So, after an indelible career of charming fans with his charismatic blend of brash bravado, snappy one-liners and disarming humility, Quinton Jackson, citing a long list of minor complaints, is leaving the UFC.
"Rampage" is notorious for his non-filtered persona, his gritty street-fighting style, for sporting a chrome chain around his neck; as the auteur of the most devastating slam knockout in MMA history (vs. Ricardo Arona) and for his raucous melees in Pride and the UFC with Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell. His history with "The Iceman" makes it somewhat fitting that his bon voyage brawl is against Liddell's protege and training partner Glover Teixeira.
The pair will face off in the co-main event of Saturday's UFC on Fox 6 show, which takes place in Chicago with the flyweight championship bout between Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson at the helm. The main card goes live on Fox at 8:00 p.m. ET after the preliminary card runs its course on the FX channel and Facebook beforehand.
Jackson (32-10) started out as a raw, hard-nosed wrestler and turned heads in the King of the Cage promotion before Pride Fighting Championships sensed the marketing appeal he oozed at every turn and brought "Rampage" aboard. He became an instant fan-favorite for his likable fighting style and personality, and also improved drastically under the Pride banner. Mid-way through his Pride stint, Jackson had cemented himself among the division's elite and twice challenged the then-unstoppable Silva for his middleweight (205 pounds) crown.
Silva, his Chute Boxe stablemate Mauricio Rua and, in Jackson's Pride debut, the surging Kazushi Sakuraba were the only fighters to legitimately defeat Rampage in Pride; he also recorded a loss to Daijiro Matsui by DQ for an accidental groin strike. He quickly captured the UFC light-heavyweight championship after he was signed, and helped to refute the childish taunt "Pride fighters can't hang in the UFC," which was running rampant at the time. He relinquished the strap to Forrest Griffin as quickly as he attained it, but hung tough and made it clear he was a top-level fighter and an easy match up for no one.
Brazilian Glover Teixeira (19-2) first resonated as the man who'd shellacked Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in the WEC (1st-round TKO) immediately before he lit the Pride ring afire with back-to-back knockouts over heralded, top-10 gamers (Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Arona). Despite intensifying and extending his reign of terror outside the Octagon, Teixeira flew under the radar and never rocketed to stardom back then like everyone anticipated, but, nowadays, his cover is officially blown.
No longer a lurking talent or an unknown secret weapon, Teixeira might be the hottest commodity in the game at 205-pounds not named Jon Jones. And what's not to like? The guy's pure excitement, a killer on the feet and carries in a respectable set of accomplishments in sport grappling that makes his submission savvy the icing on the cake. Additionally, he's not just coasting on a mediocre or nifty little win streak either -- after he broke even in the first 4 fights of his career from 2002-05 (the last defeat being UFC middleweight Herman), Teixeira has curb-stomped no less than 17 consecutive opponents and, overall, accumulated a frightening 12 TKOs and 2 submissions with only 2 decisions.
From the perspective of attracting the combat sport world's interest, Glover Teixeira has the right ingredients: thunderous knockout power, technical submission grappling, and he applies his voracious finishing ability with ceaseless aggression.
While I won't insinuate that Teixeira is over-rated or over-hyped, I think there are some reasonable down-sides to all the hoopla. Counter to most hot prospects and virtual newcomers that barrel into the spotlight, Teixeira's no spring chicken at age 33. There's no question that racking up wins in the Octagon hold more weight than anywhere else, and I even have respect for a few of the lesser known, pre-UFC opponents he steam-rolled, like Joaquim "Mamute" Ferreira, who famously arm-barred Junior dos Santos, Leonardo Nascimento "Chocolate" Lucio of the Renovacao Fight Team or even Daniel Tabera. But some are asserting Teixeira as the man to topple Jones when, in reality, Teixeira has overcome Kyle Kingsbury and Fabio Maldonado.
I'm just saying.
Rampage isn't just a slight increase in competition: he's in an entirely different league than anyone Teixeira's ever faced, he's a former light-heavyweight champion who's typically been ranked anywhere between #1 and #6 for the bulk of his career; he's in a slump right now but he's still in the top-10 on most sites because he's fought nothing but ultra-elite competition for the past half-decade. He's also one of the downright meanest SOB's in the sport's history, he's tough to take down and even tougher to finish, and his best asset is throwing head-breaking haymakers in the pocket ... which is exactly how and where Teixeira handles his business.
As you might have guessed, I don't see this as a walk in the park for Teixeira like many others do, and I think his -350 rating on the betting lines is outrageously inaccurate. Aw, what the hell -- I think Rampage is going to win, and here's why.
There's no question that Teixeira has the better submission acumen, but he needs to take Rampage down for any of that to matter; Teixeira isn't known for his wrestling and Rampage has some of the most proven takedown defense in MMA. Even if he does get him there, the only fighters to submit Rampage are a super-prime Jones and Sakuraba, the latter of whom carved his name in MMA history by submitting a few notable members of the Gracie clan, which was literally inconceivable at the time. Teixeira has a single submission win over a relevant opponent, which is Kingsbury.
That whittles most of the goods down to their striking interactions, where I have no qualms nor complaints about Teixeira's prowess. His M.O. is quite similar to Jackson's in that he's a phone-booth range brawler who hurls short, nasty jack-hammers, generally preferring to close his combinations with a killer left hook, which is probably the best weapon for both fighters. Teixeira is more of a volume puncher and has a great right cross as well. He also tends to alternate between successive rights and lefts and does well in ratcheting up the power as he closes range and smells blood.
Rampage used to sprinkle in low kicks with considerable success and also wrestle offensively with big slams, but has gone away from both tactics and opts to corner and maim with his hands instead. Rather than try to flesh out tiny little details or differences between the two on the feet, I'm more inclined to cite the fact that, besides Jones and Griffin, Rampage has never really engaged anyone in a stand-up fight in the UFC and lost. Rashad Evans could be included too, but it was his takedown acumen that made the difference.
On Saturday, we'll see a pair of heavy-handed sluggers who both love to work their way inside and swing for the fences. Teixeira is undoubtedly talented and diverse and I wouldn't be shocked if he walked away with the win. I would, however, be mildly aghast if he finished Rampage with strikes. But around half of Glover's appeal is his complex submission game, and I think Rampage's takedown defense will make that a non-factor. In a stand-up shootout, I see their skill-set as fairly even, but Rampage blows him out of the water as far as experience.
And that's not just one single aspect: it means he's knockout out, taken the best shots, repelled high-level takedowns and escaped the submissions of the sport's elite. Experience against past competition is hardly the most important measure, but it has serious gravity when it's one of the most admirably experienced veterans against one of the most inexperienced prospects at the top level.
There was a classic scene in the film Major League that endowed me with 2 essential life lessons: the importance of a spirited, locker room pep-talk from a coach and the widespread joy of the phrase "give 'em a nice, big shit-burger to eat." I think the combination of Rampage leaving the UFC unhappy, feeling like he's been disrespected by his employers and flat-out ridiculed on the betting lines will culminate in offering said shit-burger as a going away present.
My Prediction: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson by TKO.