Rampage Jackson: The Glue That Keeps the Division Together
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson began building his name in Japan’s Pride Fighting Championship in 2001. With wins over Igor Vovchanchyn, Kevin Randleman, Chuck Liddell, Ricardo Arona, and two classic losses to Wanderlei Silva, Jackson became a household name with Pride.
In February 2007, Quinton Jackson made his UFC debut, avenging a loss to Marvin Eastman. The victory gave him a second crack at UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, this time for a title shot. He finished off Liddell with a left hook that left the “Iceman” melted on the canvas floor.
Some would argue the loss to Jackson was the beginning of the end for Liddell.
As the UFC light-heavyweight champion, Quinton Jackson defended the title against Dan Henderson at UFC 75. He fought the former PRIDE champ in a five-round war of attrition and walked away with the decision win.
“Rampage” went on to be featured as one of the two coaches on Season Seven of The Ultimate Fighter. From that point, his popularity in the U.S. skyrocketed. The other coach featured on that season was famed TUF One winner Forrest Griffin.
The format of the show called for Quinton to defend his title against Forrest after the show concluded on television. The two fought each other at UFC 86 in a wear and tear battle that saw Griffin take Jackson’s belt. The fight was controversial because some saw Jackson as retaining his belt while others thought Griffin did enough to win.
The loss to Forrest sent Quinton Jackson on a post UFC 86 rampage that led him to have problems with the authorities. Despite some legal issues, Jackson received the full support of UFC President Dana White and was back to fighting at UFC 92.
His next fight was against his nemesis Wanderlei Silva. “Rampage” quickly showed he was still the dominant force in the UFC light heavyweight division with a first round knockout of “The Axe Murderer.”
The win avenged the earlier PRIDE losses and sent Wanderlei packing to a lighter division.
On that same UFC 92 fight card, Rashad Evans took the 205-pound belt away from Forrest Griffin, the man who had taken it away from Quinton Jackson. MMA logic seemed to dictate a fight between Rashad and “Rampage” was in order.
UFC 96 was the set to be the scene for a title fight between the two. But Rashad Evans backtracked and said he would not be ready in time as he sustained some minor injuries in his fight with Forrest.
But Dana White still needed a main event for that fight card so in stepped the division’s gatekeeper Keith Jardine.
Both fighters brought a war to Columbus, OH with Quinton Jackson winning when the dust finally settled. After the bout, Rashad Evans stepped into the octagon and engaged Jackson in a war of words. The title fight between both men would come as soon as UFC 98, or so it seemed.
Quinton would have his own injuries and was not cleared to compete that soon. He was replaced by top light-heavyweight fighter Lyoto Machida. Now Rashad Evans will look to stave off Lyoto Machida while “Rampage” licks his wounds.
So now, what’s next for the former UFC champion?
Rampage will get the first crack at the title and fight the winner of the Machida/Evans fight. After their stare down in the cage at UFC 96, Jackson expressed that he hopes Rashad Evans retain his gold so he could beat him up.
In an interview after his fight with Keith Jardine, this is what Jackson had to say: “I did the UFC a favor and fought Jardine because Rashad wouldn’t fight me; that’s why I fought Jardine, because I was supposed to fight Rashad after the fight with Wanderlei.
"Since Rashad got a big mouth and got in my face, you already know who I want to fight. I’m thinking it might be a boring fight, but what do I know?”
The rivalry between Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans is reaching a level reserved for some of the highest profile fighters in the sport. Think: Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz. Both men have been in several verbal altercations since UFC 96 and they can’t wait to fight.
With the Evans/Machida fight coming up on May 23, a fight between Quinton Jackson and the winner of the fight could be held in autumn, perhaps at UFC 104.
Whatever the outcome is in the fight for the title at UFC 98 is, a fight between Rampage and Rashad seems inevitable, whether the UFC light-heavyweight championship is on the line or not. It seems safe to say the fight everyone wants to see in the division is “Evans vs. Jackson.”
“Rampage” has also expressed his desire to avenge past losses to both Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (during PRIDE) and Forrest Griffin in the near future.
“You know “Shogun” beat me back in the day. I want that fight, I don’t even want to get into it, I get emotional about these fights. I want to put it together like what happened in my last fight with Wanderlei.”
Quinton Jackson has become the glue that holds the light-heavyweight division together as everything seems to revolve around this one man. The brewing rivalry with Evans, an impending title shot, his potential rematches with both Shogun Rua and Forrest Griffin; all the eyes are on Rampage and what he’ll do next.
It will also be compelling to see what happens if pound for pound best Anderson Silva decides to prolong his career in the light-heavyweight division. One thing is for sure, whether he’s champion or not, Quinton Jackson will continue to be important in the division for a long time.