UFC 123 Post-Mortem: Headliners Machida and Rampage Provide Anticlimactic Finish

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UFC 123 Post-Mortem: Headliners Machida and Rampage Provide Anticlimactic Finish
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson pitying the fool

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson’s split decision win over his fellow headlining rival Lyoto Machida at UFC 123 won’t contribute to dissipate either the persisting frustration over MMA scoring decisions or fans’ disappointment relating to these two top LHW fighters’ performances.

The stakes were high for the two former LHW champions headlining Saturday’s UFC 123 event in Michigan. Though both Machida (16-2) and Jackson (31-8) suffered losses in their last respective outing in the Octagon, it is mostly the manner in which they lost that generated much speculation in the MMA community.

Jackson’s lackluster effort to put his best foot forward on his way back to the Octagon was indeed surprising.

After a year-long hiatus spent contributing to a cinematic experience best described as a "visual punishment" by Chicago Sun-Times movie reviewer Roger Ebert, "Rampage" came back last May to settle a score against opposing TUF 10 coach, Rashad Evans.

One didn’t need to be familiar with Constantin Stanislavski’s corpus to expect that Jackson’s aspirations for movie-making would be stealthily dashed. Jackson knew as much and re-signed a six-fight agreement with the UFC in March 2010, three months prior to the official release date of the "A-Team" remake.

As for Machida, the uninspired first championship encounter against Mauricio Rua yielded a controversial unanimous decision win over his Brazilian rival. The rematch saw Rua end Machida’s winning streak with a devastating KO towards the end of the first stanza.

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
Sotiropoulos delivered on his promise to beat Joe Lauzon

Odds for the November 20 headlining clash favoured Machida (-240) over Jackson (+190). It had been reported that Jackson would attempt a rebirth of some sort and recede back to his old Pride days where he relied on more than crisp boxing. His opponent, cognizant of his success rate as counter-puncher, would elude Jackson’s stalking and test his notorious granite chin.

And it almost played out that way. For all of Rampage’s will to demonstrate a fuller skillset, right down to the Pride FC  theme song for his walkout music, fans were treated to a few foot stomps, leg kicks and elbows to Machida’s thighs while in the clinch. The rest of the fight accurately reflected Rampage’s strategy in the UFC, namely boxing.

Machida’s speed and agility frustrated Jackson, as expected. Jackson described it as “punching the wind”. And this lasted for more or less three rounds, the bout ending with a rare flurry by Machida.

Fight Metric’s fight report has Machida landing twice as many significant strikes as Jackson, Rampage landing more (70) overall than his rival (53). Most significant is the meagerness of those numbers, revealing how much of a non-event this fight turned out to be.

Thankfully, the four other bouts scheduled on the pay per view broadcast compensated for the anti-climax.

The LW clash between Joe Lauzon (19-6) and George Sotiropoulos (14-2) provided fireworks and Fight of the Night honours ($80,000), adding to Sotiropoulos’ impressive submission victory. BJ Penn (16-7-1) fighting at WW netted the KO of the Night purse for his lightning fast KO of Matt Hughes at 0:21 of round 1.

Phil Davis (8-0) was awarded the SUB of the Night bonus for his unconventional one-arm kimura win midway in the second round over fellow LHW Tim Boetsch (12-4). The main card’s remaining fight pitted MW Gerald Harris (17-3) to UFC newcomer Maiquel Falcao (26-3). Both fighters measured their reach for the better part of the first stanza before Falcao stunned his opponent and dominated him on the ground. His intensity eventually let up, but he managed to win a UD over a UFC prospect.

Reported medical suspensions following UFC 123 consisted of a minimum of 30 days for LW Mike Lullo, 60 days without contact for Matt Hughes, 30 days without contact for WW Karo Parisyan.

Lines from Betus.com

Photo courtesy of Duane Burleson - Associated Press (reprint from LA Times)

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