Last night at 130 in Las Vegas, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson took a unanimous decision victory over Matt “The Hammer” Hamill. While Rampage demonstrated some great boxing and stifling takedown defence—he outstruck and stopped Hamill on 17 takedown attempts—he didn’t finish an opponent that many expected him to thoroughly demolish, and the crowd at the MGM Grand Arena responded accordingly by drowning the venue with boos when the decision was announced.
In fact, Rampage, the consensus number three light heavyweight in the world, was vocal before the fight, saying he “wasn’t excited” at the prospect of facing Hamill, the number 17 light heavyweight in the world, and boy, did the fans bear the burden of it, because last night’s main event wasn’t exciting at all.
Aside from a few key moments like Travis Browne knocking out the giant Stefan Struve with an unexpected superman punch and Brian Stann becoming a staple in the middleweight division, UFC 130 left a lot to be desired. But perhaps the biggest disappointment from the night came in the post-fight press conference, when Dana White confirmed that Rampage was next in line to face UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, barring an examination of his injured hand.
Rampage revealed after the fight he had fractured his hand in sparring, but still chose to fight anyway (where was the Nevada State Athletic Commission on that one?), using it as the excuse as to why he did not knock out his obviously inferior opponent. Kudos to Rampage for fighting through his ailment on a card that lost both its original headliners in Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard to injuries as well, but the fans that spend $50 to order a pay-per-view in their home or the fans who spend hundreds to attend live don’t really care. They just want to see something exciting, and the main event of UFC 130 was anything but.
In actuality, Rampage’s last few fights have been stinkers. His majorly hyped-up fight against Rashad Evans at UFC 114, a fight that had a whole season of “The Ultimate Fighter” dedicated to promoting it, was a boring decision, not to mention he lost that fight. His match against Lyoto Machida at UFC 123, a fight that he won by controversial split decision, had its moments but was otherwise forgettable. And this latest fight versus Hamill—though Rampage showed flashes of his old, dominant self—was nothing to write home about either.
So why does he deserve a fight against the young and fascinating Jones? The answer is business, as Rampage versus Jones is a fight that White and the UFC can promote because of Rampage’s name value (especially after appearing in the big-screen update of “The A-Team”), and with Evans and the fast-rising Phil Davis booked for an August tilt, the timing makes sense for Jones to defend his title against someone else in September or October.
But it shouldn’t be against Rampage, and neither should it be against Machida, who, before knocking out a 47-year old Randy Couture in extremely impressive fashion at UFC 129, won a controversial decision against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and was then brutally knocked out by Rua in a rematch to lose his title, and then lost the aforementioned split decision to Rampage. With their spotty track records recently, do either of these guys really seem like worthy champions?
Rampage used to be one of the most exciting mixed martial artists in the world. His fights in Pride were legendary, especially his gigantic slam of Ricardo Arona at Pride Critical Countdown 2004. His massive knockout of Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell at UFC 71 that sent the all-but-unstoppable Liddell crashing to the canvas was exciting. His punch that knocked out Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92 was thrilling. Even in his losses, like when Silva knocked him out with knees that sent Rampage through the ropes at Pride 28, he was exciting. Not anymore, though, and it’s disappointing, because he still has so many fans in the world that want to see him excel, as his combination of brutal boxing, great wrestling and a colourful personality have helped him reach the highest highs of mixed martial arts.
But it seems as if he has lost his killer instinct after his foray into Hollywood. Now, he is more of an actor that a fighter. Case in point, his interviews with Ariel Helwani leading up to and after UFC 130. In these clips, Rampage acted extremely unprofessional and rude, and while some may have found them funny, I found them both awkward and juvenile. In my opinion, Helwani’s interview with Tim Boetsch, a middling mid-tier middleweight, was much more interesting and revealing, even though Boetsch is devoid of any sort of personality at all.
Rampage is a fighter, not an actor. If he wants a title shot against Jones, then he needs to start showing us the entire dominating mixed martial artist he can be, not just glimpses and flashes once in a while. Until then, he doesn’t deserve a shot.