Perhaps it’s over-saturation of MMA on television? Perhaps it’s the holiday weekend? Or perhaps the economy has finally reached a point that casual MMA fans are cutting back on luxuries, starting with pay-per-view.
Regardless of how the general public feels, I am excited about Saturday’s UFC light heavyweight title match between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Forrest Griffin. Everyone likes seeing stars fight, and Jackson and Griffin are two of the promotion’s biggest stars. No, this fight does not have a grudge angle to it, but the styles of the two could make for some post-July 4 fireworks.
Breaking this down, one area where there could be a decisive advantage is when it comes to staminia. Jackson has been vocal in the past about his dislike for training. Meanwhile, Griffin is one of the hardest working fighters in the world right now.
With so much money at stake, I think it’s safe to assume that Jackson has found the proper motivation needed to get himself into the gym earlier and more often. This is not the same Jackson that fought for PRIDE who would often rely too heavily on his natural physical ability. He’s improved as a fighter since starting to work with Juanito Ibarra and he now has the money needed to operate a proper training camp.
I’m still giving Griffin the advantage when it comes to cardio, but I don’t think the gap will be as big as some might be anticipating.
Griffin also has an edge when it comes to jiu-jitsu. Rampage has good takedowns and slams that are complemented by excellent ground and pound. However, his submissions are lacking, as evidenced by Jackson getting tapped out by several lesser experienced fighters during the taping of the seventh season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
When it comes to ability to absorb punishment, both Jackson and Griffin have world class chins. As such, I see this fight going at least four rounds and possibly five. Because both are able to take a beating, I think that is why we will be treated to an exciting match with momentum changes and near finishes. The crowd at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas will be on their feet several times during the bout, which will create more excitement for the viewer watching at home.
So where does this all leave Jackson, the defending champion? Does he not have any advantages coming into this fight? He most certainly does.
Jackson is clearly the much better wrestler of the two, although Griffin proved against Tito Ortiz that his takedown defense can be impeccable at times. However, Ortiz’s shot is outdated while Jackson’s standup ability means that Griffin can’t just drop his hands, as he must keep them higher in order to protect his face. Griffin almost shut out Ortiz in the takedown department, and while he will certainly stuff some of Jackson’s takedown attempts, Jackson will be successful on a few.
If the fight goes to the ground with Jackson on top, he will need to watch out for submissions from the bottom. However, if he can keep from getting himself caught in a triangle, Jackson will make life very difficult for Griffin through his ground and pound ability. It’s imperative that Griffin utilize good wrist control from the bottom and or body lock Jackson so that he is unable to get off unanswered shots from top position.
Another area where Jackson will have the advantage is the standup. Griffin is not the world’s best defensive fighter. And having a good chin is a great way to make sure you’re around for the end of the fight, but it doesn’t mean you’re neccessarily going to be up on the scorecards. Griffin might also be more of a diverse striker, as I’m sure we will see him throw more kicks than Rampage. But where the difference will be felt is when it comes to punching power. Griffin by no means is a soft puncher, however, he hasn’t traditionally been a one-punch knockout artist. Jackson has shown us in the past that he does indeed possess that power.
While Griffin has a strong chin, he’s not invincible, as he proved during his upset loss against Keith Jardine. Hit him hard enough in the right spot, and he’ll go out like any other man would. While Griffin will be able to score with kicks, I expect Jackson to be able to throw and land more power shots than Griffin.
All things taken into consideration, does Griffin have a chance to become the UFC’s first organic “Ultimate Fighter” television show winner to claim a title? Yes, Matt Serra technically is the first TUF’er to win a world title, but he had already competed in the UFC at the time of his selection of the show. To me, if Griffin wins, he should be viewed as the first TUF alum to take home gold. Griffin most certainly has a shot and it wouldn’t surprise me if he pulled off the upset. That being said, I believe that Jackson is the smart play here. I see him imposing his will and keeping Griffin on the defensive for much of the fight.
As long as it is Jackson dictating the terms of the fight to Griffin, I just can’t see the upset taking place. I see this fight ending late in the fourth round, with Jackson winning via TKO after the referee steps in to call the fight due to Griffin eating too many ground and pound shots on his back.