Every sport has its curse.
Football has the Madden Curse. Baseball has the Curse of the Bambino. Indy Racing League has the Andretti Curse.
MMA is no different, as many longtime fans know.
The Iceman's Curse is the most well-known curse in MMA as the light heavyweight title has never remained around the waist of someone for more than two title defenses ever since Chuck Liddell got knocked out by Rampage Jackson.
The curse has not only immediate effects, as many of those affected by it have had a steep downturn in their careers after losing the title.
This Saturday, current champ Jon Jones has a chance to break the curse as he faces the toughest challenge in his career when he fights Lyoto Machida. With that in mind I decided to look back at those affected by this curse as well as talk about Jones' chances of being the man to break it.
How He Won the Title: by beating Randy Couture via KO at UFC 52, April 16, 2005
Successfully Defended Against: Jeremy Horn @ UFC 54, Randy Couture @ UFC 57, Renato Sobral @ UFC 62, Tito Ortiz @ UFC 66
Reign Length: 770 days
In the time that he held the title, the Iceman would avenge his loss to Jeremy Horn, win in the rubber match with Randy Couture and win his second fight against former friend Tito Ortiz. Even more impressive, each of those defenses did not make it to the judge's card as he earned a submission over Horn, knocked out Couture, and got TKO victories over Babalu and Tito.
He would finally lose the title to Rampage Jackson via knockout in the first round of their fight. His career would then take a turn for the worse as he would lose four of his five next fights after losing the title, three of them by knockout.
How He Won the Title: by beating Chuck Liddell via KO @ UFC 71, May 26, 2007
Successfully Defended Against: Dan Henderson @ UFC 75
Reign Length: 406 days
Rampage would be the first victim of the Iceman Curse after he beat Liddell. He would go on to beat Dan Henderson in a title unification match between the Pride and UFC champions.
Afterwards he would coach the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter against No. 1 contender Forrest Griffin. In his second title defense Forrest would earn the unanimous decision victory and get the belt.
After losing the belt, Rampage would go 4-2 with his losses coming against Rashad Evans and most recently against current champion Jon Jones, who became the first person to finish Rampage in the UFC.
While Rampage's record since losing the belt is pretty good, he has come under fire as being more laid back in his training and not going for the finish in fights.
His next fight against Ryan Bader in the upcoming Japan show will most likely be a deciding factor in whether Rampage retires soon or pushes forward to try and get a third title shot.
How He Won the Title: by beating Rampage Jackson via Unanimous Decision @ UFC 86, July 5, 2008
Successfully Defended Against: no one
Reign Length: 175 days
A winner of the original season of The Ultimate Fighter, Forrest Griffin shocked the MMA world with his win over Rampage Jackson to win the light heavyweight title. Yet his reign would be short lived as he would lose via knockout to fellow TUF winner Rashad Evans.
Forrest's current slide in performance as after he won the title from Rampage can be attributed to that loss.
Griffin has gone 2-3, with the losses to the aforementioned Rashad Evans, an embarrassing knockout loss to Anderson Silva and another knockout loss to Shogun Rua. His two wins were a split decision against Tito Ortiz and a unanimous decision against Rich Franklin.
How He Won the Title: by beating Forrest Griffin via KO @ UFC 92, December 27, 2008
Successfully Defended Against: no one
Reign Length: 147 days
Rashad seemed destined to break the curse after he knocked out Forrest Griffin to win the belt. His record was perfect outside of a draw against Tito Ortiz, and his striking was technical and crisp. Unfortunately, his first title defense was against Lyoto Machida.
It was then that his major flaw presented itself: his cockiness. During a flurry from Lyoto, Rashad began to trash-talk, saying that Lyoto's hands “were made of pillows.” He would then be hit with an onslaught of strikes and knocked out by said pillow hands.
Rashad would tone down his emotions and demeanor in his following fights as he would get unanimous decision wins over Thiago Silva and Rampage Jackson. He would then earn a TKO win over Tito Ortiz in a rematch.
The biggest problem right now for Rashad is that nagging injuries that continue to keep him out of title matches. Each time he gets in contention, something comes up that takes him out of the match or replaced in the match, effectively making him the Jon Fitch of the division.
How He Won the Title: by beating Rashad Evans via KO @ UFC 98, May 23, 2009
Successfully Defended Against: Shogun Rua @ UFC 104
Reign Length: 350 days
When Machida knocked out Rashad Evans, Joe Rogan went on to declare that it was the “Machida Era”; unfortunately the era would not last.
Machida would be matched up against Shogun Rua in his first defense. The two would fight at UFC 104, and the champion won an incredibly controversial unanimous decision to retain the belt. Due to how controversial the match was, an immediate rematch was set up between the two for UFC 113. Shogun, not wanting a repeat of their previous match, knocked out Machida in the first round of the rematch.
After losing the title, Machida would lose a controversial decision to Rampage Jackson. He would bounce back as he knocked out Randy Couture with a jumping front kick, resulting in Couture retiring.
Machida found controversy again as he was linked to a rematch with Rashad Evans until it was said by Dana White that Machida was not in the match as he was demanding “Anderson Silva money” to take the fight on short notice.
He has now found himself facing Jon Jones this Saturday with the title on the line. If he picks up a win over Jones, he will continue the Iceman Curse; if he loses, the curse will be broken.
How He Won the Title: by beating Lyoto Machida via KO @ UFC 113, May 8, 2010
Successfully Defended Against: N/A
Reign Length: 315 days
Shogun Rua is the most current victim of the Iceman Curse after he knocked out Lyoto Machida in their rematch.
After bouncing back and forth between winning and losing, he would win the title and be set up against Rashad Evans. Rashad would end up getting injured in training and would be replaced Jon Jones six weeks before the fight. Shogun would end up losing via TKO in the third round of their fight, making Jones the youngest champion in UFC history.
Shogun would bounce back with a knockout victory over Forrest Griffin at UFC 134 and earned himself a spot in a title eliminator against the returning Dan Henderson. In that match, Shogun would end up losing the match via unanimous decision in what has been called one of the greatest matches in UFC history.
How He Won the Title: by beating Shogun Rua via TKO @ UFC 128, March 19, 2011
Successfully Defended Against: Rampage Jackson @ UFC 135
Reign Length: 262 days (incumbent)
Jon Jones currently stands as the UFC light heavyweight champion and seems to have the best chance to break the Iceman Curse.
After he dismantled Rampage Jackson, he finds himself facing the biggest challenge of his career.
Lyoto Machida poses an interesting threat to how Jones fights, as he is more of a defensive and elusive fighter. If Jones can use that 84.5” reach advantage, he should be able to beat Machida and become the first man in over four years to have two successful light heavyweight title defenses in a row.
He will need to keep a cool head in order to do so and not allow Machida to dictate the flow of the match or allow him to skirt out of reach. If we learned anything from Machida/Rua 2, it's that if you press Machida and hit him fast, his elusiveness will count for nothing.
But if Jones can't get a rhythm going with his striking, expect him to use his superb wrestling to change the pace and allow him to finish Machida on the ground.
Odds of breaking the curse: 70 percent