UFC 123 will feature former UFC light heavyweight champs Lyoto Machida and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. The big question, though, is what they will be fighting for.
Ultimately, both want to get back into the picture to fight for the title, and both certainly want to yet again earn the gold. Despite their common direction, though, the two are on two different tracks, so to speak.
In similar fashion to Rashad Evans losing to Machida, Machida recently lost badly to Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, and in turn he lost the title. Just as Evans had to fight two tough opponents to get back in the picture for a title shot, Rampage will likely be Machida's first of two necessary fights before having the chance of seeing a title fight...and that's if he wins.
Rampage, on the other hand, may have a bit more road to travel even if he beats Machida.
Rampage lost the championship belt to Forrest Griffin in 2008. Granted Rampage didn't lose the championship by KO like Machida did, nor has he been finished since facing Shogun in 2005. The trouble comes in with Rampage not competing between early 2009 and mid 2010.
Rampage faced Evans and lost by decision. Evans wrestled Rampage for three straight rounds, completely nullifying any significant offense and sealing a number one contender slot for the light heavyweight championship.
Since his brief hiatus, Rampage has yet to get back into his groove of winning. Despite not being beaten by finished in over five years, he hasn't won a fight by finish since 2008. Such performance from Rampage is nothing stellar, and as a result, he either needs to finish Machida or at least win by decision and convincingly beat his next one before being considered for a title shot.
A lot of speculation is surrounding who the winner will face next. Up-and-comers Jon Jones and Ryan Bader are set to square off at UFC 126 in February, and there's a chance that the winner will face the victor between Machida and Rampage for a shot at the title, which will (hopefully) either be retained by Shogun or held by Evans some time in 2011.
There's little doubt that Jones and Bader have their eye on this match, and the winners in each respective match, no matter the outcome, would make a great match for a shot at the title.
Machida vs. Rampage is a big fight for the light heavyweight division. Machida needs a strong victory to gain his mojo back after a devastating loss to Shogun, and Rampage needs to win to remain competitive and earn credibility that could have him on the fast track to a title shot, depending on if can finish off Machida. One thing's certain, though: chances are we can look forward to a fight to the finish between these two.