Can “Rampage” join Randy Couture as a two-time UFC champion at 205 pounds? | Photo: J. Sherwood
Sherdog.com staff and contributors put their reputations on the line with bold predictions for the UFC 135 “Jones vs. Rampage” main card, which airs live on pay-per-view at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on Saturday from the Pepsi Center in Denver.
UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
Jon Jones vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Lutfi Sariahmed: Jones will get beat at some point in his career. I say that not because I have any ill will toward Jones. Quite the opposite is true. Rather, I say this because we seem to have forgotten that everyone is fallible. It was supposed to be the Lyoto Machida era; and the Brock Lesnar era; and the Mauricio “Shogun” Rua era. None of this is meant as a slight to the respective fighters but to point out that Jones isn’t just going to take his title following UFC 135 and go home. He does have to deal with Jackson -- a guy with better boxing than Jones. We’ve often criticized Rampage for not putting 100 percent into a camp, but he’s nothing but motivated for this bout. His footwork has steadily improved in recent bouts, and there’s no reason this one would be different. However, then you worry about Jones’ reach. Rampage is going to have to engage him if he wants to score offensively. The problem then becomes his susceptibility to being countered. Of course, Jones’ offense offers such a diverse array of moves that you’re never quite sure what to prepare for. Jones will get beat someday, but it won’t be here. I see Rampage getting frustrated and it getting the best of him by the third round, as Jones wins via stoppage.
Brian Knapp: Jones is a transcendent athlete, and those who have not come to grips with that fact soon will. Part of me fears for Jackson’s safety in this bout, simply because the coming together of his propensity for absorbing punishment and Jones’ outrageous offensive firepower could lead to significant damage on the former champion. Jones has everything one could ask for in a mixed martial artist: a ridiculous wingspan, freakish strength and agility, excellent and improving all-around skills, the capacity to learn and adapt and, perhaps most importantly, an unshakeable belief in himself. I see Rampage suffering the same fate as Rua, if not worse, in a match that begins and ends in one-sided fashion. Give me Jones by TKO in round two.
Jordan Breen: Jackson has largely been reduced to a plodding, one-dimensional boxer looking for the same two-hook combo over and over. Meanwhile, Jones has come into his own as a dominant and brutally creative offensive terror. The crux of the fight is Rampage’s toughness. Jackson will be backpedaling, taking copious punches, kicks, elbows and knees to the head and body. If he can withstand 25 minutes of it, he can lose a decision. Otherwise, he’ll be polished off in the same gruesome, mid-round fashion in which Rua was struck down in March.
Tristen Critchfield: Jackson has played the mental game a little bit leading up to this bout, insinuating that Jones was responsible for a placing spy in his camp. The reality is that Rampage doesn’t have that many secrets at this point that would be worth stealing. He’s an extremely strong fighter who is difficult to take down, and his knockout power is dangerous for anyone. If Jones attempts a takedown and fails, that could play into Jackson’s hands. The former Pride Fighting Championships standout will be dangerous as Jones pulls away from the clinch -- that’s where a knockout blow could land. Overall, this is Jones fight to lose. We haven’t seen Jackson really pull the trigger in any of his past three fights, although he did hurt Rashad Evans. Jones’ reach will be a problem, as it is for most everyone, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was able to get a takedown and punish Jackson with elbows. Striking coach Mike Winkeljohn has praised Jones improved striking power, as well, and Rampage has proven susceptible to leg kicks in the past. Jackson hasn’t been finished since Rua pulled the feat in 2005, so this one could go the distance. Either by convincing decision or late TKO, Jones takes it.
Matt Hughes vs. Josh Koscheck
Tomasz Marciniak: There are lingering doubts about Koscheck coming off a serious eye injury, but barring that becoming a factor, he’s just a much better fighter than Hughes at his stage of his career. Seeing as the former champ barely has any power in his strikes, I think Koscheck keeps it standing and gets a TKO stoppage.
Rob King: Hughes’ task got 10 times harder when Koscheck replaced Diego Sanchez. I don’t see how Hughes wins this fight. Hughes’ stand up over his last couple of performances has been a pleasant surprise, but it’s not enough alone to win him this fight. Plus, Koscheck is athletic enough and, as a better MMA wrestler, can control this bout on the ground. Koscheck is competent enough to avoid Hughes on the feet and should be able to sprawl-and-brawl while taking the fight to the ground whenever he wants to. He scores a late stoppage.
Critchfield: Koscheck took a serious beating at the hands of Georges St. Pierre, and it will be interesting to see how he rebounds psychologically from that. Physically, he has all the tools to handle Hughes. His wrestling can break even with -- if not surpass -- the former welterweight champion, and his striking is improving. If Hughes can’t hurt Koscheck with a big punch early, it’s going to be a long night; Koscheck by TKO.
Todd Martin: Koscheck is a better fighter than Sanchez, but that actually makes this fight less interesting. Sanchez-Hughes would have likely been a highly competitive bout. Koscheck, on the other hand, is just going to be too much for Hughes. Koscheck’s striking is so much better than that of Hughes, and he has the wrestling and athleticism to keep the fight standing the entire time. He’ll win via knockout.
Travis Browne vs. Rob Broughton
Freddie DeFreitas: What Browne may lack in experience going up against Broughton, he more than makes up for with his athleticism in comparison to his British counterpart. That’s not to say Broughton doesn’t have the cardio to go the full 15, as he certainly proved he could back in October when he stopped Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz late. If anyone’s conditioning is to be questioned, it’s probably Browne. The problem is I just don’t seeing this fight making it to the later rounds, where Broughton could eventually take over; Browne by TKO.
Martin: Broughton’s more well-rounded than a lot of the British heavyweights, and his best shot is trying to ground Browen. The problem is Browne is no pushover with his ground game and he should have a decided striking edge. Browne is the pick.
Sariahmed: I’ll finally jump on the bandwagon. It’s a bit late, yes, but Browne has been nothing but impressive in his three UFC bouts. He’s not considered among the heavyweight prospects, but there’s no reason why the Alliance MMA fighter shouldn’t be. He gets a test in Broughton thanks to the Brit’s experience. Browne drew with Cheick Kongo the last time he had a bout like this so he can certainly to do better this time around. Browne is a more capable heavyweight than we often see in MMA, and we’ll see that in these next few bouts. Browne wins here.
Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi
Knapp: The last time a Diaz met Gomi, epic fireworks ensued. Nearly five years have passed since the Japanese standout’s unforgettable encounter with Nick Diaz ended with his gogoplata-induced submission under the Pride Fighting Championships banner. Now, he draws the younger brother. Gomi figures to meet with the same result here, as the man many once considered the world’s top lightweight continues his slow fade. I expect him to land his share of blows in this one, though he ultimately succumbs to the sheer volume of Diaz’s strikes, surrenders his back and taps out to a choke.
Breen: It’s a familiar story for Gomi. We know that the longtime lightweight standout has the offensive boxing and wrestling ability to make a tough fight for most lightweights, especially a fighter like Diaz, who is neither a brilliant defensive boxer nor a powerhouse takedown stuffer. However, it is a familiar theme that Gomi abandons that technical ability for blind swinging and falters. Knowing the volume of punches Diaz can throw, how deceptive his own clinch takedowns can be and the ever-present threat of a submission, it’ll likely be 2-0 for the Diaz family against “The Fireball Kid.”
Marciniak: I’m prepared for a typical Gomi performance. He will be dangerous with his slinging overhands in the first three minutes and then will gas out. Diaz brothers are nothing if not resilient, so expect Nate to wait out the Japanese fighter’s pressure early on and catch up to him on points in the latter two rounds.
King: This is the fight I am most torn on for UFC 135. Neither guy has done much in recent fights to make himself stand out as a clean favorite in this fight. Both guys have the ability to land one punch and then follow that up with a flurry to end the fight. Diaz might benefit here from Gomi liking to rush in, as he may be able to pick a time to counter that. Diaz has the edge on the ground, but he is stubborn and I see this fight entirely taking place on this feet. I guess I will favor Diaz to score a stoppage late, but I am very hesitant to pick either guy in this fight.
Ben Rothwell vs. Mark Hunt
DeFreitas: I always seem to pick the New Zealander to win. Even after a dismal promotional debut and submission loss, time and time again, I send in my picks with a nasty four-letter word placed among my selections: Hunt. After having suffered so many disappointments in the past years, needless to say, I was ecstatic when Hunt finally proved me correct by pulling off a somewhat-improbable knockout win over Chris Tuchscherer. Even though Rothwell will more than likely take him down and easily submit him, why ruin a good thing, right? Hunt by knockout.
Martin: Hunt isn’t as one-dimensional as his reputation, but he is still an aging fighter with limited ground skills. This fight is a lot like Rothwell’s last bout with Gilbert Yvel. Hunt will be dangerous in the standup but outgunned on the ground, and Rothwell will utilize that advantage to score the win.
Sariahmed: One win does not a comeback make. Hunt’s win over Tuchscherer was great for him and his fans -- he’s a likeable guy -- but it doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s 1-6 in his last seven fights. It doesn’t take away from the fact that he has seemingly mailed it in at points during that stretch. It also doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s fighting a very capable Rothwell on Saturday. Don’t forget Rothwell’s not on the steadiest of grounds, either. He needs a win, too, and I think he gets it over Hunt in this one. Hunt’s only shot here against the bigger Rothwell is connecting on a huge power shot, and I don’t see him doing it.
2011 Picking & Grinning Standings
Jordan Breen: 136-58
Tristen Critchfield: 134-60
Brian Knapp: 133-61
Todd Martin: 132-62
Tomasz Marciniak: 130-64
Freddie DeFreitas: 128-66
Guilherme Pinheiro: 128-66
Rob King: 127-67
Lutfi Sariahmed: 126-68
Tony Loiseleur: 123-71