviews explaining the benefits Rampage has brought to his general game-plan and personal morale.
“Just having someone like Rampage with his vast experience of the fight game around in camp, is a good thing psychologically,” Bisping recently told MMAfighting.com. “It's also good to break up the boredom. When the training gets to be a bit hard, he's also good for a laugh as well. But as I said, someone with his experience and knowing Wanderlei as well as he does, it's been invaluable having him and helping me with strategy."
Jackson’s involvement has clearly impacted Bisping in a wide array of ways. We can only imagine the advice that was given to the Brit throughout his preparation: “Mike, go in there and whoop his goofy lookin’ ass.” “You need to avoid his hooks and his funky breath.”
The translated transcripts might read something like this: “For the love of God, do not roll into his power hand. Resort to the take-down if you’re taking too much damage. You can pick him apart if you time your counter punches right.”
In all reality, Wanderlei has always been suspect when fighting someone with technically superior striking, which Bisping posseses—even if his knockout power isn’t on par with Silva’s.
To prevent Silva’s power from playing a large role in the fight, Bisping will desperately need to avoid getting backed up into the cage by creating distance with effective counter-punches and kicks to slow the tenacious Silva down enough to mount his own offensive.
We can only speculate at this point if Bisping will be able to execute any of the advice given once he enters the cage, opposite a daggering stare from one of the most brutal, wrist-rolling, fight maestros to ever compete—a rabid wolverine foaming at the mouth guard, eagerly waiting to be released upon his adversary by the sound of the bell.
Come Saturday, heads will roll regardless of Rampage’s presence…but since he will be in close proximity to a familiar nemesis, tensions and heart rates will rise.
Let’s not forget, during the most recent installment of the UFC’s Countdown series, Wanderlei jokingly expressed his desire to fight Jackson on the spot after defeating Bisping. Could we see a "two for one special"—Wanderlei winning double knockout of the night?