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Is Rampage Jackson Done As A Contender In The UFC Light Heavyweight Division?

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I know we've talked in-depth about Rampage Jackson's performance back at UFC 114 against Rashad Evans. Clearly the cage rust and Jackson's time away from the sport to film the A-Team movie were factors in that fight. A lot of us have questioned Jackson's will to continue fighting in MMA. A few(Josh Gross) have stated that his skills are deteriorating, and Kevin Iole and Steve Cofield debate if Jackson will be a contender. However, I think these guys are going a little too far right now basing everything off of a fight in which Jackson hadn't fought in a year and a half. Here's why:

-Jackson will be 32 later this month

-Jackson got paid A LOT of money for that fight with Rashad(we know money motivates)

-He was like two punches away from beating a consensus top 3 guy and he hadn't fought in a year and a half

At 32 years of age, the guy is at the tail end of his prime but there's still a lot of fight left in Jackson if that's what he wants to do. I don't see how anyone can say the guys skills are deteriorating after the Evans fight. Now, if he comes into his next fight and performs the same way I would have to concede the point. I think one dimensional is a better word to use in this case. However, I've written about this before. If there's a division where you could be one dimensional and win, it's the UFC light heavyweight division. The majority of the top guys are strikers with wrestling/BJJ bases. So in Rampage's case, if he stops the takedown he always has the ability to catch you standing like he did with Rashad. If he's in shape, 99% of those guys do not survive that onslaught of ground and pound afterwards.

In regards to Rampage's desire to keep fighting. I think he has the desire, otherwise he wouldn't have lost all that weight in preparation for the Evans fight. Now, if he lets himself go between the Evans fight and whomever he fights next, then it would be correct to question his desire. Like I said earlier, the guy made a ton of money(over 2 million) for the Rashad Evans fight. That's some motivation for your a**.

Lastly, even though he was outworked in the first two rounds against Evans the guy is always a threat. So even if Jackson had finished Evans in the third after he hurt him, he wouldn't be a contender anymore? Yea, that's crazy talk right? I think we'd still be talking about how Jackson is always a threat and could we imagine what he'll be like when he gets in really good shape again. We'd be oozing at the thought of Rampage/Shogun 2 and that Jackson would be in really good shape by then in hopes of avenging the prior loss to Rua.

Iole and Cofield mention that the UFC may be backing off the Machida/Rampage matchup in favor of Jackson/Nogueria. Which is the fight I called for directly after UFC 114. I think it's a much better fight stylistically and would let you know exactly where both guys position would be in the UFC light heavyweight division. The loser would definitely be pushed to gatekeeper status.

So until Jackson fights again, I think it's pre-mature to say that he's not going to be a contender in the UFC LHW division. State your case as to why or why not...