‘Rampage’ takes split decision at UFC 123

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Quinton “Rampage” Jackson couldn’t solve the defensive wizardry of Lyoto Machida and deliver the knockout he wanted in the main event of UFC 123 on Saturday night, but he did enough to secure a split decision in a battle so close that Jackson said Machida deserved an immediate rematch.

“Machida whipped (me) tonight,” Jackson said. “I’m so ashamed of myself tonight. He did a great job. I didn’t get to do what I wanted. I say the fight was so close, even though I don’t want to, I have to give him a rematch.”

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was surprised to find his hand raised after he was announced as the winner of his UFC 123 match against Lyoto Machida.
(Getty Images)

The unusual concession came after three rounds of, at times, awkward fighting in what was billed as a clash of styles here at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Jackson, of Memphis, comes from an old-school brawling, wrestling background. He starred in last summer’s “The A-Team” as B.A. Baracus. Machida, of Brazil, is a karate-based counter attacker from Brazil. Both are former UFC light heavyweight champions.

Jackson chased Machida for most of the fight but only occasionally landed a heavy punch. Machida countered with some strong kicks and controlled Jackson on the ground during the third round, but it wasn’t enough. The judges seemed impressed with Rampage’s aggressiveness.

“I think it’s the only thing,” Jackson (31-8) said. “Machida is hard to hit. Machida is a man, y’all.”

Machida (16-2) said he’d like to fight again as soon as possible.

“I did the best I could tonight, but if the judges say Quinton won, then Quinton won,” he said through an interpreter. “I’d like an immediate rematch also. We’ll see what the UFC has to say.”

The fight was tense but hardly exciting, leaving the sellout crowd screaming for action. Sometimes contrasting fight styles make for an exciting fight. This was different, as neither fighter was able to display his typical offensive power.

Rampage delivered on his vow to push the action during the first round, but breaking through the puzzling karate defense of Machida wasn’t easy. Neither fighter landed many significant blows.

The second round was more of the same, at times an awkward stand-off even though each fighter landed some powerful shots – Machida with kicks and knees, Jackson with uppercuts and right hooks.

In the co-main event, B.J. Penn jumpstarted his career with a devastating 21-second victory over Matt Hughes in the trilogy fight of their rivalry.

Penn dropped Hughes with a powerful right in an early exchange and then pounced, delivering a number of shots until referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight due to strikes.

The Hawaiian was so hyped about his performance he immediately ran from the Octagon, looking like a man possessed trying to head to the locker room. His corner and arena security chased him down and brought him back, where he was greeted with a huge ovation by the crowd.

“I’m pumped up,” he said.

Penn (16-7-1) had been one of the UFC’s most dominant champions until losing consecutive fights and his lightweight title to Frankie Edgar. His career at a crossroads, he needed an impressive performance and delivered it over the 37-year-old Hall of Famer. The two had split their previous two fights but hadn’t met since 2006. They met in the welterweight (170-pound) division.

In the run-up to this fight, Penn had expressed concern over the direction of his career and appeared extremely focused on taking out Hughes, who he routinely called “his idol.” This was “The Prodigy” of old – exciting, motivated and dangerous.

Hughes (46-8) was bitterly disappointed in the quick defeat.

“He hit me hard,” Hughes said.

Hughes expressed concern about where his career was headed. He’s branched out into other pursuits – including his own televised hunting show – and retirement isn’t out of the question, though UFC president Dana White will welcome him in the promotion process for many fights to come.

In the preliminary fights on the pay-per-view telecast, Maiquel Falcao made a semi-impressive debut in the UFC by defeating Gerald Harris by unanimous decision in the light heavyweight division. The Brazilian is a veteran fighter (26-3) that is physical, aggressive and, quite simply, mean. He held a choke on Davis long after the first bell rang and roughed his opponent up every way possible for two rounds.

Falcao is nicknamed “Big Rig.”

“The nickname comes due to the way I fight, like a big truck without brakes,” Falcao told UFC.com. “It’s better not to stay in front of it. It’s not healthy.”

The problem was the third round, where Falcao sat back and nursed a clear lead. That led the crowd to boo loudly and break out in “Let’s go Red Wings” chants. Falcao won but lost a crowd he should’ve owned. This could’ve been a breakout effort, but instead it will be remembered for its low points.

Phil Davis, the exciting light heavyweight out of Harrisburg, Penn., ran his record to 8-0 with a domination of Maine native Tim Boetsch. Davis beat Boetsch (12-4) up via strikes in the first round and then finished the fight in the second with a creative kimura that he instantly dubbed “The Mr. Wonderful” after Davis’ nickname.

“I kind of make it up as I go,” Davis said. “I think I just invented it. It’s called ‘The Mr. Wonderful.’ In wrestling we call it a chicken wing, but that’s when the person is on their stomach.”

Davis is still young to the sport, but he is quickly rising through in the ranks of the UFC by delivering impressive victory over impressive victory.

Australian George Sotiropoulos (14-2) defeated Joe Lauzon (18-6), of Bridgewater, Mass., in a lightweight fight via kimura submission. Lauzon dominated the first round but the promising Sotiropoulos gained control on the canvas in the second and finished the fight quickly.

The UFC returned to the state of Michigan for the first time since UFC 9 was held in Detroit. This card was held in a northern suburb of the city and played to a near-capacity crowd that included Richard Hamilton and a number of Detroit Pistons players, who normally call the Palace home.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Nov 21, 2010