This Saturday, September 24, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will defend his belt against perennial contender Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in one of the most anticipated fights of the year.
From the moment the fight was announced, Jones was believed to be the heavy favorite in this fight, primarily based on his incredible rise to the top of the division, combined with his blend of his freakish physical tools and well-rounded MMA game.
In fact, Jackson is considered almost a 4-1 underdog in this upcoming fight, meaning that a victory by Rampage would be considered an upset of epic proportions. However, even against these heavy odds, I believe that Rampage Jackson can, and will, upset Jon Jones this Saturday.
In fact, I believe that there are three very real reasons why Rampage should come out victorious in this fight.
1. The Light Heavyweight Title Curse/Jones’s Inexperience
Quinton Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua are the last five UFC light heavyweight champions since 2007 after Chuck Liddell held the belt for almost three years of dominance. Since Liddell dropped the belt to Jackson, no champion has defended the title more than one time successfully, with three of the five champions never having defended the championship successfully once (four, if you believe that Machida did not win his first fight with Shogun). Griffin, Evans and Rua all were unable to defend the championship at all.
This brings us to Jones, who, one could argue, has faced the easiest competition of all the fighters on that list. His toughest test came in his last fight, in which he won the light heavyweight championship from Rua. However, even though Rua presents an incredible challenge to every fighter, he came into the fight after being inactive for over a year following major reconstructive knee surgery (his second recent knee surgery). Before that fight, Jones had not faced a champion or a former champion in his entire career.
One would be a fool to question Jones’s incredible blend of physical greatness and fighting skills—there has not been such a promising fighter in perhaps the history of the sport. However, I cannot remember a fight in which Jones was rocked or even tested during the course of the fight. He has, quite literally, had no problems in his entire career.
Rampage Jackson, on the other hand, has been in every conceivable type of fight during his long, storied career. He has dominated fights, been dominated in fights and battled in back-and-forth battles. He has headlined numerous main events and has also gone into fights with the pressure of defending a championship for the first time. He has seen, and dealt with, the extreme pressures of being in the public spotlight. He has gone into fights as the heavy favorite and as the heavy underdog.
Jon Jones, on the other hand, will be entering his first fight as champion and perhaps his first fight with extremely heavy expectations. The combination of this fight being his first title defense and the recent public acknowledgement of his pound-for-pound greatness could prove too much for the young fighter to handle during fight night.
2. Rampage’s One-Punch Knockout Power
Simply put, Jon Jones has not faced an opponent with power in his hands that compares to the power that Rampage Jackson possesses.
In the UFC, Rampage has knocked out Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva with one left hook. Even Rua, who was Jones’s last victim, relies more on vicious combinations of leg-kicks and punches to debilitate his opponents. Rampage can end every fight he enters with one punch. He defines the cliché, “puncher’s chance.”
On the other end of the equation, no one has ever seen Jones take a punch.
His chin has never been tested by any opponent, never mind an opponent who possesses the strength and power of Rampage Jackson. If Jackson can land a blow, it will be interesting to see how Jones responds to his first taste of adversity in the cage (assuming that Rampage’s one punch does not leave Jones staring at the arena lights).
3. Does Rampage Have the Mental Edge?
This fight has not lacked in pre-fight drama. Accusations by Rampage Jackson’s camp of Jon Jones having a spy in his camp have run rampant in recent weeks. However, the accusations mean nothing to me.
Instead, I am troubled by Jon Jones’s response to the accusations.
Jones, in press conferences, has seemed legitimately concerned with dispelling the accusations, as if he does not want his image tarnished in any way. These type of actions and concern leads me to believe that Rampage Jackson has the mental edge over Jon Jones going into this fight. While it seems that Rampage’s focus during training has been greater than in any of his recent fights, it seems that Jones has been more concerned with combating Rampage’s numerous claims and rumors.
Also, one cannot ignore that this will be the first fight in which the general public believes that Jones should have no problem in defeating Rampage. He comes into the fight as the huge favorite. Referencing one of my favorite movies, I cannot help but think of "Rocky III," in which the public attention that Rocky Balboa gets forces him to be distracted from his opponent in his fight. Basically, Rocky takes for granted, based on his recent success, that his victory is a foregone conclusion, which detracts from his focus in training and preparation for the fight. I believe that Jon Jones suffering the same fate as Rocky Balboa must be considered a very real possibility.
At UFC 135, champion Jon Jones and challenger Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will go to war for the UFC light heavyweight championship. Even though the general consensus is that this fight is simply a bridge for Jon Jones to finally settle his rivalry with former best friend Rashad Evans, I believe that he will leave the arena without the championship.
Instead, Rampage Jackson will make one final title run in the twilight of his career, putting the "Jones Era” on hold for at least a few more months.