Jackson and Henderson Set to Make History

Main Event

Sep 7, 2007
The fall of PRIDE and its eventual purchase by Dana White's merry band of corporate raiders has been a contentious issue.

This Saturday in London, the fruit of White's labor -- the first title unification bout between PRIDE and the UFC champions -- will see controversy give way to history as Dan Henderson (Pictures) and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson attempt to secure a spot in the annals of MMA.

This is a strange turn of events seeing that Chuck Liddell (Pictures) and Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) appeared destined to end the long-running PRIDE vs. UFC debate. The wheels came off that bus when Henderson knocked out Silva and ended the champion's nearly six-year reign. Then, of course, Jackson took care of Liddell.

Gutsy wins are Henderson's specialty. For years he's fought as a light heavyweight, though he flirted with a lighter division for a while, becoming PRIDE's first "welterweight" (183 pounds) Grand Prix champion. Overall, Henderson has put together an impressive 22-5 record and solidified himself as one of the sport's top pound-for-pound competitors.

Such multi-division success has never been Jackson's calling card. He gained notoriety for his rough edges, charisma and Gary Albright-inspired slams. While Rampage's run was once derailed by Chute Boxe and then subsequently resided in limbo as he reconciled his Christianity, the fighter from Memphis has righted the ship since joining the UFC.

Gone is the wild aggressiveness that defined Jackson's early days, replaced by a crisp boxing style and the realization that success carries a steep price. That newfound maturity and patience was on full display against Liddell. The Iceman couldn't solve Jackson's no-nonsense boxing and quickly fell victim to a flawless counter left hook.

The discipline that trainer Juanito Ibarra has instilled in his 29-year-old pupil means Jackson could continue bolstering his already sterling 27-6 record. To do so he will have to overcome one of the elder statesmen of MMA in Henderson, who may be the most youthful 37-year-old MMA fighter since Randy Couture (Pictures).

To take out his considerable quarry, Henderson will have to vary his attack on the feet and avoid predictability. He'll need to force Jackson outside his comfort zone.

Both fighters have wrestling backgrounds. You might assume some extended clinch battles will ensue. However, both men have a known preference for using their wrestling to avoid takedowns.

With that in mind, this fight comes down to whether Henderson's hooking punching style can stand up to Jackson's tight defense and counterpunching. Henderson has shown he'll take a punch to answer back with one. Against an opponent with superior power and a battle-tested chin, though, that strategy may be his downfall.

If Henderson can circle and avoid using his usual straightforward approach, he may find success against the more orthodox Jackson. Then again Henderson has rarely mixed up his game in such a way, and Jackson's boxing seems to be leaping forward with every fight.

This bout will be interesting early, as Henderson takes it to Jackson and forces him to bang it out in the pocket. That approach will wear on Henderson more than Jackson. As the fight unfolds, Rampage will take over the pace and pick apart Henderson with a steady diet of jabs and straight rights that will stack the scorecards in his favor.

Henderson hasn't an ounce of quit in him, so expect him to attempt a late rally that leads to Jackson landing a fight-ending barrage on his over-aggressive foe in the fourth round.

History will be made.
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