UFC 123 Preview & Prediction: Lyoto Machida vs. “Rampage” Jackson

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Call it a tale of two losers, but when former UFC light heavyweight champions collide, the eyes of the MMA world will be upon them. This Saturday night Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida will collide with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the main event of UFC 123 taking place up in Detroit. 

In most respects this is your typical crossroads fight.  Machida is coming off his first career loss, a brutal TKO at the hands of Shogun Rua.  Likewise, Jackson is coming off a loss in his last fight, the heavily hyped showdown against Rashad Evans.  While some have bemused that there is a “loser leaves town” sort of feel to this, let’s not write off either one of these fighters.  After all, both Machida and Jackson are in the upper echelon of fighters and both have recently held the UFC title.  Inevitably, when you fight in the top MMA promotion in the world you are bound to encounter competition that will leave you with an “L” on your record. 

I love the old adage, “styles make fights,” because in most instances this is true.  The Machida-Jackson fight will be no different as what you have in essence is a come-forward banger in Jackson against a slick counter-puncher in Machida.  Though, it’s funny, but Machida has long held this reputation as a “slick” defensive fighter.  Here is the thing though, if you are standing stationary and firing strikes, then yeah, he’s going to slip them.  What Shogun proved is that pressing the attack by continuously moving forward will yield results against Machida.  After all, you can only slip so many strikes before one or two find their mark.  The question being, can Jackson replicate the same effective aggression Rua used in dethroning Machida?

Which brings us to the man they call “Rampage.”  In his last outing, Jackson looked tentative and lethargic for the first ten minutes of his bout with Evans.  It looked like a clear cut case of “cage rust” as Jackson had been noticeable absent from the world of fighting as he chased glory in Hollywood starring in the remake of the “A-Team.”  While Jackson has gone on record recently citing some undisclosed personal issue that lead to his defeat the fact remains that his vaunted striking was noticeably absent until the last round against Evans.  Jackson says he’s back to form, but then again, Jackson says a lot…all the time. 

Prediction:  Give me Machida to emerge victorious with a closely fought unanimous decision.  It’s not that I feel that there is a decline in Jackson’s skill set, just that he doesn’t always employ the smartest game plan.  The problem with being an undisciplined brawler is that when you fight a cerebral opponent often your weaknesses get exploited.  This is how I see the fight going down, Jackson once again forgoing his commendable wrestling skills to try and do what Rua did.  Unfortunately, Rua is a much better striker than Jackson, not as powerful, but more accurate.  I see Machida circling out of harm’s way for most of the fight while peppering Jackson with punches and kicks in route to a decision victory. 

Confidence: Around 55%.  While I really think Machida can effectively counter strike Rampage over three rounds Jackson has the great equalizer in his raw power.  If Rua was able to knock Machida senseless, can you imagine what would happen if Jackson connects with one of his haymakers?  Let me tell you, it would be a short night for Machida.  However, that is a big “if” given Machida’s ability to avoid punishment.  Of course, if Jackson fights smart, using wrestling to set up his strikes and keep Machida off guard, he would still have to contend with Machida’s jiu-jitsu acumen.  Simply put, Machida has more weapons than Jackson  Jackson’s are just more powerful.