Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is one of the light heavyweight division's biggest attractions. He's been a name in this sport since stepping in on short notice at Pride 15 to do battle with Kazushi Sakuraba, at the time the best in the business. With his trademark chain and piercing howl, Jackson was a sensation in Japan. His spirited loss to Sakuraba was a star turn, his passion and raw talent shining through despite a submission defeat.
From there it was onward and upward. He worked his way to the very top, upsetting former UFC champion Kevin Randleman, UFC stalwart Chuck Liddell, and along the way earning two matches with the great Wanderlei Silva. After jumping to the UFC in 2007, Jackson ended the Iceman's competitive career in the cage, unified the UFC and Pride titles, settled the score with Silva, and drew more than a million buys with arch rival Rashad Evans at UFC 114.
After beating former champion Lyoto Machida in November, Jackson seemed well on his way to another high profile, big money match in a division that is suddenly lacking in star power. Instead, he's facing Matt Hamill in an inconsequential bout at UFC 130.
The UFC's first and only Deaflympics Gold medalist, Hamill is a fine fighter. He's done well with middle of the road competition in the UFC's stacked light heavyweight division. But Hamill is no world beater. Every time he's stepped up in class, he's been sent scurrying in defeat. He lost to Michael Bisping, a blown up middleweight, in England. He was overwhelmed by Rich Franklin, another undersized light heavyweight, in Atlanta in 2008. Although technically a win, he was so badly outgunned by Jon Jones that there was legitimate fear for his safety and well being.
So what in the world is a guy like this doing in the cage with a man who could very well be the next challenger for light heavyweight gold? Hamill is ranked 17th in our USA Today/SBNation Consensus Rankings. There are nine UFC fighters between him and Jackson in the rankings. For Hamill, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. But for Jackson and the UFC, it's a nightmare waiting to happen.
More on a rare UFC matchmaking misfire after the break
Make no mistake - this is MMA and Hamill is certainly a live dog. Rampage could slip, come in injured, not take Hamill seriously, get caught with a glancing blow, be distracted by a movie offer, or just plain get beat. As the incomparable Gus Johnson once said, "These things happen in mixed martial arts."
That's what makes this matchup so ill advised. There's money and marque matchups with Jackson. The originally announced rematch with Evans would light up the box office, lending serious support to a Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard main event that failed to capture hearts and minds in January. A bout with the winner of the Mauricio Rua-Jon Jones title fight would also be a great main event anywhere in the world. Why throw these potential fights away in a risky match with Hamill?
The UFC is always walking a fine line between sports and entertainment. This is one of those times they've failed to meet the standard in either area. As entertainment, it lacks fire and a compelling storyline. It's a fight I've literally never seen anyone suggest in a fit of frenzied fantasy matchmaking. In short, it's a fight no one has demanded and it's been met with a collective yawn by even the most devoted UFC fans.
As sport, it also doesn't make much sense. Hamill hasn't shown he deserves a match with the third best light heavyweight in the world. Franklin out fought him and Jones obliterated him. What gives him the right to play spoiler here?
Something must be happening behind the scenes to scuttle the Evans-Jackson rematch. Is this a message being fired across the bow of Team Greg Jackson and Evans? Perhaps the former champion is being punished, denied a lucrative match with Jackson, for refusing to fight while awaiting a title shot at Rua?
What else could explain this perplexing bout? It's a horrible, uninspired, and irrelevant match. We expect more from the UFC and Joe Silva because they've trained us to expect more. Silva is the best matchmaker in the history of the sport. He's done an almost flawless job building the UFC into the monolith we all know and love. When the UFC makes matches, there's always a plan no matter which fighter wins. It's almost always a win/win scenario. Not so here. In the last five years, they've consistently booked fights that made sense or made money. This one does neither.