A compelling UFC 144 co-main event will take place later tonight (Feb. 25, 2012) at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, between two heavy-handed 205-pound fighters with relatively similar styles.
Quinton Jackson, for all his column-friendly quotables and self-parody, is an outstanding fighter with many tools. Don’t be fooled by his four-round domination at the hands of Jon Jones, as I’m not sure if anyone else is going to extend "Bones" that far in the next couple years ... at least not until the champ moves to Heavyweight.
Jackson’s blend of good takedown defense and potent hands, along with a big-time chin and tons of experience, make him a real live wire for an up-and-comer like Ryan Bader.
"Darth" is used to being the better takedown guy in a match up, and he’s not going to be that guy here. At best, it’s a scratch for him in terms of wrestling. Bader’s stand up is decent, however, and his thudding right hand is a great weapon to soften up Jackson for takedown attempts.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 144 fight between Quinton Jackson vs Ryan Bader:
What we’re likely to see is a great, ex-champ still likely in his prime against a rising prospect looking to capitalize on that opportunity. This isn’t the biggest fight of Jackson’s life by far, given his legendary battles in PRIDE and the title loss to Jones, but it’s definitely the biggest of Bader’s. And that kind of motivational disparity can leave the mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran coming into the bout with less than his best, even though he should win on paper.
Jackson’s still one of the nastiest wrestler-slugger combos in the game, and his biggest weakness has been in junking his great takedowns and top game for a fists-of-fury approach. We’ve yet to see the epic slams and numbing top game he displayed in PRIDE -- his ground and pound of foes was epic during that run, but in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), he only seems motivated to wrestle if forced to, as was the case in battles against Dan Henderson, Rashad Evans and Jones.
Bader’s got to pick his spots and get out while avoiding Jackson’s big counters, which he’ll fire after covering up and absorbing shots. Jackson also has a tendency to wait around for opponents and see what they will do, then react off it, which can backfire against a motivated overachiever with a specific game plan, which is precisely why he lost to Rashad Evans.
However, Bader may not have the wrestling chops to win this one, and Jackson remains a dangerous one-shot banger with a great chin. Jackson will probably be best served as soon as he gets nailed, or forced into a grinding, takedown-based fight, because it will wake him up and bring out his competitive nature. He’s the kind of guy who can lose or nearly lose a fight where he’s frustrated rather than hurt (such as the Evans and Keith Jardine bouts), but he comes alive when he feels threatened, like in the third match with Wanderlei Silva or the Chuck Liddell rematch.
Jackson’s hot and cold, but it’s hard to see Bader outpointing or outwrestling him over the distance. There will be some good exchanges, especially as Bader is great at shooting his massive right hand disguised as a takedown attempt. Expect Jackson to get rocked at some point and "Rampage" to take over, forcing heavy exchanges where he eventually gets the better of it, forcing Bader to back up and go defensive.
It’d be a stretch to say that Jackson might even score an effective takedown he’s ditched wrestling at this point, but those would certainly help. Either way, Jackson will prove too rugged and strong and gut out a close decision in a war.
Jackson via decision
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 144 results of all the "Edgar vs. Henderson" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:30 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Sunday morning.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst and at firstname.lastname@example.org.