By: William Holmes
New school meets old school. The UFC has used this latest gimmick to promote their upcoming light heavyweight tilt between former champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and current light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones. Rampage has long been a fan favorite wand Jon Jones is the new kid on the block who has been touted as the future of MMA. This is a crossroads fight for both fighters, and has the potential to produce some explosive fireworks.
Ben Rothwell (31-7) vs. Mark Hunt (6-7); Heavyweight
The first fight on Saturday’s PPV card features a matchup between IFL veteran Ben Rothwell and Pride veteran Mark Hunt. Mark Hunt is probably the only fighter on the UFC roster who has a sub .500 record, but he has fought some top level competition. Hunt has gone 1-6 in his last seven fights, but when those losses have come at the hands of Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, and Gegard Mousasi they are certainly understandable. Mark Hunt has devastating power, as was evident in his last fight, a KO victory over Chris Tuchscherer, but lacks the grappling acumen necessary to compete with the elite at heavyweight. Ben Rothwell has gone 3-2 in his last fight fights, and was considered the best heavyweight on the IFL’s roster when the IFL was still in existence. Rothwell’s power may not be on the same level as Hunt, but he is still dangerous on his feet. Seventeen of his victories have come by KO or TKO.
If Rothwell can take the fight to the ground he should have the advantage. However, if the fight stays standing Mark Hunt has the advantage. Rothwell should be able to use his weight and wrestling advantage to drag Mark Hunt to the ground and secure a submission victory. Ground fighting has long been Mark Hunt’s achilles heel, and Rothwell would be wise to take advantage.
Nate Diaz (13-7) vs. Takanori Gomi (32-7); Lightweight
Nick Diaz catapulted his career in 2007 with an upset victory over then #1 ranked lightweight Takanori Gomi in Pride. Nate Diaz looks to repeat his brother’s feat when he takes on Gomi on Saturday. Gomi has gone 1-2 since joining the UFC, and has not looked like the feared fighter that he was considered while fighting for Pride. He did have a devastating knockout over Tyson Griffin two fights ago, but he has shown a weakness against good grapplers, as both Clay Guida and Kenny Florian were able to submit him. Nate Diaz has had mixed results in the UFC with a record of 8-5. Diaz has lost his last two fights while competing at welterweight, and has made the wise move of moving back down to lightweight.
Ever since Gomi lost to Nick Diaz, his career has been on a downward spiral. He hopes to reverse his luck with a victory of Nick’s younger brother. However, Gomi’s weakness is Diaz’s strength, and that’s conditioning and submissions. Expect Diaz to win this fight in the later rounds by submission as he wears down Gomi with his relentless pressure.
Travis Browne (11-0-1) vs. Rob Broughton (15-5-1); Heavyweight
A few years ago the heavyweight division was considered the UFC’s weakest division. Luckily for us fight fans, that is no longer the case. Travis Browne is one of those prospects you really want to keep a close eye on, nine of his victories have come by KO or TKO. He was able to fight to a draw against noted striker Cheick Kongo, and even knocked out Dutch kickboxing specialist Stefan Struve. Rob Broughton has yet to face anyone that can be considered an elite fighter. He has defeated UFC veteran Neil Wain and Pride veteran James Thompson, but the difference in talent between those fighters and the current crop of UFC heavyweights is vast.
Only one of Broughton’s losses have come by TKO, but after Saturday that number should be raised to two. This fight should be a coming out party for Browne, and a spectacular finish should lead to tougher fights and more elite level opponents.
Matt Hughes (45-8) vs. Josh Koscheck (15-5); Welterweight
Neither Matt Hughes or Josh Koscheck can be expected to compete for the welterweight title again anytime soon, but both are considered some of the best fighters to ever compete in this weight class. Koscheck has been clamoring for a fight with Matt Hughes for awhile, and hopes to rebound from his defeat in his last fight to current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Koscheck has gone 3-2 in his last five fights, and a plurality of his victories have come by decision. Matt Hughes has also gone 3-2 in his last five fights, with victories over Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie, and Ricardo Almedia and a brutal KO loss to BJ Penn.
When Hughes steps into the cage with Koscheck, he’ll be looking at a younger and more athletic fighter who possess the same skill set as he does. Both are strong wrestlers with adequate standup skills. Koscheck does possess more power in his hands than Hughes, but at times can be reckless and leave himself open to precise and technical strikes. Hughes has the savy veteran experience to possibly pull of a victory, but Koscheck should be too much for Matt Hughes to handle and should win by an early TKO or KO.
Jon Jones (13-1) vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (32-8); Light Heavyweight
While Jon Jones technically has one loss on his record, it should really read 14-0, because he was absolutely dominating Matt Hamill before a referee disqualified him for illegal downward elbows. Jones represents the new wave of fighters coming into mixed martial arts, elite level athletes who are well trained in all aspects of the fight game. Eye popping strikes? Check. Vicious takedowns? Check. Slick submission skills? Check. Jon Jones can do it all, and he does it all extremely well. Jones dominated former UFC champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, he trounced Ryan Bader, he destroyed Vladimar Matyushenko, and he obliterated the eye socket of Brandon Vera. Jon Jones is the youngest champion if UFC history, and based on his potential, he will probably be a champion for a long time.
Standing in Jones’ way of becoming an all time great is the first fighter to ever unify the Pride and UFC Light Heavyweight belts, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Jackson has gone 4-1 in his last five fights, with his lone loss being a close one to a former training partner of Jones, Rashad Evans. Rampage got his title shot mainly because he is a well known fighter on the UFC roster, but he was not overly impressive in his last fight against Matt Hamill, and he was awarded a decision in a fight against Lyoto Machida that many felt he lost. Very few fighters have the power that Rampage has, but in comparison to Jones, Jones has the obvious technical advantage over Rampage on their feet.
Jones should retain his title easily and possibly send Jackson back to making movies. The Light Heavyweight division was once considered the “shark tank” of the UFC’s many weight divisions, as the title changed hands often. With Jon Jones as the champion, the UFC Light Heavyweight division will likely experience some semblance of stability for many years to come, and that begins with another obliteration on his opponent by Jones on Saturday.