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The Staredown of Doom....A Little Too Soon?

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If you watched UFC 96, which I'm assuming most of us here did, while the fifteen minutes of combat between Quinton ‘Rampage' Jackson and Keith Jardine was exciting it was the 55 seconds during the post-fight interview that really made the night memorable. If you for some odd reason haven't seen this, please check it out here on the site. Light heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans and Jackson stood face to face and engaged in a heated war of words as Joe Rogan simply played the middle man as they sparred. In the end, what was once an intriguing match up of very even fighters turned into what could be one of the few blockbuster bouts generated by the UFC. With that said, there was one major detail that was omitted from the number one contender. The assumed date of July 11th at UFC 100 was bumped up to May 23rd at UFC 98 due to Frank Mir's injury. True, these guys are professional fighters and should be in top condition throughout their careers, but plain and simple, if Jackson were to take this fight that would be his third fight within roughly five months. Couple that with those three fights taking place against top 10 opponents and you have a contender that is in a sticky situation.

Just as quickly as the graphic for UFC 98 went up with both Rashad and Quinton's faces plastered as the main event, it quickly came down. If you watched the final UFC 96 vlog, which you can view here, Dana White broke the news to Jackson just moments after his unanimous decision victory over Jardine. With a bit of reluctance in both his expression and tone, Jackson said he would have to check with his management but he ‘had Dana's back'. Though he somewhat agreed and seemed to have not taken much damage in the fight with Jardine, he still hasn't been medically cleared and also was complaining of a jaw injury which he sustained before his UFC 92 bout with Wanderlei Silva. This brings up two scenarios that will either make or break what has now become a must see matchup:

-Rampage could take the fight - barring any injuries or suspensions, Rampage could thrust himself back into training within the next few weeks and prepare to fight Rashad Evans. In doing so, there could be a good chance that a non-100% Jackson, due to the wear and tear of the last five months, could show up to face the champ. That would be an absolute nightmare for Jackson and could damper what could be an action-packed brawl. Without formally breaking down a fight between the two, I feel as though Rashad and Rampage are basically the same fighter in most aspects with Rashad being the quicker of the two. Both have a strong wrestling background, are freakishly powerful, have improved boxing, and granite chins. The only slight difference is Rashad can probably beat ‘Page to the punch. So knowing that, a sluggish, worn down Rampage would be fodder for Rashad, who can play the countering game just as well as Jackson. An over aggressive or even under aggressive Rampage would and could seep into the latter rounds and collect enough damage to welter under the attacks.

- Evaluating the circumstances-Jackson could decide to pass on the May date and wait it out for his next opportunity to get a shot at the title. Unfortunately, that means that the now hyped ‘black on black crime' would have to not only lose steam but also be in jeopardy altogether thanks to a certain Lyoto Machida. Dana White made it clear that if Jackson didn't feel as though he could do it, Machida was in. That would mean Rashad would have to defeat the undefeated ‘Dragon' and then move on to Rampage. That's a huge task and one that I don't know if I bank on happening. Thus, we'd be stuck with a very good but not quite as wanted bout between Machida and Jackson, negating the entire 55 second smack talk that had the Ohio crowd in stitches.

-Rampage could not take the fight-So what is a brother to do? If I were in Rampage's camp, I'd weigh the pros and cons. Only he knows what he's capable of doing and how he feels. A physically ready Rampage is important...but a mentally prepared Rampage is imperative. With so much on the line in that one bout, he'd be crazy to not take the opportunity but at the same time would be crazy to take it simply because a loss would send him freefalling in the most stacked division in MMA. So, with all this said, if you were Rampage, what would you do?