UFC 123 preview: Jackson-Machida

BY foxsports • November 19, 2010

Since Chuck Liddell lost the UFC light heavyweight title in 2007, five men have held the belt at 205 pounds with only two being able to successfully defend it. Saturday night, they meet inside the Octagon, with Quinton Jackson (30-8; 14T/KO, 7SUB) and Lyoto Machida (16-1; 5T/KO, 2SUB) fighting in the main event of UFC 123.

Both men were expected to rule the division for years only to lose the title within three fights of winning it. Jackson was expected to comfortably defeat Forrest Griffin after impressing against both Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson, but lost via decision in one of the closest title fights in UFC history.

Machida was nowhere near as impressive in defeat, with Shogun Rua earning the quick TKO victory in May to wrest the championship from the hands of the karate master. This, however, was simply completing the job he had started in October. In that bout, one of the most controversial judges’ call of all-time gave Machida the unanimous decision victory despite most observers believing that Rua had conclusively outpointed the champion.

Jackson also had a bad May, losing to Rashad Evans in a one-sided decision. After over a year away from the sport due to his filming commitments with The A-Team, Jackson looked sluggish and one-dimensional in one of the biggest grudge fights in UFC history.

With both fighters looking to bounce back from disappointing performances and possibly move back into title contention, the stakes are high for this fight.

Staff predictions:

Will Cooling: Lyoto Machida should really win this fight at a cantor, with his precise counterpunching style perfect for picking off the at-times-ploddingly aggressive boxing of Quinton Jackson. As we saw when Machida faced Rashad Evans, there’s a world of difference between the finely honed striking skills of Machida and a wrestler’s stand-up.

But I’m not so sure, largely because of just how bad Machida looked against Shogun Rua at UFC 113. His body language walking to the Octagon and his performance inside was terrible, suggesting that the fallout of UFC 104 had fatally undermined his self confidence. He was blasted out of the match, meekly surrendering the championship that the previous year people thought he would hold for years. If Machida’s confidence was so badly shaken by his phantom win over Rua then one has to ask whether it’s been shattered by such a quick loss.

If Machida is as tentative against Jackson as he was against Rua then Jackson has a real chance to pull off the upset. To do so he’ll have to refrain from headhunting and follow the example of Rua in using his once-excellent Muay Thai to outwork Machida standing. If Jackson has the discipline to do that he could easily catch Machida and test the Brazilian’s newly suspect chin. However, with Jackson making it clear that he never wanted this match and deciding not to hold his camp in Britain because he wanted to spend time with his children, I just don’t see any evidence that Jackson is focused enough to win the fight. It’ll be close but I see Machida edging it.

Pick: Lyoto Machida by decision

Chris Roberts: “He's so boring that he sends me to sleep. I have been watching his fights and they are so boring I can't stay awake."

OK, Rampage Jackson, well spoken for somebody who must be content losing exciting fights. But despite what Dana White might say (and say and say ad nauseum), there is more to this sport than entertaining the drunkest segment of the audience, and, as luck would have it, that is where Machida happens to excel.

Coming off his first loss at UFC 113, wherein Shogun Rua cashed in his Puncher's Chance chip for Machida's light heavyweight title, The Dragon steps right back into the main event limelight against a high-profile, albeit overrated opponent.

To my eyes Jackson doesn't have much of a chance here. His one advantage lies in the strength category (I'm not counting trash talking at the moment) and even that is a slight one. He's also coming off a loss and will have an air of desperation hanging over him. But considering that his muscle mass wasn't enough to finish off Rashad Evans, even though he had him on the mat and hit a few uncontested hammerfists to the head, I can't see a way in which he'll finish Machida.

That will leave the door open for Machida to fight his type of fight; slow, technical, methodical, and in doing so he'll rack up massive points via takedowns and ground control and thus win the fight handily.

Pick: Lyoto Machida via decision