Analyzing Silva-Jackson III

Range

By Jason Probst Dec 25, 2008
When they meet for the third time Saturday night, Wanderlei Silva and Quinton Jackson will write the third act of what has proven an exceptionally violent rivalry. With Silva’s destructive pair of wins providing the highlight reel teaser leading up to this match, the trilogy itself is a rarity given the fact that one guy has already won both fights, leading some to ask why the match is happening.

Simple: Pride is past, the UFC is the present, and both men’s careers in the light heavyweight division in the sport’s sole major promotion fit nicely into this equation.

Silva, 32-8-1 (1 NC), made an impressive albeit losing return to the UFC with a decision setback to Chuck Liddell, then took out Keith Jardine in a 36-second blowout that instantly resurrected comparisons to his vintage form. Jackson, fresh off his title-losing decision to Forrest Griffin in July, needs the kind of win over a proven commodity to get a title shot. With Griffin defending against Rashad Evans on the same card, continuity of contenders is assured.

On top of it all, a third fight between these two, despite the vicious wins by Silva, still carries a bodaciously high rating on the Potential Trainwreck scale. You know it’s going to be a solid fight at worst and potentially an epic struggle at best, as their styles will make for the exact kind of fight the UFC needs, especially in a bad economy where fans would be otherwise loathe to part with pay-per-view bucks unless readily tempted (along those lines, the card is probably the best in several years, featuring Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira-Frank Mir and Forrest Griffin-Rashad Evans as well).

Whatever happens, there are some subtle changes in the mix with this matchup, much of them due to different rules in the UFC versus the defunct Pride organization where the two first met, as well as the personal factors now different with both men. Every dog has his day, and both of them know it too well given the various ups and down in their careers.

Here’s a look at five factors that could play a role in Silva-Jackson III, based on their past two bouts and the UFC setting where the drama will unfold.

Find the correct range

Jackson’s potent strength has played a role in shaping his style. He can power out of submission attempts, shuck off takedown attempts with a simple turn of his body and unload punches that land with the impact of a man swinging a nightstick. In most cases, Rampage is exceptionally dangerous when in close range, be it dirty boxing or smothering an opponent on the ground, where he pounds the body with thumping elbows before unleashing shots to the head.

The sheer physicality of his style overshadows his technique -- look at the trouble he gave Dan Henderson during their five-round bout, which had extensive tie-ups and takedowns scored by both. And in his first fight with Chuck Liddell, Jackson’s ability to stand in the pocket -- requiring considerable nerve given the incoming fire -- was nothing less than stellar.

Yet for all these stylistic advantages, in both fights with Silva, Jackson was at a clear deficit against “The Axe Murderer.” It happens. Sometimes the tools and timing a guy brings to the dance card are irrevocably disrupted by the other guy’s. Whether it’s Joe Frazier running smack-dab into the gleeful bombs of George Foreman or Tito Ortiz’s takedown-based game foiled by Liddell’s sprawl-and-brawl defense, every fighter has that nemesis that can blunt your best tactics. Jackson will have to either stay at long range where he can fire off punches -- his kicks have rarely been a factor in fights -- or smother Silva in close. In both previous fights, Silva’s ability to use chopping kicks and quick tie-ups allowed him to knee Jackson into oblivion.

For Silva, he’ll have to find that middle range, staying clear of Jackson’s home-run punches, yet defending against Quinton’s exceptional upper-body strength should the ex-UFC champ get close enough to force a chest-to-chest clinch, where he is almost impossible to dislodge. A mix of short, smart punches and precise kicks -- both of which Silva excels at -- will be the right tools, along with lateral movement and constantly forcing Jackson to reset and change angles, which Forrest Griffin did.

This article was revised Dec. 27 to correct Silva's record in the UFC.
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