‘Rampage’ takes split decision at UFC 123
Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Quinton “Rampage” Jackson couldn’t solve the defensive wizardry of Lyoto Machida and deliver the knockout he wanted in the main event of UFC 123 on Saturday night, but he did enough to secure a split decision in a battle so close that Jackson said Machida deserved an immediate rematch.
“Machida whipped (me) tonight,” Jackson said. “I’m so ashamed of myself tonight. He did a great job. I didn’t get to do what I wanted. I say the fight was so close, even though I don’t want to, I have to give him a rematch.”
The unusual concession came after three rounds of, at times, awkward fighting in what was billed as a clash of styles here at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Jackson, of Memphis, comes from an old-school brawling, wrestling background. He starred in last summer’s “The A-Team” as B.A. Baracus. Machida, of Brazil, is a karate-based counter attacker from Brazil. Both are former UFC light heavyweight champions.
Jackson chased Machida for most of the fight but only occasionally landed a heavy punch. Machida countered with some strong kicks and controlled Jackson on the ground during the third round, but it wasn’t enough. The judges seemed impressed with Rampage’s aggressiveness.
“I think it’s the only thing,” Jackson (31-8) said. “Machida is hard to hit. Machida is a man, y’all.”
Machida (16-2) said he’d like to fight again as soon as possible.
“I did the best I could tonight, but if the judges say Quinton won, then Quinton won,” he said through an interpreter. “I’d like an immediate rematch also. We’ll see what the UFC has to say.”
The fight was tense but hardly exciting, leaving the sellout crowd screaming for action. Sometimes contrasting fight styles make for an exciting fight. This was different, as neither fighter was able to display his typical offensive power.
Rampage delivered on his vow to push the action during the first round, but breaking through the puzzling karate defense of Machida wasn’t easy. Neither fighter landed many significant blows.
The second round was more of the same, at times an awkward stand-off even though each fighter landed some powerful shots – Machida with kicks and knees, Jackson with uppercuts and right hooks.
In the co-main event, B.J. Penn jumpstarted his career with a devastating 21-second victory over Matt Hughes in the trilogy fight of their rivalry.
Penn dropped Hughes with a powerful right in an early exchange and then pounced, delivering a number of shots until referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight due to strikes.
The Hawaiian was so hyped about his performance he immediately ran from the Octagon, looking like a man possessed trying to head to the locker room. His corner and arena security chased him down and brought him back, where he was greeted with a huge ovation by the crowd.
“I’m pumped up,” he said.
Penn (16-7-1) had been one of the UFC’s most dominant champions until losing consecutive fights and his lightweight title to Frankie Edgar. His career at a crossroads, he needed an impressive performance and delivered it over the 37-year-old Hall of Famer. The two had split their previous two fights but hadn’t met since 2006. They met in the welterweight (170-pound) division.
In the run-up to this fight, Penn had expressed concern over the direction of his career and appeared extremely focused on taking out Hughes, who he routinely called “his idol.” This was “The Prodigy” of old – exciting, motivated and dangerous.
Hughes (46-8) was bitterly disappointed in the quick defeat.
“He hit me hard,” Hughes said.
Hughes expressed concern about where his career was headed. He’s branched out into other pursuits – including his own televised hunting show – and retirement isn’t out of the question, though UFC president Dana White will welcome him in the promotion process for many fights to come.