Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will return to Japan for the first time since 2006. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-9, 7-3 UFC) vs. Ryan Bader (13-2, 6-2 UFC)
The Matchup: Jackson’s loss to Jon Jones may have been more lopsided than many initially expected, but the fact remains that “Rampage” survived longer than anyone else in the UFC has against the light heavyweight champion. While another shot at the 205-pound strap appears to be out of reach as long as Jones is king, Jackson should have plenty of motivation to put on a show against Bader.
Shortly after UFC 135, Jackson requested a bout with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for when the promotion made its return to Japan. He did not get Rua, but Jackson will return to the Land of the Rising Sun for the first time since 2006, when he defeated Dong Sik Yoon at Pride 31. “Rampage” became a star with the Pride Fighting Championships and will undoubtedly be excited to perform in front of the Japanese fans once again. In Bader, he has an opponent who is right in his wheelhouse. The Power MMA product is coming off a first-round knockout of Jason Brilz at UFC 139, but he is most remembered for reviving the fading career of Tito Ortiz last summer.
The “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” buckled Bader with a right hook and pounced to secure a guillotine choke in what was MMA’s biggest upset in 2011. The nature of the loss raised some concerns, because Ortiz is not known to possess numbing power in his hands. Jackson, on the other hand, bases his entire game plan around throwing bombs. His solid wrestling is used primarily to defend takedowns and keep the fight upright so he can put his opponent to sleep. Gone are the days when Jackson would use his considerable upper body strength to execute powerful slams, and do not expect the Memphis, Tenn., native to shoot at any point in the fight, either.
As he demonstrated with the straight right that landed behind the ear of Brilz, Bader has solid knockout power, but the former Arizona State University wrestling star would like to implement some ground-and-pound, as well. Jones had some success in getting Jackson to the floor, but Bader lacks the Greco-Roman skills and length of “Bones” to follow a similar blueprint.
Since the physical strength of Bader and Jackson figure to cancel each other out, this fight will likely be decided on who can win the standup exchanges. Bader took advantage of Brilz, whose wild punches were easily evaded by “The Ultimate Fighter 8” winner. The fundamentally sound Jackson is far more patient, however, and, as one of the division’s best counterpunchers, is able to capitalize on mistakes. His chin is durable, as well.
The Pick: If Bader comes out with an exceptional game plan -- mixing in leg kicks and attempting timely takedowns -- he has a shot at winning on points. A more likely scenario sees Rampage headhunting throughout and a counter right hand finding its mark to get the stoppage in the second or third round.
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