Upon beating Lyoto Machida at UFC 123 this past November, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson undoubtedly expected another top-of-the-heap light heavyweight in his next bout. That man was supposed to be Thiago Silva, who came off his own dominant victory over Brandon Vera at UFC 125.
Silva was unfortunately snagged by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for failing his pre-fight drug test in that win, and it was subsequently changed to a no contest, leaving Rampage without an opponent at UFC 130. Enter Matt Hamill.
It’s an odd pairing, no doubt. At first thought, a victory over Machida probably shouldn’t earn anyone a fight date with Hamill. That’s not meant to be a knock on Hamill, but Machida was only one fight removed from holding the title.
Given the lack of talent available, however, and given a somewhat impressive string of victories by Hamill over Keith Jardine and Tito Ortiz in his last couple outings, the matchup makes sense, though Rampage clearly has more to lose in this fight than Hamill does.
A win for Matt Hamill over Rampage is a career highlight. If Hamill never holds a title, he could be proud of an MMA career that included a victory over Rampage.
A loss, while obviously disappointing, would only throw Hamill back into the pack of light heavyweights trying to reach the next level. It’s a place Hamill’s been fighting to break out of since he entered the UFC five years ago.
It’s an effort that was subdued by Rich Franklin at UFC 88 back in September of 2008, as Franklin proved to Hamill that he didn’t yet belong with the big boys of the light heavyweight class with a beating that ultimately ended with a third round TKO. Being unquestionably resilient, Hamill is back to try again.
For Rampage, this is simply a must-win fight. If he does pull off the victory, as most are expecting him to do (current betting lines have Rampage listed at -254), he may find himself staring at a title shot. A loss, on the other hand, will only serve to bring up questions and concerns about how much the man has left.
Simply put, if Rampage loses to Hamill, is it worth the time and toll on his body to continue in MMA.
Consider the fact that Rampage has been competing only against the best fighters available since his Pride days. Swimming with the sharks is all he knows, and he wouldn’t have it any other way, so consider where a loss would place him in the light heavyweight division of the UFC.
What would be next? A matchup with the winner of Ryan Bader vs. Tito Ortiz? A fight against Tito would certainly be a great pay-per-view draw for the UFC, but I guarantee you it wouldn’t mean much to Rampage.
At this point in Rampage’s career, he’s fueled by the desire to reach the pinnacle one more time, not perform in a circus fight merely for the wallets of the UFC brass. The man openly admits that he hates to train, so without the lure of one more crack at the mountain top, what motivation would he have to continue?
Consider also, Rampage has talked abundantly about his desire to do more acting in light of his success as B.A. Baracus in the A-Team. It’s enough to suggest his mind has already drifted to what he’ll be doing in his post-fight career, and any and every loss in the UFC would only serve to push him further towards retirement from fighting.
I don’t believe Rampage will retire in light of a loss to Matt Hamill. He’d take some time, reflect on what’s best for him at this time, and ultimately the lure of the Octagon will bring him back for at least one or two more fights.
A loss would, however, mean the end of Rampage Jackson as we’ve all grown accustom to knowing him, and it would likely be time for fans of MMA everywhere to prepare themselves for a light heavyweight division that didn’t include Rampage’s heavy hands swinging for another title.