Ryan Bader takes down Rampage Jackson at UFC 144 on Feb. 25, 2012 in Saitama, Japan. Photo by Esther Lin via MMA Fighting
"Rampage" Jackson was trying to channel his old school Pride self, coming out to the classic Pride music, howling and wearing his old school chain link necklace. But, other than a brief flash with a slam, that was about as much old school "Rampage" that the Japanese fans were witness to.
So what helped Bader score the upset victory? And where do both men go from here?
Follow me after the jump for our Ryan Bader vs. Quinton Jackson UFC 144 post-fight review and analysis:
Early on, it was all about speed, and Ryan Bader had it all. He perplexed Jackson by darting in and out, hitting him with his stand-up and keeping away from Jackson's power. "Rampage" tried to keep up, but he just looked a step slow in the striking department.
Perhaps it was the secret injury that forced the former champion to come in six pounds heavy at the weigh-ins, but Jackson looked like a completely different fighter last night.
After dropping the first round primarily because of the stand-up, Jackson showed a brief flash of his former self when he caught a knee, lifted Bader over his head and then proceeded to slam The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 winner directly on his head and right arm.
This stunned Bader and Jackson tried to capitalize, but he couldn't swarm him fast enough and "Darth" was able to recover. Bader didn't just recuperate, he turned the tide about a minute later, taking Jackson down and then slamming "Rampage" to the canvas in a bit of irony.
To put an exclamation point on the upset, Bader again took Jackson down and was active enough with punches to keep the fight on the canvas until the final horn. He got up to celebrate while a beaten and clearly dejected Jackson remained flat on the canvas, pondering what he had done wrong.
The judges were easily able to side with Bader, awarding him a unanimous decision with a 30-27 sweep of the scorecards.
For Jackson, this should have been a wake-up call. No matter how badly you want to fight in Japan, even turning down an opportunity to fight in front a significantly larger audience for the UFC on Fox show, you can't go into a fight with an injury like that. Not only did it cost him 20 percent of his fight purse (which likely was a tidy sum), it cost him a victory. He was hobbled, slow and completely ineffective against Bader. He needs to rest, let those injuries heal and try to come back 100 percent if he wants to ever make a big impact in the division again.
I'd like to see Jackson heal up his injuries and then fight Mauricio Rua in a classic rematch. At this point, he should be more about putting on exciting fights than winning the title again. Other interesting bouts would be Vladimir Matyushenko and perhaps Rich Franklin, who he called out after his weigh-in on Friday night.
For Bader, this was the type of performance he needed to put on to completely get back on track after such a disheartening two fight losing streak in 2011. He stepped up against a more experienced foe who was a former champion and he delivered exactly what he needed to do. He looked younger, faster and maybe even stronger than Jackson last night en route to earning a rather dominant decision victory. He beat Jackson in just about all the areas of the fight with superior speed and wrestling.
I'd like to see Bader fight Stephan Bonnar next, perhaps the winner of Thiago Silva vs. Igor Pokrajac or even Alexander Gustafsson if he can get past Antonio Rogerio Nogueira later this year. It seems that "Darth" Bader is back and ready to get back in the mix once more.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
How much of a factor was Jackson's injury in his performance last night? Were you impressed with what Bader was able to accomplish or is his victory tainted for you?