One of mixed martial arts true superstars, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson returns to the Octagon on December 27th to face rival Wanderlei Silva in what is
expected to be one of 2008’s best bouts. But Jackson’s third fight against “The Axe Murderer” is just latest in a series of defining moments for the pride of Memphis, Tennessee.
Kazushi Sakuraba – July 29, 2001 – PRIDE 15
Result – Sakuraba Wsub1
With just 11 fights under his belt, Quinton Jackson was a raw but untested prospect when he was brought to Japan to face PRIDE superstar Kazushi Sakuraba in 2001. In the year leading up to the bout, Sakuraba had faced names like Wanderlei Silva, and Renzo and Ryan Gracie; Jackson was competing against guys like Kenneth Williams, Bryson Howvreck, and Rocko Henderson. It was a huge step up for ‘Rampage’ and he felt the pressure.
“I remember my stomach feeling like I swallowed a brick,” Jackson recalled in 2007. “I still, to this day, think that somebody poisoned my room service or something like that. I was happy that it was my biggest paycheck to date, but I know they brought me there to lose. They made me lose all this weight when Pride didn’t even have weight classes. I knew there was no way I could win. But I knew I couldn’t turn back and not fight. I said, ‘I’ve got to go out there and put on the best show possible and do my best so I could at least make a name for myself and Pride would have me back.’
Jackson would lose via submission to Sakuraba as expected, but what was surprising was the reaction of the crowd to the California resident, who began a love affair with the Japanese fans that would continue through his 17th and last PRIDE fight five years later.
Chuck Liddell I – November 9, 2003 – PRIDE Final Conflict 2003
Result – Jackson TKO2
By 2003, Jackson was firmly entrenched as one of PRIDE’s top fighters, a fact reinforced by a four bout string that saw him beat Igor Vovchanchyn, Kevin Randleman, Mikhail Illoukhine, and Murilo Bustamante in successive bouts. But the fight most MMA fans wanted to see at that point was one between PRIDE’s Wanderlei Silva and the UFC’s Chuck Liddell. Normally, there would be no chance of that happening, but UFC President Dana White agree to send his fighter to Japan to compete in the organization’s 205-pound tournament, with the ideal outcome being a final fight between Liddell and Silva. Silva did his part, beating Hidehiko Yoshida. Liddell ran into a buzzsaw named Jackson, who took ‘The Iceman’s power shots, brushed them off and kept coming en route to a second round TKO. It was a win that not only solidified Jackson’s place among the worldwide elite, but it also got UFC fans curious about the man who just took out one of the Octagon’s finest.
Ricardo Arona – June 20, 2004 – PRIDE Critical Countdown 2004
Result – Jackson KO1
Fighting Wanderlei Silva on eight weeks notice is no picnic – doing it on the same night that you’ve just fought Chuck Liddell is insanity, making Jackson’s 2003 loss to Silva easily explainable. But to get back to ‘The Axe Murderer’, Jackson had to beat highly-regarded Ricardo Arona, and he did, scoring one of the great knockouts in MMA history. This finish crystallized the fact that while Jackson is one of the most affable fighters in the game outside the ring, inside of it, he’s looking to take you out. His ring-shaking slam out of Arona’s triangle choke (which KOed the Brazilian) was a frightening reminder of what you can expect from ‘Rampage’ when the bell rings.
Wanderlei Silva II – October 31, 2004 – PRIDE 28
Result – Silva KO2
Four months removed from the win over Arona, and with a full training camp under his belt, Jackson was confident going into the rematch with Silva, and he showed the improvement in his game during an impressive first round. But in the second, Jackson – who had fasted for three days prior to the fight after converting to Christianity – started to run low on gas, and Silva made him pay, dazing him with a punch and then finishing him off with a vicious series of knees. It’s a loss that’s still a sore point with Jackson, who will get his chance to get a measure of revenge on December 27th.
Chuck Liddell II – May 26, 2007 – UFC 71
Result – Jackson TKO1
A lot had changed in the almost four years since Jackson and Liddell first threw hands with each other. Liddell was the biggest name in mixed martial arts, PRIDE was no more, and Jackson was one win over Marvin Eastman into his UFC career. But despite the unprecedented media coverage for the bout and Liddell’s long reign as light heavyweight champion, Jackson still had his number, and after a right to the jaw dropped Liddell, ‘Rampage’ finished him off with ground strikes, and in less than two minutes, Quinton
Jackson was a UFC champion.
Dan Henderson – September 8, 2007 – UFC 75
Result – Jackson W5
Sure, Jackson was funny, a charismatic representative of the sport, and he had the explosive style to give anyone fits. But if he got put on his back by a world-class wrestler like Dan Henderson, had to eat ‘Hendo’s concussive right hand, or was forced into a five round dogfight, how would the new 205-pound boss fare? Answer – he would pass every test with flying colors, as he showed new wrinkles to his ground game in a 25 minute battle with Henderson (the last PRIDE 205-pound champ) that saw him become the first fighter in history to unify the two belts via a hard-fought unanimous decision.
Forrest Griffin – July 5, 2008 – UFC 86
Result – Griffin W5
Take away the end result, which was a close, but unanimous, decision win for Griffin, and instead look at this fight not only as the best of 2008 thus far, but one that showed Jackson’s championship heart as he survived some hellacious leg kicks and a one-sided second round beating to come back and close the gap over the final three rounds. When it was over, many felt that the champion had done enough to retain his title, but it was not to be, as Griffin was crowned the new king of the light heavies. For Jackson, it’s a setback, but he knows that a win over Silva at UFC 92 will put him right back in the mix for a shot at the belt again, and that’s motivation enough for the man dubbed ‘Rampage.'