UFC 75: Champion vs Champion - Preview by Stephen Quadros

UFC® 75: Champion vs. Champion
Saturday, September 8, 2007
O2 Arena
London, England

By Stephen Quadros, “The Fight Professor”

Quinton Jackson (Champion)


Dan Henderson (Challenger)

UFC® Light-heavyweight Championship
Quinton Jackson (champion) vs. Dan Henderson (challenger)

Pride Middleweight Championship (sic)
Dan Henderson (champion) vs. Quinton Jackson (challenger)

Champion versus champion…that sounds great on paper. And it IS true to a certain extent. But it seems that this will be one of only three possible “unification” matches between the UFC® and “the organization formerly known as Pride”. Heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko and ”lightweight” (160 pounds) Takanori Gomi are the only remaining Pride champions in existence, besides Dan Henderson (who holds both the Pride 183 AND 205 pound titles), who have not lost their titles inside the ring (or now cage since the UFC® took things over). But since it realistically looks like there may not ever be another actual Pride show (the Fertitta brothers, who own Zuffa, which is the “parent company” of the UFC®, purchased Pride on March 27, 2007), these perceived “unification” matches are basically a ‘one-time-only’ type of deal for the convenience and benefit of the current bureaucracy. And if there are no more Pride events then the “winning” of the Pride belt now will only be a technicality, a historic footnote that lumps that Atlantis-esque organization’s now mythical former legacy in with that of the UFC®.

The buying of Pride is a smart business move, because (whether they admit it publicly or not) it eliminates the UFC®’s former competitor and absorbs its main perceived asset, the fighters. But the leading of the public to believe that the two orgs will still ‘compete’ against each other is little more than histrionic, if not hollow rhetoric. It’s the equivalent of Ford buying Chevy or Coke buying Pepsi and then saying that the two entities will remain separate and continue to be in competition with each other. Sure they will, in an inbred world maybe.

Frankly I’m a little curious as to why they rushed into setting up this particular match (Henderson/Jackson) so quickly. Both were stars in the organization formerly know as Pride, but relatively obscure here in the states (Quinton has since gained some degree of exposure when he destroyed the UFC®’s poster boy Chuck Liddell). One would think that they had so many options to help build the organizational “rivalry” (sigh) up, or at least the champion versus champion angle by possibly making Dan and Quinton coaches on The Ultimate Fighter “reality” TV show, or at minimum have them both fight separate matches on at least one card together and THEN, after they introduced Henderson to those who only know the post-TUF era of the sport, put them in the Octagon® against each other. 

As charismatic as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is, it baffles me as to why he has not been marketed more aggressively by the UFC®. His reactive yet charming personality is tailor made for television and talk show hosts would surely find loads of ways to have fun with him as guest. But instead he’s been shipped to England and taken off pay-per-view (this UFC® will be aired free on Spike TV in the states). Hopefully his flying under the radar of the stateside star making machine isn’t because of some private embarrassment caused by him being perceived as ‘a Pride fighter’ who beat the UFC® champion. But those in charge surely must have a reason for doing it this way because one thing can be stated about the UFC®’s decision-making as of late, it is on the money (for the most part).

“Dangerous” Dan Henderson meeting Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, two yanks fighting live in England at the O2, represents a solid clash of two of the world’s best MMA athletes. It is truly a clash of champions.

To me the difference between the two gentlemen starts with their core personalities: Quinton is gregarious, a wisecracker with an edge. Publicly he seems to want stardom. But he has his private side too, even though it may be on hiatus momentarily due to his newfound status. Dan is more meat and potatoes on the surface, but has that drive that is feared in the gym and in the ring. And Hendo could care less about being a star. He simply wants to be the best in the game.

Inside the ring Quinton has not been as consistent as Dan has. When Jackson is hot, he is incredibly hard to beat. But when he’s cold it seems he can be broken. Hendo on the other hand is the equivalent of an MMA Cal Ripken Jr. in that he seems to never get injured and has always been near the top of the sport since he began competing in it over a decade ago. 

As far as the champion status of the two individuals, Henderson has towering achievements that few can even come close to:

He won the Brazil Open in June 1997 (a four-man, no holds barred affair), in May 1998 he became UFC® 17 four-man tournament champion (where he defeated Allan Goes and Carlos Newton along the way), he took the top prize in the Rings 32-man King of Kings 1999 tournament, beating three tough opponents (Gilbert Yvel, Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira and Renato “Babalu” Sobral, in one night. On New Year’s Eve 2005 Dan decisioned Murilo Bustamante to become Pride’s first “welterweight” (183 pounds) tournament champion. But his crowning moment was one of revenge when he knocked out Wanderlei Silva in February 2007 to become Pride middleweight champion (Dan lost a decision to the Brazilian when they first met seven years ago).

Prior to winning the UFC® title when he knocked out Liddell earlier this year, Quinton was previously the Gladiator Challenge champion back in 2001.

Dan Henderson will be the most decorated and experienced fighter that Jackson has ever faced. After watching Quinton crush Chuck, it would be easy to surmise that Jackson was the most dangerous striker that Hendo had ever squared off with…if we ignore the fact that Dan KO’d the man who destroyed Rampage twice, Wanderlei Silva, as well as beat super slugger Vitor Belfort and the aforementioned Muay Thai menace Yvel.

Can Quinton out wrestle Dan? Doubtful. Submit him? Trust me, this won’t be about jiu-jitsu. And after watching Quinton barely escape with a decision over Henderson’s training partner Matt “The Law” Lindland last year in Los Angeles, I don’t see Henderson losing a decision here either. Jackson’s chance is to do what no one has done to date: catch Henderson with a punch and knock him out. I honestly believe that the Quinton who shocked the world against “The Iceman” MUST show up for this to be competitive. Anything less will wilt under the experience, concerted aggressive and vicious mauling of Dan Henderson.

My pick? Dan Henderson.