Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 144 Preview: Ryan Bader vs. Quinton Jackson

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has fought 41 times in professional MMA, going 32-9 thus far. He’s been the UFC light-heavyweight champion, and unified the UFC title with the PRIDE title when he defeated Dan Henderson at UFC 75. He fought for the PRIDE middleweight (93 kg) championship, losing by highlight-reel KO to Wanderlei Silva, and in his most recent fight, he lost a UFC title fight to Jon Jones by fourth-round submission. Jackson has stated publicly that he doesn’t want to fight beyond the age of 35, and has no interest in being like Randy Couture. Jackson is currently 33. A question that could be honestly asked is: what is there left to motivate Quinton Jackson to fight?

The answer: fighting in Japan. Jackson clearly is passionate about competing in the Land of the Rising Sun, going back to when he was a raw wrestler competing in PRIDE. While Jackson has competed in the UFC 11 times, he fought in PRIDE 17 times, taking on tough opponents like Silva twice, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Ricardo Arona, Murilo Bustamante, and even Chuck Liddell. Initially, it appeared Jackson wouldn’t be included on the UFC’s fight card in its return to Japan, but after insisting that he compete, he will now be taking on Ryan Bader.

While I’m sure Jackson is thrilled to get the opportunity to go back to his roots and fight in Japan again, his fighting style is quite different. As I mentioned, Jackson was originally a raw wrestler, featuring a lot of slams, but not much of a ground game or disciplined striking. Over time, Jackson has tightened up his technique, to the point that he now seldom uses his wrestling. Where a young Jackson would have taken his opponent down (and utilized more than a few knees to the head on the ground), an older Jackson has settled into being a classic “wrestleboxer.” Jackson’s wrestling ability and strength are primarily used to keep him standing so he can knock his opponent out.

Usually, that’s a good plan. Jackson has good KO power, and he’s a good enough boxer that he can out-point opponents who don’t have a striking background. However, against precise strikers, Jackson can get in trouble. Fight Metric’s statistics tell the story. In Jackson’s last seven fights, he’s been out-struck five times:

  • Forrest Griffin 77, Quinton Jackson 50
  • Keith Jardine 64, Quinton Jackson 56
  • Rashad Evans 29, Quinton Jackson 17
  • Lyoto Machida 33, Quinton Jackson 16
  • Jon Jones 61, Quinton Jackson 16

There are two things to note here. The first is that Jackson landed his strikes with a good deal more power than all of the above opponents, which was enough to push him over the finish line against Keith Jardine, and arguably should have been enough against Forrest Griffin. The other is that, apart from Jardine, the above list features only excellent opponents. In Evans, Machida, and Jones, Jackson’s 1-2 record represents what he’s done against the very best in the light-heavyweight division.

Meanwhile, Ryan Bader has plenty of KO power himself, but I’m not sure he’s what I would call a “precise striker.” Bader was able to knock out Jason Brilz at UFC 139, and also has KO wins over Jardine and Vinny Magalhaes, but he’s not a particularly prolific striker. According to Fight Metric, Bader lands 2.46 significant strikes per minute, which isn’t horrible, but isn’t great either. If a fight between Jackson and Bader goes to decision, it might be close, but I’d lean on the side of Jackson landing with a little more volume and a little more power.

Where Bader succeeds is when he puts his striking and wrestling together. Against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Bader won a relatively dull fight, but did so by mixing in takedowns with strikes, and keeping Nogueira off-balance throughout. Meanwhile, when Bader fought Jon Jones (which is an unfair example already, but oh well), he failed at both striking and wrestling, and was submitted in the second round. If Bader wants to win this fight, he’ll probably need to mix in some takedowns to go along with his strikes.

SILVA PREDICTION: QUINTON JACKSON (81.93) OVER RYAN BADER (68.62)

Good luck. Jackson’s takedown defense is among the stingiest in the sport, as he successfully defends 80 percent of the attempts made against him. And even if Bader manages to take him down, which will probably not happen more than once, it’s not like Bader is some kind of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wizard. There are a few ways for Bader to win this fight, but no matter which path he chooses, whether it’s winning by KO, winning by striking volume, or winning with wrestling, he’s going to have to be very sharp. Against what is sure to be a motivated “Rampage” fighting in Japan, I don’t think Bader has what it takes to get the job done.

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