On July 5, 2008, Forrest Griffin and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson fought for the UFC light heavyweight title in the main event of the titular UFC 86 - Jackson vs. Griffin.
Rampage was the defending champion, having won the belt from Chuck Liddell at UFC 71 and defended it against Dan Henderson at UFC 75. Rampage and Forrest were opposing coaches on season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter, with a scheduled title fight at the show's conclusion.
Going into the fight Jackson was a -260 favorite to win, with Forrest at +200. Six of the 9 luminaries in Sherdog's customary "The Pros Pick" pre-fight piece picked Rampage to win.
What ensued was an all-out five-round battle which lit up MMA websites and message boards like few before or since. The fight went all five rounds (25 minutes) to a decision and won both contestants the $60,000 Fight of the Night award. Additionally the bout was voted the MMA Fight of 2008 by various community segments, including the Wrestling Observer; and was universally considered one of the top 5 fights of the year. More impressively still, the fight came in at #11 on the UFC Ultimate 100 - the top 100 fights of all time.
It also garnered considerable post-fight ink for being one of the most closely-contested decisions in recent memory, with, in the opinion of most, only two rounds (the second and fourth) having a clear winner (Forrest and Rampage respectively). However, even that second round was up for dispute as being properly scored 10-9 or 10-8. At the conclusion of the fight, Jackson could be heard to ask his corner multiple times if he had won the fight; and at the reading of the decision both fighters seemed unsure of the result.
Many fans were surprised and dismayed at the official scoring of the fight. While most fans seem to have scored the fight closely, the judges' official scoring was less close. Adalaid Byrd scored the bout 48-46, giving rounds 4 & 5 to Rampage and having round 2 as a 10-8 round for Forrest. Nelson Hamilton also had it 48-46, with round 4 also for Jackson but giving him round 1 and not round 5; he also had Forrest winning round 2 10-8. Finally, Roy Silbert had it 49-46, awarding Forrest round 2 with a score of only 10-9 but giving Rampage only the fourth round.
What was clear from the judges' scoring also resonated with the opinion of most fans: Forrest clearly won round 2 - whether by 10-8 or 10-9 was up for discussion - and Rampage clearly won round 4. The remaining three rounds came in for much scrutiny and debate.
The range of perceptions of the fight can be seen in the examination of the live play-by-play from the major MMA websites. To take examples of four of the biggest:
MMA Weekly's official scoring was 48-46 in favor of Griffin. They gave Forrest round 2 10-8.
Sherdog's play by play included the round-by-round scoring of three contributors: TJ De Santis, Jordan Breen, and Mike Fridley. De Santis had the fight as 48-47 Rampage; Breen had it a 47-47 tie; and Fridley also had it a 47-47 tie. All three gave Rampage round four; two of them gave Forrest 10-8 round 2. All of them had Jackson winning three rounds to Forrest's two.
MMAJunkie gave Rampage three rounds to two, with a 10-9 round two, leading them to conclude Rampage won the fight 48-47.
Bloody Elbow's play by play scored the fight a 47-47 draw. BE scored the fight three rounds to two for Jackson, with a 10-8 second round.
So, if we grant Sherdog three votes as there were 3 independent "official" scorers there, then we have three scores of 47-47; two of 48-47 Rampage; and one of 48-46 Griffin. It doesn't get much closer.
Factoring in a more "objective" view, the widely-respected FightMetric fight rating doesn't produce any more definitive a result. FightMetric scored Jackson at a TPR of 48 for the fight vs Griffin's 45; and declared the fight a 47-47 draw under the Ten-Point Must system, with an overall fight winner of Rampage.
Finally, the fight continued to stay alive in fans' minds - and on the internet sites, forums and messageboards - as a result of the post-fight repercussions. Jackson's trainer Juanito Ibarra - who stated on the UFC's "Countdown" show leading up to the event that he would retire if Forrest beat Rampage - threatened for a period to formally protest the decision. "We got robbed," Ibarra said in a Sherdog post-fight interview. "We won the majority of the fight." Ibarra added more than once, "You have to beat the champion." For his part, Rampage Jackson, who said in the post-fight interview in the cage that he "got [his] ass whooped", had apparently changed 180 degrees by the time of that evening's post-fight presser, where he stated that he felt he won the fight and was surprised to have lost it unanimously.
A sad and shocking turn of events followed just days after the fight when Rampage was involved in a hit-and-run incident in traffic in Newport Beach, California. While the event was obviously not a direct result of the loss of his belt in such a close controversial fight, many fans linked the two events causally as they were linked temporally.
In all, the pre-fight hype fueled by Ibarra's provocative offer to retire, the fireworks during the fight comprising one of the most exciting and closest title fights the UFC has ever had, the controversy around the judges scoring the fight a little less ambiguously than many fans felt it deserved, and the post-fight heat generated by the initial acceptance of and then rejection of the result from Camp Rampage, not to mention the tragic hit-and-run event, has led to this bout being one of the most talked about / debated / discussed fights in the modern era of the UFC.