TORONTO - Much of the buzz surrounding Saturday night’s UFC 130 in Las Vegas was generated by Quinton (Rampage) Jackson. Now it’s show time. MMA expert Neil Springer breaks down the big three fights taking place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena:
Quinton Jackson vs. Matt Hamill
The pressing question in this fight is: which Rampage will show up?
Are fans going to see the aggressive knockout artist who put guys like Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva to sleep, or will it be the same fighter who struggled against Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans?
When Jackson is on his A-game he has the power and cardio to give anyone fits, but he’s become more of a straight forward boxer since joining the UFC. Gone are the slams that made him famous in PRIDE.
He’s made the style work, though. Expect him to immediately press forward and try to stalk his prey.
Jackson is a great wrestler, but Hamill is on a different level in this department. If Jackson simply head hunts, he could overextend and find himself flat on his back with Hamill raining down punches.
Though Hamill has great takedowns, he’ll need to set them up with his striking early on and catch Jackson off guard. Hamill must remain light on his feet and use angles to get in and out when he throws punches. If he stands right in front of Jackson, he’s getting knocked out.
Frank Mir vs. Roy Nelson
I’m surprised how many people are counting Nelson out in this one.
Each of Mir’s five losses has been by either KO or TKO and Nelson has the power to put him away. During his UFC run, Nelson has knocked out both Brendan Schaub and Stefan Struve — two very tough, durable fighters. If he connects clean with his big right hand, it could be lights out.
However, Mir is the more technical striker and isn’t exactly lacking in power, either. Though he could easily outwork Nelson on his feet and take a decision, I don’t see him knocking Big Country out. Nelson took Junior Dos Santos’ best shots and kept coming back for more. At the very least, it should be competitive in the stand-up exchanges.
Despite his massive gut, Nelson also likely has the better gas tank. As the fight progresses his conditioning could help him take over in the second and third rounds.
Both guys are skilled on the ground and it will be interesting to see how things play out on the mat. Mir has more submission wins, but Nelson has excellent top control. It goes without saying that neither guy wants to be on his back.
Jorge Santiago vs. Brian Stann
On paper, Santiago has more ways to win this fight.
Not only is he an elite grappler with dangerous submissions, he’s evolved into one hell of a striker. If Santiago can get this to the mat, he should be able to tap Stann. Failing that, he can at least control the fight.
Even if Stann defends the takedown attempts, Santiago should be comfortable on his feet and have no trouble trading punches. However, he’s going to need to remain unpredictable. If he just plants his feet and starts throwing bombs, he’s going to get caught.
Though Stann went right at Chris Leben and dismantled him, he will likely be more patient against Santiago. In a straight up brawl, Stann can overwhelm almost anyone, but he can’t afford to be careless and get taken down.
Stann has no doubt worked on his wrestling and jiu jitsu, so as long as he can either avoid getting taken down or quickly return to his feet, this will be a competitive match. If he can discourage Santiago from shooting for takedowns by punishing him each time he tries one, he will take that option away and can then push the pace.