UFC 114 proved not to be the triumphant return to MMA that Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson had been hoping for, and having now missed out on his chance to get another crack at the light-heavyweight title, what comes next for the fighter?
Despite the loss to Evans, Rampage remains one of the UFC’s biggest draws. He’s got five fights left on his contract and with his upcoming role as B.A Baracus in the A-Team movie sure to raise his profile greatly amongst the casual audience, it’s likely that the promotion will be looking to get him back into action again in a high profile bout sooner rather than later.
That appears to be something that also appeals to Rampage himself.
“I’d like to get in there as soon as possible,” he said at the post-fight press conference. “This fight is going to haunt me for a long time.”
So who are the most likely options for him?
Truth be told there’s an abundance of quality match-ups awaiting him at 205lbs. Here’s four of the most appealing options for him.
Forrest Griffin: Prior to his fight at UFC 114 Rampage himself named three fighters he wanted to face, Rashad Evans, Shogun Rua, and Forrest Griffin. The first two options are out of the picture for the time being, but a rematch with Griffin could be a viable option.
The only problem is that Griffin is unlikely to be back until at least late September due to a shoulder injury, and the UFC may look to get Rampage back in the cage before then.
Lil Nog: After a close and controversial split-decision victory over Jason Brilz at UFC 114, Rogerio Nogueira could use a big fight to boost his chances of a title shot, and Rampage certainly fits the bill.
Rich Franklin / Chuck Liddell: The winner of UFC 115’s Liddell Vs Franklin main event would seem to be a good match-up for Rampage. He already holds two victories over Liddell, and so that may well appeal as he looks to get back to winning ways.
Lyoto Machida: Machida and Rampage are in a similar predicament, being that they are two former title holders looking to get back to winning ways. They have been rumored to be paired up together in the past, and this might be the time to make the match-up a reality.
As with Griffin, the issue here is how long Machida is likely to be on the sidelines due to injury. At this moment the only word is that the Karate master is looking to return later in the year.
Other possibilities such as Randy Couture, Thiago Silva and Jon ‘Bones’ Jones all have fights scheduled for August which appears to rule them out, while the likes of Brandon Vera and Tito Ortiz are expected to be out injured for some time to come.
Ryan Bader could still be a candidate, though he is still recovering from a hand injury. It’s probable that the UFC will be looking for a higher profile bout for Rampage’s return though at this stage.
Ideally the Forrest Griffin fight would be the one to make here I believe. At the post-fight press conference Lil Nog was also calling for a fight with Griffin though, and Dana White appeared to pour water on the idea, saying that Griffin may be out injured too long and he’d prefer to see Nogueira back in the cage sooner.
That same logic would then seem to apply to Rampage as well. Therefore from a timing standpoint a bout with either Lil Nog, or the winner of Liddell – Franklin (who fight in two weeks time) would seem to be the most likely options here.