UFC 123 is upon us Saturday, and we will see Quinton "Rampage" Jackson take on Lyoto Machida. Rampage will attempt to make a comeback after losing by decision to Rashad Evans at UFC 114.
Machida, who was considered to be very elusive before meeting Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the Octagon, has the ability to prove a difficult matchup for anybody, including Rampage.
Rampage is going into this fight as the underdog, which is contrary to how he was viewed by many before he faced Evans. A few writers, including myself, anticipated that Rampage would not be able to handle Evans' wrestling and that ring rust would be a big factor involved. Short of that, though, there was little doubt that Rampage had the power and skill to effectively do the job.
At first look, I anticipated that Rampage would not be able to get Machida to brawl with him and that, as a result, he would systematically lose the striking game. However, we must take into consideration that this Rampage is probably going to be better conditioned than before, and he certainly doesn't have any ring rust—or at the worst very little. He should be dead set on redeeming himself after his loss to Evans.
Granted Rampage is not the same as he was back in the days of Pride, but he certainly has those days on his mind. Hopefully he has been training differently and most importantly putting a game plan together that has more dimensions than just getting in there and banging.
Back to why people are counting Rampage out: True, since joining the UFC, the Rampage of Pride that we grew to respect has seemed to throw his wrestling out the window. No longer does Rampage try to impose his wrestling power onto his opponents. Instead he prefers to try and outstrike them, and that may just be where he could fail against Machida.
Then again, if we do see the Rampage of old, it could be a whole different matter. If there's one thing Rampage makes clear, it's that he takes his losses to heart. Now the real question is whether or not he's willing to change things in order to do what is needed to make a statement to the world.
I wouldn't put it past Rampage to change things completely. Don't get me wrong; he's certainly not the same fighter he was in Pride, but that doesn't mean he can't fight the same way and with the same intensity. He's not out yet, and it would be foolish to assume he is.
The bottom line is that a lot of this speculation is based on Rampage's recent fight against Evans, in which he really was at a disadvantage due to his ring rust, and Machida's assumed elusiveness, which really was debunked in both his fights against Shogun despite the first resulting in an official victory in his favor.
I'm not suggesting that Machida is easy to beat. Not by any means. No matter whom he faces, he will certainly cause problems as he's very fast, accurate and, despite the recent KO loss, likely still be difficult to hit. However, the same goes for Rampage.
Although Machida is fresh off the mountain and Rampage has a ways to climb up, Rampage cannot be so easily counted out. He's a very dangerous fighter. Even though he hasn't exactly fought with the same intensity as he did in Pride, people must remember that, in the UFC alone, he has knocked out Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell—not small feats.
It will be interesting to see how badly Rampage wants to be back in the title picture. Based on how he changes his game, we will know come UFC 123.