A couple of fortuitous events found Quinton “Rampage” Jackson fighting for the right to challenge UFC light heavyweight Champion Jonny “Bones” Jones. All he needed to do was defeat Matt Hamill in thrilling fashion to guarantee the title shot that has eluded him since losing the strap to Forrest Griffin three years ago.
Rampage took care of part of the job. He defeated Hamill and did it with relative ease. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most exciting affair. In fact, the workmanlike effort against Hamill is the third consecutive fight where Rampage has been less than impressive.
Unlike in the previous two bouts, Rampage was dominant this time around, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind as to who was the better man. That sort of positive trend should bode well for him in his next bout, whether against Jones or anyone else.
For what it is worth, I think Rampage should be next up for Jones, despite the sleepy win. Why? He deserves it.
There are many, including Rampage and this writer, who believe that he did enough to win the bout with Griffin. Worst case, it should have been a draw. Typically, when a guy loses in close, controversial fashion, he is granted an immediate rematch. Rampage didn’t get one after his tough loss to Griffin.
Instead, he was sent back on the challengers’ trail. Five fights and four wins later, it is time for Rampage to receive an opportunity to return to the pinnacle of the sport. Plus, Rampage versus Jones is one of the more marketable bouts out there, particularly if one or the other begins a war of words, something Rampage immensely enjoys.
Of course, all that assumes that Rampage’s left hand is healthy enough to fight when Jones is ready to go. He revealed after the match that he competed with a fractured left hand, something that is almost unthinkable in a sport where a standup killer like Rampage lives and dies with his fists.
UFC President Dana White needs to announce Jones’ opponent soon so his company can begin building the promotion for the bout. My guess is that it will be Rampage. Then again, maybe Saturday’s sleepy effort opened the door for fellow former champion Lyoto Machida. We will all know soon enough.
MIR SHOWS THAT HE IS STILL NEAR THE TOP OF THE HEAP
Roy Nelson is nobody’s light lunch. Mix in the fact that he defeated Frank Mir in a grappling match, and Saturday’s “Las Vegas Bowl” was probably a much tougher fight for Mir than most believe. Yet, Mir walked through Nelson like a hot knife through half-melted butter.
The former champion still needs to figure out how to deal with the true behemoths of the division. He seems to have everything else on cruise control.
The winner of Junior dos Santos versus Shane Carwin will likely face Cain Velasquez at the end of the year. Unless he drops a fight in the interim, Mir should be next in line.
NELSON NEEDS TO GO SOUTH
Nelson is one tough hombre. No doubt about it. Mir landed more vicious knees than I can remember from any bout other than the two times that Wanderlei Silva savagely stopped Rampage. Yet, “Big Country” kept coming forward, swinging for the fences.
This was the second time in two fights that Nelson experienced a bludgeoning without really slowing down. If he wanted to prove to the world that he has possibly the best whiskers in the sport, mission accomplished. What he really proved, though, is that he is simply too small to compete at the highest levels of the heavyweight division.
Seeing Nelson and Mir stand next to each other highlighted the point for me. The pair weighed the exact same amount at the pre-fight weigh-ins. Mir enjoys a three-inch height advantage, which is very significant. That differential paled in comparison to the muscularity difference. I know. I know. Mixed martial arts is not bodybuilding. Physique is rarely an indicator of a man’s fighting ability.
Nevertheless, I’m going to go back to something the late, great Evan Tanner once told me during an interview. When he announced that he was dropping from 205 pounds to 185 pounds, I asked him why. His response perfectly applies to Nelson. Tanner said, “All else being equal, the bigger man is going to win a fight more often than not, and I want to be the bigger man going forward.”
The key to that phrase is “all else being equal.” Maybe Nelson has the same skills as Mir – that is a big maybe. It is obvious, though, that he cannot get into the same cardiovascular shape, and there is no way on earth that he can match Mir in terms of speed and explosive power. The former champion is far and away the naturally bigger man, and he dominated Nelson on Saturday night.
Nelson even admitted in the post-fight presser that Mir was difficult to handle because of his size, remarking more than once that Mir was a “big guy.”
I don’t think I’m going out on much of a limb by suggesting that Nelson should drop to 205 pounds. He easily carries an extra 40 pounds of body fat on his torso. Hiring a sports-focused dietician and some extra cardio should easily rid his body of those unwanted pounds in four-to-five months. If he gets to 220 pounds, he should be able to cut to 205 pounds without any worry.
Think of Nelson at light heavy. He would still be on the short side, standing only six-feet tall. But he won’t be tiny, like he is at heavyweight. If he can eat three rounds of punches from Junior dos Santos and a similar amount of punches and knees from Frank Mir, it stands to reason that he will be able to handle whatever guys like Jon Jones, Rashad Evans, Rampage and other top light heavies throw at him. He should also be able to more effectively fight back, possibly earning his way to the top of the division.
If Nelson remains at heavyweight, he will continue to engage in fan friendly fights. He will also beat his fair share of opponents. But I don’t see him entering the upper echelon of the division at any point because of his physical limitations – height, reach, strength and natural size – compared to guys like Mir, JDS, Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, and Travis Browne, among others.
STORY IN THE MIDST OF A FAIRY TALE RUN
Not many welterweights have the stones to ask for a bout with Thiago Alves. I guess that makes Rick Story unique.
Of those who would dare call out the “Pitbull,” even fewer have the skills to defeat a motivated, focused Alves. Story did just that on Saturday night.
Following a win over Alves, nobody, and I mean nobody, would have the gall to call out Jon Fitch. We’re talking about the one welterweight that nobody wants to fight. Fitch is a nightmare for opponents because of his size and style. Yet, that is exactly what Story did at the UFC 130 post-fight presser.
I’ll admit that I expected Alves to walk through Story. That obviously didn’t happen. Story used an excellent gameplan to smother Alves’ strikes and score. And then he hung on for dear life in the third, as the Brazilian mounted a furious assault, at least momentarily.
The win undoubtedly places Story on the short list of legitimate 170-pound title threats. That is a far cry from where most thought he would be two years after his UFC debut. Back on June 13, 2009, Story suffered a clear loss to John Hathaway in his UFC debut. That loss sparked a fire that continues to burn white hot.
Wins against Brian Foster, Jesse Lennox, Nick Osipczak, Dustin Hazelett, Johny Hendricks, and now Alves, in that order, followed the loss to Hathaway. This kid isn’t top 10 at this point. He has to be considered top five.
Fitch’s current injury may prevent a fight with Story in the short term, particularly if Story wishes to keep busy and build off of his tremendous momentum. Josh Koscheck, depending on his current recovery, or possibly Jake Shields might be just what the doctor ordered to determine whether Story has the juice for a shot at GSP.
Whatever is next for the Washington native, he is in the midst of one heck of a run.
STANN IS THE NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA
I know that most associate the moniker “Captain America” with living legend Randy Couture. The multi-division, multi-time UFC champion carried that name to the Octagon for years. Yet, there is no fighter in the world more deserving of that nickname than Brian Stann.
Graduate of the United States Naval Academy. Captain in the United States Marine Corps. Veteran of live combat in Iraq. Recipient of the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor in combat.
And he is now one of the top middleweights in the world, after defeating Jorge Santiago on Memorial Day Weekend.
Sounds like Captain America to me. All that is left for this American hero is to win a UFC championship. He still needs to improve on his wrestling base or guys like Chael Sonnen will give him fits. If he can shore up that part of his game and continue improving on his overall skills, then who knows what might happen.
Watch the full event here: http://www.ufc.tv/ufc/event/rampage-vs-hamill/509