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Legendary knockouts: 'Rampage' Jackson expires Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92

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The sport of mixed martial arts as we know it today is not only built on exciting fights with definitive finishes but compelling rivalries. These feuds, real or imagined, help drive interest in the outcome of a fight because, let's face it, two people winging punches at each other can only get you so far. 

Bad blood means passion and that, perhaps more than any other invisible trait, translates extremely well to the television medium. It's not often legitimate issues arise and carry themselves out inside the cage or ring. But when they do, it's nothing short of extraordinary. 

That's all just a somewhat fancy way of saying it's pretty badass when two guys get pissed off and can settle their differences by punching each other until one of them can no longer continue.

There is no better example of a rivalry culminating in an absolutely stunning climax than the three-part war engaged in by Quinton Jackson and Wanderlei Silva.

"Rampage" lost the first two meetings via devastating knees to his dome. In their first engagement "The Axe Murderer" landed no less than 20 knees before Jackson was mercifully saved by the referee.

The second encounter was as conclusive as it was calamitous.

Old Quinton was introduced to Wandy's killer Muay Thai clinch and was once again kneed until he was knocked into next week, falling through the ropes while staining the mat with his blood. Silva's triumph was matched only by Jackson's embarrassment.

The two champions would not meet again for four years, when both were signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and their career trajectory ensured their paths crossed once again.

The final showdown took place in Dec. 2008 at the promotion's heavily promoted, and equally stacked, year-end show. The conclusion to this confrontation was everything a combat fan could hope for.

The time between the second and third fight was unkind to Silva, who amassed a relatively mediocre 5-5 record including two brutal knockouts at the hands of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Dan Henderson.

For his part, Jackson found massive success, defeating Chuck Liddell to win the UFC light heavyweight championship and subsequently defending that title in a five-round war against Dan Henderson on Spike TV. He became a star in America, nearly on the level as he had in Japan.

Their paths crossed again when "Page" lost his title to Forrest Griffin and needed a solid rebound fight to get him back into contention. Wanderlei had knocked out Keith Jardine and needed a top dog to cement himself as a 205-pound contender.

The timing was just right for a grudge match for the ages.

So it was set for Dec. 27, 2008 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Immediately following the announcement, both fighters wasted little time in reiterating their mutual dislike for one another.

Jackson exuded a sort of quiet calm, never quite losing his temper but very clearly focused on avenging two extremely humiliating losses.

Silva, on the other hand, was talkative, never one to hold back his feelings and going so far as to say he was not fighting for money but simply for the pleasure he would derive from knocking out his nemesis for a third time.

"I know he remembers my knee," he said.

This only served as an even bigger motivator for "Rampage."

The fight came, with all its hype, and lived up to every expectation. Jackson attacked Silva with a determined fervor, intent on enforcing his brand of violence on the man that had so badly destroyed him so many years ago.

And that's exactly what he did.

About three and half minutes into the first round, the two engaged in an exchange with Silva pushing the action via his characteristically aggressive style.

His undoing, those looping punches he's so famous for, was accentuated by Jackson's intimate knowledge of his tendencies.

Silva throws a combination of three looping punches, a left hand followed quickly by a right and another left behind it.

"Rampage," knowing all too well exactly what was coming for him, covered and blocked every one. So beautiful in its violence, yet smooth in its transition, Jackson covered up his right side against the third shot while loading up his left hand.

As Wanderlei threw his second wide left hook, he dropped his right hand, as he always did, and left himself completely vulnerable to the crushing left his arch enemy was about to unleash upon him.

With near perfect form and flawlessly timed, Jackson launched that left hook, turning his entire body into the punch, and connected clean on Silva's jaw, separating him from his senses.

What wonderful destruction.

An amped up "Rampage" proceeded to exact his revenge even further by blasting the unconscious "Axe Murderer" with three unnecessary punches that all came while referee Yves Lavigne was desperately trying to pull him away from his beaten foe.

What could have been a major controversy was avoided when the majority of fans and pundits either ignored it or chalked it up to an emotional fighter who was overly excited at the circumstances.

What it didn't do is diminish the finality of the knockout, nor the spectacularly explosive conclusion of a feud that spanned more than five years on two continents with two organizations.

Coincidentally enough (wink), Yahoo! Sports has this third and final meeting featured as their knockout of the week. Enjoy the bruising final seconds of this indelible feud that culminated with a legendary knockout.

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