On Nov. 2, 2013, at Bellator 106, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will face off against his friend and former training partner, Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz. Both fighters have already peaked and fallen off the ladder, but it’s very clear that one has fallen much further from the top than the other. In other words, this should be a one-sided fight.
Lets take a look at the recent history of each fighter. We’ll start with Ortiz.
Tito has lost his last three fights, two of which were by TKO, and one by a unanimous decision to Forrest Griffin. His ability to absorb punishment has definitely declined over the years, which is normal considering the fact that he’s 38 years-old and has been fighting for over 15 years now. It only took strikes to the body for Nogueira and Evans to finish him. The human body can only absorb so much punishment before it starts to tenderize. His only recent win was against Ryan Bader, which he won by submission – something very rare for Ortiz. Many doubt whether Ortiz would be able to beat Bader again if they were to have a rematch.
Ortiz was and still is a ground-and-pound fighter. He wins his fights by out-wrestling his opponents, getting them to the ground, and barraging them with punches and elbows until he gets a TKO or wins a decision. In his prime, he was one of the most effective fighters in the world at inflicting damage through full guard by using elbows and punches to smash his opponents to oblivion. Being in the full guard of whoever he’s fighting is definitely where wants to be in most of his fights.
Although he has drastically improved his striking over the years, Ortiz isn’t really known to be a stand-up fighter. He uses his striking more to set up his takedowns, and less to try and knock his opponent out or win a decision by outpointing him in a technical stand-up battle. He has good ground game in the sense that he avoids being submitted, but he’s still very one dimensional. Other than staying in full guard and utilizing elbow strikes and punches, Ortiz doesn’t have much else in his arsenal to threaten an opponent on the ground. Lately, fighters have evolved and adapted their training to avoid being taken down so easily and pounded through their full guard, so not to be too harsh on the UFC hall of famer, but his fighting style is a bit outdated. Also, he hasn’t utilized his ground-and-pound very effectively since he fought Ken Shamrock back in 2006.
His most utilized takedown is the double-leg. He usually shoots it from far out and times it based on his opponent’s footwork. During his reign as UFC light-heavyweight champ, he also had a very good body lock (as he demonstrated when he slammed the daylights out of the late Evan Tanner), but he hasn’t shown any clinch game in his most recent fights.
In a nutshell, Ortiz’s greatest strengths as a fighter are his wrestling and his ground-and-pound. His downfall: everything else. Throughout his career, and especially recently, Ortiz hasn’t shown dangerous submission skills, striking skills, stamina, or ability to absorb punishment. He once dominated his weight class because he was overwhelmingly strong, had almost unparalleled conditioning, and was absolutely amazing at the one thing he was able to do: destroy his opponent via ground-and-pound from full guard. Lately, he hasn’t even been able to do that.
So why has Ortiz fallen so far off the ladder? Through no fault of his own, time and injuries. But give Ortiz credit where it’s due: he helped build the UFC and was one of the most dominating champions of all time. But unfortunately, his time has passed. MMA is a rough sport and it’s impossible to avoid injuries. Tito has had countless serious injuries, including his knees, back, neck, face, etc. His resume is full of fights with top-ranked fighters: Chuck Liddell (twice), Forrest Griffin (thrice), Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans (twice), Ken Shamrock (thrice), Frank shamrock, and so on. These battles have all taken a toll on his body. Also, perhaps more important than anything else, as stated earlier: his fighting style is outdated. Nowadays, fighters have evolved to the point where they can effectively neutralize one-dimensional ground-and-pound fighters by utilizing good footwork, sprawls, smart counter-punching, and using the cage to get back to their feet once they’ve been taken down. Takedown defense and working from the guard have become textbook training exercises for most fighters now.
Now, lets take a look at Rampage.
Pride Fighting Championships veteran and former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has also lost his last three fights. However, unlike Ortiz, Rampage’s recent losses seem to be caused more likely by laziness and lack of motivation than to declining physical ability. Also, the toll of many grueling MMA bouts hasn’t taken as significant as a toll on his body as it has on Ortiz.
Despite the fact that he has been in 43 MMA fights and two kickboxing matches, Rampage can still take a punch. He isn’t easy to knock out by any means. He has only suffered three KO/TKO losses his entire career, and they were at the hands (and feet) of Shogun and Wanderlei Silva, two fighters infamously known to be devastating strikers. His last three losses were by decision and submission. For better and for worse, his ability to get punched in the head and stay coherent has remained intact.
Rampage is a stand-up fighter and a wrestler. His stand-up game is mostly boxing. He’s not much of a kicker, but he does throw some good knees from the clinch (his bout against Kevin Randleman being one example). His best punches are his hooks and his uppercuts. His counter hook is a flatliner, just ask Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell. He blocks punches while using good head movement and footwork to shuffle forward and bam, counter hook. His wrestling strengths lay in his slamming ability and his takedown defense. He does a great job of combining a quick sprawl along with powerful underhooks to block his opponent’s double-leg shots. And his ability to slam the crap out of people like no other human being is due to lots of strength in his lower back, knowing where to lift people by, and just great weightlifting technique (watch his fights with Igor Vovchanchyn, Sakuraba, Ricardo Arona, and countless others). Rampage does a good job of avoiding falling victim to submissions but doesn’t utilize submissions very much himself. So, why has he looked so terrible in his most recent fights?
With the exception of his loss to Jon Jones, anyone who has watched his recent losses can tell Rampage was clearly just unmotivated. He didn’t even make weight in his fight against Ryan Bader, and his loss against Teixeira was more lackluster and disappointing than him lacking fighting ability. However, his behavior in between fights has surely contributed to his loss of speed. I’m referring to him gaining fifty pounds in between fights due to lack of diet and discipline. The effects that gaining and losing fifty pounds in between fights has extremely negative effects on your joints, your endurance, and your ability to move quickly. Even so, Ortiz hasn’t exactly looked like Speedy Gonzalez in his recent fights either. The question for Rampage is: which Rampage will show up to fight Tito Ortiz on Nov. 2?
A motivated, fit Rampage who is in shape and ready to crack skulls has every conceivable advantage against Ortiz. Ortiz relies on outwrestling his opponents to great effect, by using his strength and explosiveness. If Rampage shows up fat and out of shape like he did against Bader and Teixeira, he might be too slow to sprawl on Ortiz’s double leg. But if Rampage shows up one-hundred percent and ready to go, it is very unlikely that the 38-year-old Ortiz will have physical advantages of strength and speed over the younger 35-year-old Rampage.
As far as the striking battle is concerned, Ortiz’s boxing skills pose little threat to Jackson, but Jackson is fully capable of knocking Ortiz out in one punch. Ortiz will definitely want to avoid standing and trading with Rampage. Ortiz has been getting knocked out with relative ease lately, as opposed to Rampage, who rarely ever gets knocked out. Ortiz wants to take this fight to the ground as soon as possible and keep it there. But it’s just really hard to imagine Ortiz manhandling the younger, bigger, stronger Rampage to the ground and overwhelming him with ground-and-pound.
To sum things up, the only way Ortiz will win this fight is if Rampage doesn’t take it seriously and shows up out of shape (which he has been doing a lot recently). Ortiz cannot outstrike Rampage and he doesn’t pack enough power to knock him out either. His only chance is to take him down and ground-and-pound him. Going into this fight, Rampage only has one thing to worry about against Ortiz: his double-leg. In contrast, Ortiz has to worry about getting beat in a stand-up battle, and being outwrestled by an opponent who is younger and much stronger than he is. If Rampage comes out aggressive and motivated, it is very unlikely this will be a competitive fight.