UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage poses many questions leading up to the UFC light heavyweight title bout on September 24, at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
The entire fight card is an exciting one and features many great matchups between both veterans as well as newcomers, but it is the main event that has people talking.
How does the once-invincible Quinton “Rampage” Jackson plan to deal with the seemingly unstoppable force that is Jon “Bones” Jones?
Jones is unique in that he has an arsenal of weapons, attacks and defense at his disposal, and you never know what he’s going to do next.
Being unpredictable is a strategy that was honed by world-class trainer and MMA strategist Greg Jackson and has been passed on to his students and top fighters, who usually employ their game plans with relative ease.
Since joining the UFC in 2007, Rampage has captured the heavyweight title by KO'ing the sport’s most dominant light heavyweight, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, has won Knockout of the Night honors, Fight of the Night honors and fought for the light heavyweight title eliminator, twice.
As accomplished a fighter as Rampage is, he will be facing what will most likely be his toughest challenge yet against the young and extremely talented champion.
The last time that Rampage fought a member of Team Jackson, he didn’t do as well as he and many fans had hoped.
His arch nemesis, former Jackson prodigy and former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, was clearly in control for all three rounds, defeating Rampage by unanimous decision at UFC 114.
Evans may have learned a secret about Rampage and used it to his advantage during the most anticipated and hyped grudge match in MMA history, as Evans intentionally threw hard punches to the knees of Rampage while engaged in what turned out to be an anticlimactic wrestling match between the two former title holders.
According to Rampage in an article written by MMAMania’s Jesse Holland, the Team Wolfslair fighter was suffering from a then-recent knee injury which the fighter and his camp had hoped to keep under wraps; both literally and figuratively.
“I remember one other thing he was doing—he was punching me in my knee! It was weird because I had suffered a real bad knee injury in camp but we kept it secret, we didn’t say anything about it and we didn’t even tell the UFC. I told my doctor and that was it, he helped me out but I was going to back out of the fight. The only reason I didn’t back out was the fight had been so hyped and I didn’t want to disappoint the fans. Why was he punching me in the knee though? That’s kind of weird—did he find out about the injury? I don’t know. It’s weird."
Seeing as how Evans targeted Rampage’s injured knee, will Jones show no mercy as well?
A fight is a fight and a fighter should do everything and anything they can—within the rules—to win.
Jones has crisp, clean Muay Thai, astonishing wrestling, takedowns and throws, an excellent defensive game, doing whatever is necessary to not only win, but finish his opponents with class and style.
So far and to their dismay, no one has been able to figure out Jones’ mysterious strategy and unpredictably dominant style.
Knee injuries are permanent in that they will never fully heal and are prone to re-injuries, both in training and inside of the Octagon.
Perhaps this is the reason that Rampage does not fight the same way that he used to—the way that made him the famous fighter that he’s become.
When is the last time we saw him power slam his opponent or go for explosive takedowns?
Rampage, while not as highly decorated a wrestler as Evans or other top MMA fighters, is still a wrestler by nature, but has had to make certain adjustments in his training and strategy to hide the fact that his knees are blown and still be dominant inside of the cage.
His boxing has improved greatly as demonstrated against both Liddell and Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, as he finished both of them with clean KOs and avenged two of his most devastating losses.
Now, the question is, will Jones take advantage of his opponent’s weakness and hammer away at Rampage’s knees with his long-legged, lethal Muay Thai shin-kicks in an attempt to punish and displace the contender while stripping him of his ability to stand?
With at least one blown knee and possibly two bad knees, Rampage will be forced to fight within a five-foot radius while attempting to stalk the elusive young champion, looking for the knockout.
However, I believe it will be a futile attempt as Rampage cannot use all of his tools, and Jones will use everything he has to try and finish the brash, lifelong fighter and world-class, former champ.
Will Jones choose to take the easy route and disable Rampage before the sound of the first bell, or will he use his diverse set of attacks to prove that he’s the king of the hill without exploiting his opponent’s exposed injuries?
The riddle to this question will only be solved come fight night at UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage. It’s sure to bring fireworks, no matter what the outcome.