See below for our preview and predictions for Saturday night’s UFC 135: Jones Vs Rampage event in Colorado.
Jon Jones vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
There’s been plenty of pre-fight hype building behind this light-heavyweight title which Jones recently joked was the equivalent of ‘Spiderman Vs Frankenstein.’
Jones certainly brings a super-hero style physique to the Octagon, not least his enormous reach – the largest in the UFC at 84.5 inches – some 11.5 inches bigger than Rampage’s. Jones long-limbs allow him to be very effective from range, makes him hard to hit, and gives him a greater chance of success with his more exotic and eye-catching strikes like spinning elbows and backfists. He embraces that fact and it makes him very unpredictable and creative in the cage.
So, Rampage needs to find a way to bridge the distance gap in order to land his own punches. One thing he does well is cover up cleverly when he needs to and that will be crucial as he tries to negotiate his way into range where he can land his own punches which pack considerably more power than his opponent.
Another problem for Rampage is that as he gets into range he needs to worry about being drawn into the clinch and taken down as Jones is deadly in this regard, utilizing all manner of techniques from foot sweeps to suplexes to get his prey to the mat. Rampage does come from a wrestling background though and was well known back in the PRIDE days for his slams, so he will be hoping to counter Jones in this regard and keep the fight standing.
If the fight does hit the mat then it’s most likely to be Jones on top and he’s proven to be one of the most dangerous ground and pounds specialists in the sport with his long limbs again help out, allowing him to generate devastating power into his elbow strikes even from inside his opponents guard. Rampage won’t provide much of an offensive threat from his back, but he’s savvy enough to be able to work his way back to his feet if given an opportunity.
The final factor is cardio. Rampage appears to have taken this fight very seriously so I expect him to be in good condition, but he’s never had a huge gas tank and has looked somewhat lethargic in previous fights so the pace that Jones keeps will be hard to follow. Jones has yet to go the full five rounds, something Rampage has, but I don’t expect it to be anything he can’t handle.
It’s hard to give Rampage anything more than a punchers chance here when faced with someone like Jones who simply appears to have far more ways to win. The former champion has also looked a shadow of his former self in his last few fights, while Jones looks better every time he steps into the Octagon. I see Jones winning this in dominant fashion as in his previous bouts, getting the better of Rampage on the feet and then G&P’ing him for the finish.
Jon Jones to win by TKO in Rd3.
Matt Hughes vs. Josh Koscheck
Josh Koscheck has been calling out former champion Matt Hughes for years and he’s finally got his wish after stepping in at short notice for Diego Sanchez.
In the striking department Koscheck appears to have the better of Hughes. He’s perhaps a little over-rated in this regard as GSP proved by defeating him with just the humble jab in his last fight, but while he’s a little reckless and isn’t the most technical he does pack a punch, something that has eluded Hughes throughout much of his career. He’s also quicker and more fluid with his punches and lighter on his feet than the veteran.
Of course both fighters are best known for their wrestling prowess. Each operates at a high level technically, but again the fact that Koscheck is younger, quicker and stronger counts for more than Hughes experience edge in my book.
If they do go to ground then I do believe Hughes has the better submission game, but he’s unaccustomed to using it from his back so he needs to be on top to utilize it effectively and Koscheck is seasoned enough to give him few opportunities to do so.
The big concern for Koscheck is the fact that he’s spent the past 10 months or so sitting on the sidelines due to an orbital fracture and took this fight on short notice so ring rust is a concern. He is a very well conditioned athlete though so I don’t expect cardio to be a major factor.
This is a tough match-up for Hughes who is by his own admission edging ever closer to calling time on his career. He can still hang with a certain level of competition, but I believe Koscheck is a step above that and may give him significant problems, particularly on the feet where Hughes weakening chin will be a big concern.
Josh Koscheck to win by KO in Rd2.
Rob Broughton vs. Travis Browne
A slightly curious choice for the main card of such a high profile event, heavyweight contenders Rob Broughton and Travis Browne get a chance to progress up the divisional ranks.
Browne is a rough and ready sort of a striker. Standing 6ft 7″ tall and possessing a fairly strong chin he wields big punching power, but tends to wing his shots rather than deliver them with any real regard for technical precision. Against a certain level of competition that’s often all that’s required though and so far he remains undefeated in 12 fights.
While Broughton is capable of getting into a stand-up battle his real strengths lie on the ground, and based on the fact that he’ll also be giving up four inches in both height and reach to his heavy-handed opponent he’d be smart to attempt to take the fight there sooner rather than later.
If he succeeds in doing so then he’ll pose a threat with submissions, but the real struggle will be getting Browne down in the first place. Browne’s aggressive style isn’t backed up by great cardio so he tends to fade in the later rounds, and if Broughton can survive that long that could be his best opportunity to take him down and attempt to force a tap.
I favor Browne to get the job done sooner rather than later here with his early pressure and big power bringing about Broughton’s demise.
Travis Browne to win by KO in Rd1
Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi
Nate Diaz makes his return to 155lbs for a fun fight against Japanese star Takanori Gomi with both needing a win over losing two of their last three bouts.
Diaz striking should be familiar to most by now, being very similar to his brother’s long-range boxing style that tends to lean towards precision volume punching rather than devasting one-punch power. Diaz showed more pep in his strikes at 170lbs, but it’s something that he often struggles to replicate at lightweight. Still, backed up by a stellar chin plus a six inch reach and four inch height advantage, Diaz provides a significant threat to Gomi.
Gomi is the opposite of Diaz in that he is perhaps the hardest puncher in the division and works best at close range, being the owner of some particularly lethal hooks. Kenny Florian was wise to this and kept Gomi at bay with a consistent jabs, and this time around it’ll be up to the Japanese fighter to deal better with closing the distance or suffer a similar fate.
Despite being known as a deadly striker Gomi also has good wrestling and with Diaz takedown defence not being the best that could be an outlet for him, though it could open up a whole new can of worms for him. Diaz has high level BJJ skills, is calm in the heat of the moment and is more than comfortable working for submissions from his back so with Gomi being susceptible to submissions it’s not in his best interests to spend to long on the mat with him.
I like Diaz to use his range effectively to keep Gomi at bay and wear him down with strikes before submitting him on the ground in the later rounds as the Japanese fighter begins to wilt. Diaz needs to be careful not to showboat too much when striking though – he has a tendancy to taunt his opponents by putting his hands down and sticking his chin out, but he needs to be aware that just one hard shot from Gomi could crack even his granite chin.
Nate Diaz to win by submission in Rd3
Mark Hunt vs. Ben Rothwell
A battle of the heavyweight veterans kicks off the main card at UFC 135 and both Hunt and Rothwell need a victory to secure their future’s in the promotion heading into 2012.
Hunt’s ground game is almost non-existent so as always he’s going to be relying on his striking to get the job done here. What he does have is a wealth of kickboxing experience behind him, a legendary chin and substantial punching power.
Rothwell is certainly the more well rounded of the two. He is fairly durable himself which is just as well as he tends to brawl a little on the feet. He will surely be aiming to take advantage of the vast difference in skill level he has as far as grappling goes in this fight though.
It’s safe to assume he will as he employed a similar strategy against another dangerous striker Gilbert Yvel last time out. He made heavy weather of it on that occasion, but Yvel has better submission defence than he’s given credit for and I don’t believe that’s the case with Hunt.
The worry for Rothwell will be his cardio after spending well over a year out due to injury. He gassed badly against Yvel after a similar long layoff so he’ll not want to turn this into a long drawn out war.
if he’s smart Rothwell will take Hunt down immediately and from their he has the skills to force a quick tap from the New Zealander.
Ben Rothwell to win by submission in Rd1.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Tony Ferguson vs. Aaron Riley
Tim Boetsch vs. Nick Ring
James Te Huna vs. Ricardo Romero
Cole Escovedo vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Junior Assuncao vs. Eddie Yagin