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UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008, on paper, promises to be one of the greatest cards in the history of the UFC. And on that card, there is one fight that stands out as the most explosive: Wanderlei Silva vs. Rampage Jackson III features two fighters with a combined record of 60 wins, 35 of which have come via TKO or KO—22 from Wanderlei and 13 for Rampage.
You've heard it a thousand times, and usually it's incorrect, so I refrain from using it myself, but this seems as good a fight as any to use it: "Someone is going to sleep" or "This one isn't going to the judges." So with this preface, let us delve into the matchup.
First, a brief history of the last two fights: Wanderlei knocked Rampage out—brutally— twice. The second knockout, one of the greatest in MMA history, left Rampage stiff and tangled between the ropes. Silva got him in the clinch, used his knees, and Rampage had no answer.
Here we are, four years and two months later, prepared for the rematch. It's fair to say that neither fighter has been the same since. Silva has gone 5-5 since, losing to a who's who of opponents: Mark Hunt, Ricardo Arona, Mirko Cro Cop, Dan Henderson, and Chuck Liddell.
The peak of Silva's career may just have been as he jumped onto the turnbuckle with his hands in the air after destroying Rampage for the second time, with the confetti falling around him and the music playing.
On the other hand, Jackson has gone 7-2 since their last fight, only losing to Shogun and Forrest Griffin. Everyone agrees that he has become much more polished in all aspects of the game.
In an interview leading up to this fight, Jackson commented on his previous fights with Wanderlei, "Man, I was a terrible fighter back then. I didn't know nothing. I don't even know how I made it to the championship to fight him." It could be taken as an excuse, but maybe it's just honesty, stating the facts, or confidence.
But could it just be rationalization? I think it is very valid that we ask the question when analyzing this fight: Is Wanderlei in Rampage's head?
My opinion: However you much stock you put into it, I think Wanderlei has a mental edge in this fight. Rampage can put Wanderlei on his back, take him out of his comfort zone, rock him, anything. I still feel that the previous two fights place an extra weight of confidence in the already amazing fighter mentality of Wanderlei, and at least an ounce of doubt in the back of Rampage's mind.
Because what will Wanderlei do? He'll try an armbar off his back. He'll create space and get back to his feet. He'll get up if he's knocked down. He'll keep stalking. He'll keep striking.
Of course Rampage has worked on his clinch over the years, and he'll probably be a lot more prepared to handle the knees than he was before. But what about his leg kick defense? Standing there flat-footed isn't going to do against Silva. What about the times we've seen Rampage simply stick his two gloves in front of his face as he takes a barrage of strikes after being rocked?
I mentioned earlier their records since their last fight, but there is a key distinction to make here. In Rampage's last fight, he was decisioned by Forrest Griffin and left the octagon a loser, and limping. He proceeded to get into a world of legal trouble following. It's hard to believe Rampage is back and better than ever coming into this fight until I see it.
In Wanderlei's last fight, he demolished Keith Jardine, using vicious hand speed and killer instinct. He leaped up onto the octagon and flexed in celebration. He looked like the man who had just beaten Rampage back on Oct. 31, 2004; That man who was mythical in his status; The man who was 19-0-1 in Pride before facing the 290-pound Mark Hunt.
Lots of people are probably coming into this fight having picked Rampage in one, if not both, of their first two fights. They think that Rampage has the right skill set and will pick him every time.
It may be no different than all the experts who picked against George Mason round, after round, after round, after round of the NCAA tournament, convinced this is the time things will go the way they are supposed to, and ending up banging their heads against the wall. Wanderlei Silva wins via TKO, round 3
To see Brian's opposing viewpoint click here.