UFC 123 will be the first event ever with a main and co-main event that features a former champion in each spot. The headlining bout of the evening will be a battle between former light heavyweight champions Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. Both Jackson and Machida are coming off losses and are in need of a big win to put themselves back in the title picture.
Machida (16-1) is finally returning to the octagon after suffering the first loss of his career against Shogun Rua at UFC 113 in May. The loss to Rua was a vicious first round knockout and many are keen to see how Machida responds. Will he be the aggressive Machida that scored consecutive knockout victories over Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans to win the light heavyweight title, or will the cautious, elusive Machida return that frustrated the hell out of Tito Ortiz?
Machida’s fighting style is primarily karate, but he has enough wrestling and jiu jitsu training to complement the karate and give him the opportunities to utilize the diverse strikes. The key to Machida’s style is his ability to avoid his opponent’s strikes while returning fire with damaging blows of his own. Machida has stated that he’s not concerned about his last loss to Shogun and that he’s put it behind him. We’ll see if that’s the case tonight.
Rampage (30-8) is very popular with the fans, but has seemed disinterested as of late. Jackson was away from the sport for over a year to film and promote The A-Team where he played B.A Baracus and the time away from the cage definitely cost him in his much hyped grudge match against Rashad Evans where he lost via unanimous decision
Jackson has a wrestling base, but has definitely focused on his striking in his most recent fights. Rampage has developed into a nice counter-puncher but he definitely looked a step slow in his last fight with Rashad Evans. Was that just a product of his time away from the cage or will Rampage return in full force against Machida?
Both fighters will likely try to keep the fight standing. Machida’s style is all about getting in, landing some strikes and getting out without being hit. He’s been able to do this against powerful strikers like Sokoudjou and Rashad Evans and I don’t see the fight with Jackson being any different. The only serious change will be that Rampage has a much stronger chin than Evans and Sokoudjou combined and it will likely take a brick hidden in Machida’s gloves for him to score a knockout.
I foresee a ton of in and out dancing from Machida as he slaps away at Rampage for 3 straight rounds of domination.
Prediction: Lyoto Machida via unanimous decision