Just two weeks after their last pay-per-view event, the UFC is back with another big event, this time on free TV via delayed broadcast from London. UFC 75 – billed as “Champion Versus Champion” – pits former Greco-Roman wrestling great Dan Henderson against new UFC light heavyweight champion and one-man marketing machine Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
There’s a lot to like about this main event. What Henderson (22-5) lacks in star power and promote-ability outside the ring, UFC light heavyweight champion Jackson (27-6) more than makes up for.
“Rampage” was born for the limelight and absolutely loves to ham it up for the media. The UFC doesn’t even need to interview him when it comes time to shoot the pre-event promos. They just turn on the cameras and get out of the way.
When it comes to fight time, however, Jackson is far less consistent. His UFC debut against perennial tomato can Marvin Eastman was shaky at best, and his decision victory over Henderson’s Team Quest colleague Matt Lindland last summer could have easily gone the other way.
Jackson’s knockout of Chuck Liddell to take the light heavyweight strap was a shock, to say the least. Sure, he beat Liddell in a Pride tournament back in 2003, but they were both different fighters then. Several beatings later (two by Wanderlei Silva, one by “Shogun” Rua), Jackson had started to look like damaged goods.
And then Liddell got careless and found out the hard way that Jackson’s right hook still had some stank on it. The first-round KO might have revived Jackson’s fighting career in the UFC, but now that he’s on top, how long can he stay there?
Henderson could make for a very difficult first title defense. He’s less flashy and has a face that’s been hammered too many times to make him a major TV commodity the way “Rampage” is, but he consistently delivers in the ring.
He’s coming off a great run in Japan’s now deceased Pride Fighting Championships, where he knocked out Silva to claim the 205-pound title in addition to his 185-pound belt, becoming the first man ever to hold two titles at once in MMA.
Henderson will never be a finesse fighter. He gets by on his ability to take a hard shot and his willingness to stay on the attack no matter what happens. Maybe the biggest question for Jackson in this one is, how exactly will he win this fight?
Henderson has never been knocked out in his MMA career. Jackson isn’t likely to submit Henderson, and his cardio is too questionable to rely on winning a decision after five rounds. Basically, that leaves Jackson with too few arrows in his quiver.
Pound for Pound pick: Henderson.
Assuming he shows up in London in shape and mentally sound, there’s no reason he shouldn’t take this title from Jackson. Henderson’s persistence should test Jackson’s heart and toughness, and will ultimately steal his will to fight.
Michael Bisping over Matt Hamill
Talk about an easy choice for this fight card. Bisping, Britain’s closest thing to an MMA star these days, against a fellow reality show with whom he has some bad blood. Hamill’s a good wrestler and has the determination of a termite, but he’s too one-dimensional to beat Bisping.
Cheick Kongo over Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic
If you’re a gambler, this is your best chance to win big. The betting line is heavily in favor of “Cro Cop”, but who knows how he’ll respond after his loss to Gonzaga? Kongo is unpredictable, in both good and bad ways, but he’s also a big, tall striker with a long reach. Don’t be surprised to see him pull off the upset here.
Houston Alexander over Alessio Sakara
As much as I love the ancient Roman-themed tattoos that “Legionarius” Sakara is rocking, he’s still too much of a pure striker. Alexander looked like a freight train against Keith Jardine, who’s much bigger and stronger and more well-rounded. If I were Alexander, I’d be wondering why I’m fighting on the undercard while the man I beat takes on the former champ next month.
Marcus Davis over Paul Taylor
Beside the fact that Davis goes by “The Irish Hand Grenade”, which is awesome, he’s more experienced, especially in the UFC, and has beaten much better opponents than Taylor, who goes by the lamer than lame moniker, “Relentless”. Good thing for him it’s not a battle of the nicknames.