In the main event of the evening, former UFC light heavyweight champions Lyoto Machida (16-1, 8-1 UFC) and Quinton Jackson (30-8, 5-2 UFC) will square off in a highly-anticipated battle that has major significance in the division. Machida is the more recent title holder of the two fighters. He won the crown back in May of 2009 in a spectacular display of technical prowess, knocking out Rashad Evans in the second round. He went on to defend the belt five months later at UFC 104 in a controversial decision victory over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. In the rematch in May of this year, Rua didn't leave it to the judges as he knocked out Machida in the first round of action, ending what Joe Rogan dubbed the "Machida Era".
Jackson's reign as champion began in May of 2007 at UFC 71. In one of the most hyped UFC's to that point, Jackson crushed champion Chuck Liddell at the 1:53 mark of the first round to take Chuck's title. Jackson went on to defend it at UFC 75 in an unanimous decision victory over Dan Henderson. Ten months later, Jackson finally entered the cage for his second defense as a huge favorite over challenger Forrest Griffin. Surprisingly, Griffin was able to effectively use kicks to neutralize Jackson's power and eventually edge him out on the scorecards to take his crown.
Both reigns lasted a short amount of time, but Jackson has managed to become one of the most popular fighters in the UFC due to his personality and balls out fighting style. There really isn't any technical strategy to how Jackson fights, nor does he make adjustments in his game from fight to fight. He just wants to "knock fools out". That personality has garnered him fans across the world, and his aggressive, powerful stand-up game has been the physical manifestation of his brash personality.
Machida is the technician, molding the art of Shotokan Karate to work in the context of mixed martial arts. His elusive footwork and speed is nearly unmatched in the UFC, and he's progressed to a point in which he's shed the reputation of being a boring fighter. Machida embodies the tradition of honor in mixed martial arts, and the style in which he fights, a hit and never be hit mentality, runs parallel with that code. Some liken it to the philosophies of Bruce Lee, and how fitting it is that Machida is nicknamed "The Dragon".
While there is truth to the fact that Jackson is far from a technical fighter, he is certainly a technical boxer. He isn't your prototypical bar brawler. He has some technique to how he unleashes his powerful fury on opponents, and that's why he stands where he does today. Combine that proven weaponry with the giant chip on his shoulder, and you have a fighter who can thrill fans.
But this isn't a fight that I believe he can win at this stage in his career. The fame that Jackson has gained has been a drain on his fighting career, notably his role in the A-Team movie which ate up almost a year of his athletic prime. Jackson has talked about the media appearances being a significant distraction, and that has led to a lot of fans and critics questioning his motivation. A slowed version of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson will not be able to handle the quickness and accuracy of Lyoto Machida.
There is, however, a certain spark or confidence that Jackson's personality conveys to the fans. When we believe he's down and out, the ferocious beast within seems to be awoken by the poking prod of the fans' discontent. I'm not sure there is enough of it to truly piss the former champion off to truly revive "Rampage", but it's hard to gauge exactly what Jackson is capable of at this stage in his career.
In any case, Machida's technical prowess on the feet should be enough to avoid Jackson's power and pick him apart from a distance, eventually battering Jackson's legs enough to neutralize his power and look for the finish. I don't think he stops Jackson here, but I think he'll take every round on the judges' scorecards. There is, however, a part of me that wants to see an awakening from Jackson, and his willingness to eat blows in search for the knockout is a dangerous question mark. Don't blink.