So the other day, while I was doing my breakdown/prediction blog for UFC 135, I commented on how Rampage has turned into strictly a counter-puncher these days and no longer utilizes his wrestling or his clinch game. This got me to thinking about his moniker, Rampage. With Jackson no longer being an offensive fighter, living primarily off counter-punching, I have to ask. Where is his Rampage?
As I was watching the Countdown to UFC 135 show last night, I was laughing at how much trash-talk was flowing from Jackson. Now in the past we've seen these displays, most notably with Rashad Evans. He didn't back up his claims then and I can't think he'll back up his claims now against Jon Jones. However, the one thing I'll say, Jackson has gotten into the head of Jones. Jackson's accusations of Jones spying on him really seem to be getting in Jones' head. Jon Jones has never fought an opponent who started the fight early with head games. Jackson, being a veteran, knows that if he can rattle Jones before the fight starts, he'll be more likely to make a mistake. In this aspect, I have to congratulate Jackson on his preemptive strike on Jones' psyche. In the verbal war, it appears Rampage is still alive and kicking.
In the Countdown to UFC 135 show, Jackson talked about training jiu jitsu in preparation for the Jones fight. Jackson is still only a blue belt in BJJ and hasn't tried to progress his ground game in years. This is one of the major reasons I believe Jackson has become one dimensional. The fact that he's training BJJ now, in my opinion, is because he knows he's going to end up on his back. But this is a defensive move, Jackson hasn't legitimately gone after a submission since he submitted Kenneth Williams via rear naked choke back in 2001.
Another facet of Jackson's fight game back in his Pride days was his clinch. Some of the knees he threw would knock the face off an elephant. I can't remember the last time he initiated a clinch and threw those nuclear weapons into an opponent. Now, looking at his old Pride fights with Wanderlei Silva, I can understand being a bit gun shy in going to the clinch. However, he hasn't fought anyone with that caliber of muay thai since coming to the UFC. Why has he abandoned such a nasty weapon in his arsenal? Where did the knees of Rampage go?
The third major facet of Jackson's early days was his wrestling. More accurately, his slams. Everyone has seen his legendary power bomb of Ricardo Arona. In his early days, Jackson utilized a wrestling attack to get opponents down so he could unleash some ground-and-pound. Many times, this involved him picking someone up and slamming them. This would keep opponents guessing and opened up his striking game. When you are always worried about a takedown shot from your opponent, it doesn't allow you to get comfortable enough to let your hands and feet go. Where is the Rampage that slammed his way to victories?
In my opinion, Jackson has become a one-dimensional fighter. He stands and waits for his opponent and then counter-punches. No longer is there a threat of nasty knees from the clinch, no longer does he go for takedowns, no longer does he pick up fighters and slam them. Going back to my prediction of his up-coming fight this weekend with Jon Jones, I believe Jones will exploit this quickly. He will pick his shots and pick apart any hope Jackson has of becoming champion again.
In my opinion, Jackson only has 2 choices if he wants to win on Saturday. First, stick to your regular game plan and get that one lucky punch to land. The second, shock Jones and shoot a double leg, or get inside and clinch with him and unleash your knees. Shock Jones by not being that same old Jackson who lacks the Rampage.
So, let's recap, Jackson still has some Rampage in his verbal attacks. But the Rampage seems to have left the building from the rest of his career. So, I've got to ask, where's the Rampage?