Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson didn’t get any easy road to his 30th pro win, but after a hard-fought three round unanimous decision win over Keith Jardine in the UFC 96 main event at the Nationwide Arena Saturday night, he not only got the victory, he cleared the way for a shot at the new champ, Rashad Evans.
By Thomas Gerbasi
COLUMBUS, OH, March 7 – Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson didn’t get any easy road to his 30th pro win, but after a hard-fought three round unanimous decision win over Keith Jardine in the UFC 96 main event at the Nationwide Arena Saturday night, he not only got the victory, he cleared the way for a shot at the new champ, Rashad Evans.
“I needed these three rounds,” said Jackson, now 30-7. “There was a lot of pressure on me to fight Keith Jardine. I didn’t think the pressure would get to me. But he’s a tough guy. I didn’t expect him to be that tough.”
Scores were 29-28 twice and 30-27 for Jackson.
The fighters immediately locked up and traded knees, with Jackson able to push Jardine against the fence. After a deadlock, the two were broken up by referee Yves Lavigne, and Jardine (14-6-1) was able to get some solid shots off on Jackson as he moved laterally around the Octagon. 1:45 in, the two locked up again, with Jardine looking for a takedown as he pushed Jackson to the fence. After separating, Jackson patiently stalked but was unable to land with his short range hooks. As the bout approached the four minute mark, Jackson was starting to find his range as he caught the unorthodox Jardine on a couple of occasions, but the bell sounded before either fighter could do any significant damage.
Jardine led off the action in the second round, but his wild shots weren’t landing with any consistency. Jackson continued to stalk quietly, looking for his chance to counter, and with 3:05 left, his opportunity came as he dropped Jardine with a hard left hook. “Rampage” immediately pounced, looking to finish his foe off, but Jardine made it to his feet and survived the onslaught. Less than a minute later, Jackson scored again, this time with a takedown, but he was unable to keep Jardine grounded. With less than two minutes left, the fight was halted briefly after Jardine landed a low kick, but after the action resumed, both fighters went toe-to-toe in a heated exchange that got the crowd roaring, and it was Jackson who finished strong with another barrage before the bell.
Jackson and Jardine met in the center of the Octagon for the final round and immediately started throwing strikes at each other. After the initial burst of action, the two circled, looking to potshot each other. The crowd alternated chants for each fighter, and with 3:45 remaining, Jackson took Jardine to the mat. “The Dean of Mean” rose quickly, and after they tangled up along the fence, the standup battle resumed. As the round went into it’s final 2:30, Jardine became the busier of the two, but Jackson still got his shots in, and in the final minute he started tagging the tiring Jardine with power shots. After some dicey moments, Jardine got back into the fray, but a final knockdown scored by Jackson’s left hook may have sealed the deal for the Memphis native.
As far as his date with the champ, Jackson said simply, but loudly:
“I want my belt back.”