[Editor’s note: Normally the author does not write his articles in first person, but the urgency of UFC 123’s Stellar Awesomeness compelled the writer to do so. Therefore the following is an edited version of the author’s comments to himself and to another MMA fan while while both watched the main fight of tonight’s UFC card, a heavyweight bout for title contention between Lyoto Machida and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.]
Rampage looks a lot fitter than his last appearance when he got his butt whooped by Rashad Evans.
[Rampage had recently come back to fighting that fight, after being cast for the role of B.A. Baracus in the A-Team remake movie.]
[Watching Rampage pacing in his corner]
He looks really focused. And nervous, in a very violent way. I know I said I wouldn’t call this fight either way, but I just have to say it, I got Rampage!
[He texts his friend, that his pick is Rampage. The friend belives Machida is too elusive]
I’m enjoying the customary first round pacing-war that always happens in Machida’s fights. Probably the first time I do. The tension is thick…
Rampage’s shoulders are huge! With the high angle cameras he looks like a mutant rugby goon.
MMA-Buddy: I wonder how hard those leg kicks are.
Me: Yeah dude, and Rampage is getting them by the dozen!
[Watching Rampage ring Machida’s bell when the fight picked up]
I know my friend’s texting me, but I can’t move. This is awesome, Rampage’s back.
Oh, wait no! He kneed Machida in the balls. Hasn’t Rampage done this a few times? Does he do it on purpose to get his wind back? He definitely gave Machida some foot-stomps, that’s for sure. On the leg that was kicking the crap out of his thighs.
In any case, he definitely gets Round 1. My last minute prediction might turn out right. How kick ass would that be?
[When Rampage scores his first (and only) takedown, in the middle of the second round]
I know the judges are going to give this round to Rampage if it stays close, because of the takedown. Machida should be ahead at this point with those leg kicks early in the round–I’m pretty sure I lost count of how many exactly.
[The fight goes to the clinch, short pauses standing, and clinching again. Both fighters land punches with two Rampage uppercuts standing out especially. The end of the round sees Rampage missing a combo and getting dropped by an off-balancing leg-kick from Machida]
I’d call it a draw, but the refs might give it to Rampage because of the pressure and the takedown. Rampage stalked Machida the whole time, like a hunter who’s hunting the most dangerous prey of them all.
[After the mind-boggling third and final round, calling his friend, a resident of Modesto and long time MMA fan himeself]
Me: OMG—first off, I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Machida’s manager, Ed Soares, mistranslated Machida. On purpose, I would assume.
MMA-Buddy: Really? You think so?
Me: Yeah, the guy, Soares, he said something about disagreeing with the judges, something like “Oh well, what are you going to do?” right? Like if Machida was deflated and a sore loser. But the thing is, I’m pretty sure I heard Machida say, “he was the better man”. I may be wrong.
MMA-Buddy: Hmm…that was a great freakin’ fight, man!
[The two proceed to recap the night and disagree on the round breakdown]
MMA-Buddy: The thing I couldn’t believe was that Machida couldn’t evade Rampage’s punches.
Me: But if you look at the reply of that last flurry, Rampage doesn’t even really hit Machida. And Machida was throwing leg kicks all day. Man, how crazy was that last exchange! Machida laser beams some fists and chases Rampage across the cage, almost drops him, then Rampage somehow regains his composure and throws his own combo.
MMA-Buddy: Yeah he threw like two punches but they grazed him—
Me: –I think it was a 1-2-3 but two of them missed, and the one that landed only grazed.
MMA-Buddy: What about that Jiu-Jitsu clinic at the end? Freakin’ Machida couldn’t finish it though. When he had the armbar—[something about Machida not setting up the arm bar correctly]—and that’s why Rampage could pick him up slam him. Man, that was so close, if he didn’t let go—
Me: Yeah, that’s one of those things where it’s not in the fighter’s best interest to hang on and get slammed, but you secretly want it to happen.
[At one point near the end of the fight, Machida threw a textbook armbar which got him stacked under Rampage who was then able to pick Machida up in the air, forcing Machida to let go of his hold or else get slammed.]
MMA-Buddy: I didn’t mean that at all. He had to let go, the way Rampage slams, he could break his neck, easily.
Me: But still, how amazing would it be to have seen Pride-style Rampage in full form: clinch-fighting, throwing bombs, weathering submission attempts—and then to top it all off with a slam! It would have been too much. As it was you almost had full Rampage mode anyway; and Machida being the effin’ man–
MMA-Buddy: That was an amazing fight
[The author ended the night looking forward to the pages and pages of media and writing about tonight’s event—including what Machida really said at the end of the fight. A fight which also had Judo and Armenian representative Karo Parisyan loosing against a strong wrestler, and BJ Penn (moving back up to 170lbs) portentously knocking out Matt Hughes who was visible and emotionally devestated at the intensity of the loss. Ring-side commentator Joe Rogen got uplifting and highly dignifying interviews out of both fighters, both of whom former champions in the UFC]