This upcoming Saturday night (May 28, 2011) at UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill," two of the toughest UFC light heavyweights will square off in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a showdown with a potential title shot on the line.
"Rampage" Jackson was recently only the second human being to defeat Lyoto Machida at UFC 123 and he's looking to ride that momentum all the way to a light heavyweight championship opportunity against Jon Jones. He looks like he's taking this headlining bout with Matt Hamill seriously despite the ranking disparity between the two fighters.
For Matt Hamill, this is the biggest opportunity of this career, headlining a major pay-per-view against a former champion. He can't let this opportunity slip through his fingers. Hamill is riding a five fight win streak* although that includes a fight with Jon Jones where he was physically dominated. "The Hammer" believes the time is now for him to make a run in the division.
Has Jackson let the bright lights of Hollywood distract him from his fighting career? Can Hamill raise his game and score the most impressive victory of his career? Which Jackson will show up, the plodding Quinton or the barbarous "Rampage?"
Follow me after the jump to find out:
Record: 31-8 overall, 2-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Lyoto Machida (UFC 123), Dan Henderson (UFC 75), Chuck Liddell 2x (UFC 71, Pride Final Conflict 2003)
Key Losses: Forrest Griffin (UFC 86), Rashad Evans (UFC 114), Mauricio Rua (Pride Total Elimination 2005)
How he got here: "Rampage" made his name in the land of the rising sun, squaring off with some of the best light heavyweights in the world in Pride. Jackson fought 17 times in Japan against the likes of Wanderlei Silva, "Shogun" Rua and Chuck Liddell on a regular basis.
When Zuffa purchased Pride in 2006, Jackson scored an opportunity to avenge an old loss to Marvin Eastman and he followed it up by knocking out Chuck Liddell for the second time in his career to win the UFC light heavyweight title. He would defend his title against Dan Henderson but would proceed to drop it in a razer close decision to Forrest Griffin, a fight that he, himself admitted he didn't take seriously.
Jackson got back on the winning track by avenging two previous losses to Wanderlei Silva with a nasty first round knockout and he eeked out a decision over Keith Jardine. The win over Jardine would set up a coaching match-up with Rashad Evans on season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter. After delaying the number one contender fight to film "The A-Team," "Rampage" would lose a decision to Evans in a grudge match. The Wolfslair fighter got back to his winning ways with a huge victory over Lyoto Machida this past November and with Jon Jones looking for an opponent, he's ready to prove he's the next challenger in line.
How he gets it done: There aren't many surprises when it comes to "Rampage's" style these days. He wants to take command of the center of the cage and force his opponent to come to him. Jackson hits like a Mack truck, but most of his best strikes are counters. If Hamill wades in with his slow-moving straight punches, expect "Rampage" to salivate as he dodges and counters with some serious power. Jackson packs a ton of heat with his left and right hooks as well as a vicious lead uppercut.
The Memphis-native also doesn't have the most technical escapes on the ground, but he's one of the strongest men in the weight class and he can power out of any submission attempt. Jackson also is known for having very sturdy hips. The only man that's been able to take him down and keep him there was Rashad Evans, who has some of the best MMA wrestling at 205.
Look for Rampage to use his wrestling defensively to keep this fight standing and to work his excellent boxing. He came into this fight in great shape so he might be a little lighter on his feet like he was in the first two rounds of the Machida fight. If Hamill gives him even the slightest opening, he'll look to punish "The Hammer" badly.
Record: 10-2 overall, 9-2 in the UFC
Key Wins: Mark Munoz (UFC 96), Keith Jardine (TUF 11 Finale), Tito Ortiz (UFC 116)
Key Losses: Rich Franklin (UFC 88)
How he got here: Matt Hamill is definitely one of the most inspirational stories in MMA. He was born deaf but that didn't stop him from earning massive accolades in wrestling. Once his wrestling career was over, he switched to mixed martial arts, originally training under Rich Franklin.
Hamill was a contestant on season three of TUF, but had to leave the show due to an injury despite winning his first round fight. He has impressively posted a 9-2 mark in the UFC thus far, most recently defeating Keith Jardine and Tito Ortiz via decision in back to back fights.
Hamill was promised a fight with a top 10 guy after defeating Ortiz and when Thiago Silva was suspended for a year due to submitting fake urine in a drug screening, Hamill asked to step in and take on Silva's scheduled opponent, Quinton Jackson. All the lobbying paid off and Hamill was awarded the fight. When both Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard backed out of UFC 130 due to injuries, Hamill was promoted to the main event for the first time in his career.
How he gets it done: Hamill's striking has come a long way since he debuted on season three of TUF, but he's still not in Jackson's league in the stand-up department. Hamill is aggressive, but not very fast and he's not afraid to get tagged in order to land something of his own. That's a recipe for disaster against Jackson. "Rampage" hits too hard to simply stand and trade strikes blow-for-blow.
If Hamill plays his cards right, he could work some leg kicks. He hasn't been known for them in the past but he does have power in his kicks as evidenced by his absolute destruction of Mark Munoz via head kick at UFC 96. If Hamill can adjust his angles, he could really put a hurting on Rampage's thighs because Jackson has always had trouble defending his legs throughout his UFC career.
Another potential advantage for Hamill is wrestling and the clinch. Jackson had issues off his back against Rashad Evans and he's definitely had problems in the clinch against guys like Wanderlei Silva and Shogun in his career. If Hamill can pressure Jackson and keep his hands up, he could get inside and negate Jackson's power. If Jackson is getting the better of the stand-up (and he probably should), look for Hamill to try to take him down at every opportunity. That's how he wins this fight.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" in this match has to be wrestling. Hamill was a stand-out college wrestler at the Rochester Institute of Technology, winning three national championships during his collegiate years. He's also adept at both Greco Roman and freestyle wrestling, winning a silver and gold medal in the Deaflympics in 2001. Hamill admits that he hasn't focused on his wrestling enough in the past few years as he's worked to improve the rest of his all-around game but he's put in the extra time for this upcoming fight with Jackson. "The Hammer" believes that "Rampage" has let his other skills suffer while he's focused on his striking.
For Jackson, he was a successful high school wrestler, earning All-State honors in Tennessee but he never progressed much past the junior college level. He's showcased some of his wrestling in Japan but for the most part, that seems a piece of his fighting style that he's long since abandoned. Rashad Evans was able to exploit "Rampage's" deficiencies in the wrestling department in their fight at UFC 114 and Jackson has promised that he's worked more on that part of his game since, but there's only so much one can improve in a year. Hamill's offensive wrestling versus Jackson's defensive wrestling and avoidance of takedowns is going to be a huge factor in the outcome of this fight.
Bottom line: This bout has the potential to bring out the old-school Rampage Jackson that was knocking people out all over the place. It all depends on how aggressive Matt Hamill is in his stand-up. If Hamill pushes the pace and forces Jackson to scrap with him, this could be a fascinating striking battle where someone goes down....hard.
Who will come out on top at UFC 130? Let us know in the comments section below!