Rampage shows growth in UFC 130 win

BY foxsports • May 28, 2011

UFC 130 had already lost a lot of its sizzle before the show kicked off Saturday night.

The original main event, pitting UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar against Gray Maynard for the third time, was cancelled due to injuries to both fighters. Saturday’s main event, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Matt Hamill, which was originally the third fight from the top of the card, was promoted to the top based solely on the weight that Rampage’s name carries. Sadly his opponent, Hamill, a veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter,” didn’t have the same notoriety.

As we also found out Saturday night, he didn’t have the skills to hang with Rampage either.

In the weeks leading up to this bout, the fight was billed as an opportunity for Hamill to prove that he was capable of wearing down and defeating the top light heavyweight competition in UFC. Before Saturday’s encounter with Jackson, Hamill had converted on 72 percent of his takedown attempts in his UFC fights. That would be impressive if he had only a handful of fights, certainly, but Hamill has had a total of 10 bouts in the “upper echelon,” including a match with the current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

Jackson has grown substantially, not only in the Octagon, but over his career as a whole. No longer is he the fighter who only headhunts for a knockout or TKO. Jackson has learned to do something that all champions need to be successful against the new generation of mixed martial artists: He’s learned to create a gameplan with his team coming into a contest and has stuck to what works for him.

Saturday night, by connecting with 60 power strikes, Jackson was able to keep Hamill outside the range where he would be able to make the impact he needed to make with his wrestling. Hamill was unable to connect on a single takedown during the main event. He wasn’t 0-for-4 or 0-for-5. Hamill, who has silver and gold medals in international wrestling competition, was unable to land any of his 16 takedown attempts. Hamill was frustrated and confused and his inexperience against top-flight competition was evident.

With his last two wins coming over Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine via decision, Hamill was given this chance to show how much he’s evolved since his debut in March 2007. Instead, this bout showed how fearsome a striker Rampage is compared to the fighters emerging in the light heavyweight division. With career knockouts against Ricardo Arona, Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva, Rampage has the power to win any fight. His counter-striking ability is among the top three in his division, if not world-class. Hamill took 60 total power shots in the fight and was able to withstand them, but took few chances that would have exposed him to the kind of opening needed for Jackson to come up with a stoppage.

With an exciting finish Saturday, Rampage could have earned himself a title shot at Jones. Instead, the first title defense for “Bones” could very well be against Lyoto Machida, who disposed of Randy Couture in exciting fashion just one month ago.

Would Rampage have a better shot against the young champion? We might not ever know now, but Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, and PRIDE and UFC veteran Dan Henderson, has stated recently that he would rather fight Jones now than in the years to come.

Whichever way matchmaker Joe Silva and the UFC decide to go now, you can’t fault Rampage. He’s shown growth and maturity as a fighter. He doesn’t just bang anymore. He’s evolved and shown that the highlight knockout isn’t his primary purpose.

Rampage has learned to win pretty and win ugly. But he’s learned to win at any cost. Hopefully UFC will give him the shot he deserves.
 


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