We’ve got a full weekend of MMA ahead of us, what with Bellator, Strikeforce Challengers and DREAM all poised and ready to go with a bit of the old ultra-violence. But there’s no doubt what the main course will be: UFC 135 on Saturday night, which will have light-heavyweight champ Jon Jones defending his belt against Quinton Jackson in what promises to be either something thrillingly competitive or just a straight-up murder. Ah, who am I kidding? Did you see the way Jones beat Shogun into putty? Rampage is going to wind up a statistic on an FBI violent crime analysis chart. Anyway, there are some other interesting pairings at UFC 135, including what may be the last hurrah of a welterweight legend and a fallen Japanese superstar’s shot of redemption (sort of). So. Preview. Check it out.
Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson – Jones’ meteoric rise to the top is marked by “Holy crap! Did you see that?” moves and utter destruction visited upon whoever has stood in his way. In the last two years, Rampage has either been squeaking by opponents with decisions or losing via those same means. Now, sure, Jackson’s still got a dangerous hook that can put people away, but Jones has been in there with some knockout strikers (Mauricio Rua, Ryan Bader, Brandon Vera) and no one even came close. The bottom line is the champ is going to have to slip on an awful lot of banana peels – plus stumble on an oil slick and choke on a handful of half-chewed olives – before Rampage can touch him. Yup, this one is going to be ugly. Like, “Godzilla stomping Tokyo into rubble” ugly.
Matt Hughes vs. Josh Koscheck – This is the last fight on Hughes’ contract, and his wife has stated “No mas, mister”, so when the former champ steps into the cage against TUF 1 veteran Koscheck on Saturday, we might be seeing the finale of the great Matt Hughes. In terms of comparing their skills and abilities, both men are proven wrestlers with competent stand-up – maybe Hughes hits a little harder and has the edge in experience, maybe Koscheck will have the edge in youthful vitality (he’s about four years younger). But you know what? When someone like Hughes says he’s on the verge of hanging up his gloves, you just have to root for him. Chris Lytle went out with a win; hopefully, Hughes can do the same.
Rob Broughton vs. Travis Browne – Broughton is a big Brit whose most notable win was over Neil Grove a few years ago; Browne went the distance with Cheick Kongo and knocked out Stefan Struve easily. Can you guess which one of these guys has a future in the Octagon and which one will be back fighting in the UK circuit soon?
Takanori Gomi vs. Nate Diaz – Once upon a time Gomi was one of the best fighters coming out of Japan, and his explosiveness saw him putting away a lot of people. But back in 2007, Nick Diaz tapped him out with a gogoplata, and things sort of went downhill from there. Nate Diaz, on the other hand, peaked right around when he won TUF 7, and has since amassed a mottled record in the UFC (in other words, he isn’t his older brother Nick). Can Gomi get some modicum of revenge by defeating the sibling of the man who submitted him back in the day? Or will Nate catch him like an errant trout and make him gasp for air? If I bet, it would be on Gomi punching Diaz. Real hard.
Ben Rothwell vs. Mark Hunt – Rothwell is an interesting guy. He’s had about a million fights outside of the UFC, sometimes against less-than-stellar competition, sometimes against some solid guys, and his losses have only come to the best (a prime Andrei Arlovski, Cain Velasquez). But all those fights wear on you, and for the past year he’s been sidelined with a torn ACL. Does he have any “umph” left in him? It might not matter, as his UFC 135 opponent is Hunt, a New Zealander with world-class kickboxing (circa 2002) who’s aged about as well as a carton of milk left on the side of a desert highway. All Rothwell needs to do is avoid Hunt’s striking, get him to the ground, and whisper sweet-nothings in his ear. The only question mark is the American’s knee and if it will hold up.