Heading into next weekend’s UFC 135 in Denver, CO the light heavyweight division title is up for grabs and the fight has received mediocre fanfare but should really be watched as one of the most important fights of the year not only for the division but for the MMA current landscape as well.
Champion Jon Jones will be facing a serious test when he stands across from former champion, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and the fight possesses ramifications that will change the 205 lb division for sometime afterward.
Virtually undefeated with the exception of a technicality, the Jackson’s MMA prodigy has been an unstoppable and rising force since entering the cage in his early career. Decorated in wrestling, coupled with un-orthodox striking and a dominant reach advantage, Jones has run through every opponent he has faced and never really seen in any trouble. With wins coming by all directions (submissions, knock out and decision) he is truly well-rounded wherever the fight is taken.
Rampage Jackson has been a visible name and voice in MMA since his early fame in Japan, echoed by his dethroning of Chuck Liddell and outspoken (and humorous) personality. Differences between he and UFC brass almost had the Mississippi fighter walk away from Zuffa to pursue a Hollywood career, citing mainly he was tired of playing the part when UFC needed him and his desired title shot continually pushed back. Always willing to work with the boss, Jackson has since fought who he has needed and earned himself another title shot against a man he is confident he will defeat.
Stating that Jones has, “never fought anyone like me, and been hit by anyone like me” the gameplan would be to stand with the champion. Having fourteen of his career wins come via KO, Jackson does hold the punching power that could pose a threat to the New York fighter; if he can get the takedown, Jackson has an underrated ground game that could be the deciding factor in this bout.
Jones is humble, confident and focused going into his first title defense and knows it is his fight to lose. In recent interviews, he sees this as a whole new title to claim, “Rampage and I are fighting for a title nobody has right now. I am going out to win a new title, not defend this one.” Having the mindset that each fight is a new title fight is exactly what he and every current champion need to implement in their mental preparation. Sometimes a focus on defending what is already yours could lead to a loss and losing said belt.
After the champion is crowned in Denver, number one contender Rashad Evans will be eager and need no motivation to fight either man. The history between he and Jackson is a guarantee for entertainment and will have plenty of trash talk to sell the PPV. On the other side of the coin is his new arch nemesis, former training partner Jon Jones to which he has a disliking for as well.
In the event of Jones’ losing the belt, will he be as motivated if not more to re-claim his belt and then be the eternal contender who finishes off everyone from facing him? A win over Jackson and subsequently Evans should lock in the uber fight between he and Anderson Silva. Regardless of titles, if they continue on the reign of dominance, the two forces need to meet in the octagon to determine who is the greatest.
Get more great MMA news, recaps and analysis over at MMA Valor.