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Ben vs. Ben: UFC 96 Edition

(A face only Greg Jackson could love.  Courtesy of Combat Lifestyle’s UFC 96 press conference gallery.)

It’s debatin’ time again.  With one day to go before UFC 96 rocks Columbus, Ohio, we’re talking title shots, Hall of Fame inductees, and more in this edition of Ben vs. Ben.

Given Jardine’s track record for spoiling the UFC’s best-laid plans, what are his chances to upset Rampage Jackson and force a Machida-Evans title fight?

BG: Unless Greg Jackson’s gameplan for Keith Jardine is “change everything about your standup game,” the Dean of Mean is in deep shit. Sure, Jardine has been a notable spoiler for Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, but he’s just as well-known for being eaten alive by the heavy-handed onslaughts of Houston Alexander and Wanderlei Silva, thanks in large part to his often-shaky striking defense. Jardine may be able to outmaneuver a measured counter-puncher, but if Jackson comes out slugging, he’s done for.

Not to say that Rampage is going to be a wild man from the opening bell. Against Wanderlei Silva in December, he took the first half of the first round at a slow pace, settling in and finding his range. (And then he found it, and boom went the dynamite.) But there’s a difference between the patient knockout artist that Jackson was at UFC 94, and the tentative, off-peak, troubled Rampage we saw against Forrest Griffin at UFC 86. Jardine could have probably won a decision over that Rampage via leg kicks. Unfortunately, a 100% healthy and focused Quinton Jackson would likely outbox Jardine into unconsciousness, sometime after the first round. QJ wins this one four out of five times. Machida’s title shot will come at the end of this year, at the earliest.

BF: First of all, QJ?  Man walks around with a perfectly good nickname like “Rampage” and here you are calling him QJ?  There’s just no excuse for that.

Second, you’re probably right.  Jardine’s known for being a spoiler, but he’s also known for wilting under heavy pressure.  On a technical level, I don’t think there’s that much difference between Jardine and Rampage in the striking game.  The real difference is that Rampage hits much, much harder.  He only needs one opening, and sooner or later Jardine is going to give it to him, good game plan or not.  Rampage gets the title shot while Machida sits.  If Evans and Greg Jackson are smart, they’ll use the Rampage/Jardine fight as a scouting opportunity.

Aside from the top two bouts on the card, what’s worth getting excited about at UFC 96?  Anything?

BF: Hell yes there is, you just have to look a little bit.  For instance, Gray Maynard vs. Jim Miller is a fight I am genuinely looking forward to, but have a hard time predicting a winner for.  Maynard’s ability to take people down and hold them there for three rounds is established, though not a lot of fun to watch.  But Miller has the kind of submissions ability and all-around game to really force him to do something else, if he’s capable of it.

I also think Pete Sell vs. Matt Brown could turn out to be a brutal affair in the very best sense.  Neither guy is at or near the top of the division, but they’re both tough bastards who like to mix it up.  Brown looked much improved in his last fight, and Sell will have Matt Serra screaming obnoxiously in his corner.  What’s not to like there?

BG: I’ll definitely be watching the Maynard/Miller bout with great interest, hoping that Miller will be able to stop the Bully’s string of miserable lay-and-pray decision victories. Lately I’ve become a passionate hater of the Guida/Maynard school of winning fights without coming anywhere near finishing them — it’s like they’re waiting for a referee to slide in and slap the mat three times. So yes, I’ll be having a good time rooting against Gray Maynard, that fucker.

I’ll also be crossing my fingers that there’s time in the broadcast to show the Kendall Grove/Jason Day scrap from the undercard (could be a slugfest), as well as the Brandon Vera/Michael Patt pink-slip match. On paper, Vera should have no problem taking out Patt, or at the very least squeezing out a sad decision. But if he does lose — always a possibility with the Truth — it would be his fourth loss in five fights, and the conclusion of the most dramatic flame-out of a formerly hot prospect in recent memory. So yes, that fight is interesting to me. Not in a “talented fighter vs. talented fighter, with title implications” sort of way, but we have to take our excitement where we can get it with this card.

Last time the UFC went to Columbus, Mark Coleman was inducted into the Hall of Fame. If the UFC were to add another legendary fighter to the HoF, who would be the best choice?

BG: Out of sentiment, the first guy that comes to mind is the late Evan Tanner. Though he wasn’t able to successfully defend his title, Tanner became the UFC’s middleweight champion at UFC 51 after defeating David Terrell, and his 17 Octagon appearances put him only behind Tito Ortiz (21), Chuck Liddell (21), Matt Hughes (20), Randy Couture (19), and Tank Abbott (18). More importantly, Evan was an incredible human being, revered by fans and fellow fighters for his kindness and generous spirit.

But in terms of dominance inside the Octagon and legacy outside of it, the logical choice for the next Hall of Fame inductee has to be Pat Miletich. “The Croatian Sensation” was the UFC’s first-ever welterweight champion, his reign spanning two-and-a-half years and four title defenses. Of course, he’s even more well-known as a coach. His Miletich Fighting Systems camp in Bettendorf, Iowa, has produced an army of champions and top contenders, including Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, Tim Sylvia, and Robbie Lawler. Miletich last competed (and won) in December ‘08, but as soon as he officially retires from MMA, the plaque needs to be waiting for him.

BF: I know this is going to make me sound like a heartless jerk, but I don’t see inducting a guy into the Hall of Fame just because he died.  Yes, it was tragic and Tanner was a fan favorite and a unique individual, but if he hadn’t died on that camping trip, if he had come home safely there’s no way we’d be talking about him as a potential Hall of Fame inductee right now.  Dying young doesn’t make your career more important.

But Miletich, there I agree with you.  His career was a distinguished one, he did more to help the advance of the sport than any other single person, and he’s still one of the best ambassadors we have.  

The thing that bothers me about the UFC Hall of Fame is that it’s so tied up with how the organization feels about a guy.  I’d like to see some general pioneers of the sport inducted into it, guys like Bas Rutten, who only fought twice in the UFC but was still incredibly important to the early days of MMA.  But since the UFC feels no special kinship toward him and can’t figure out a way to make money off him, it probably won’t happen.  That’s a shame, I think.  But that’s life.

Is the winner of Gonzaga-Carwin immediately in line for a shot at the heavyweight title once the UFC finally figures out who their real champ is?  Who will that winner be, by the way?

BF: Absolutely the winner of this fight deserves a title shot.  Not necessarily because this is the kind of epic number one contender match that my dream fight between middleweights Nate Marquardt and Demian Maia would be, but more because there’s really no one else more deserving in the heavyweight division.

Think about it: aside from these two you’ve got Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who both just lost and will now take their time getting back into action, thanks largely to Couture’s bullshit acting career.  You’ve also got Cheick Kongo, who needs to beat someone with a legitimate UFC record first, and Cain Velasquez, who still only has a handful of fights and won’t get his next shot until this summer.  The Carwin/Gonzaga winner is more deserving than any of those guys right now.

As for who that winner will be, I can’t go against Carwin.  Dude’s a monster.  He’s bigger and stronger, and has the wrestling chops to exploit Gonzaga’s weaknesses in that area.  I think he’ll be forced to go more than one round for a change, but Carwin will grind out a late TKO in the end.

BG: I agree that Shane Carwin will use his superior takedowns and ground-and-pound to end this fight. We may not know for sure what happens when Carwin is faced with a good opponent, but we do already know what happens to Gonzaga — he gets his ass kicked. (Cro Cop doesn’t count. His head wasn’t in the game. Moving on now.)

Still, you can’t say “screw it, give Carwin a shot” just because nobody else is ready. I think matchmaking based on that attitude diminishes the importance of the UFC’s heavyweight title, which should kind of be a big deal. If Carwin gets by Gonzaga, he’ll be 1-0 against opponents who aren’t complete cans. Sure, that was enough to earn Brock Lesnar a title shot, but that at least made sense from a business perspective. Carwin should have to beat another non-can like Kongo, or someone high-profile like the loser of Couture/Nogueira. The best-case scenario would probably be an elimination match against Cain Velasquez, because at least then the UFC could market the winner as the best up-and-coming heavyweight in the world. If that means the heavyweight belt is tied up until a true #1 contender emerges, so be it. As much as I love Shane Carwin, there’s really no reason to throw him into a title fight until he’s fully developed and put over with the fans.

Cagepotato Comments

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bundy- March 6, 2009 at 11:05 pm
I just want to add a comment on Jardine Jackson. Sure Forrest out-pointed Rampage with leg kicks, he still ate some big shots in the process. I don't think Jardine can handle those. Also, this idea that Rampage can be beaten by leg kicks has gotten a little out of control. Forrest hurt Rampage's leg with a couple well placed kicks to the side of his knee. Rampage can take kicks to his thigh, he is a tough guy. Keith did not seem to be able to hurt Chuck's legs so I don't think he will hurt Rampage. I think Jardine's only chance is to go for takedowns, and hope he can hold Rampage down . I think Rampage came out slow against Silva because he was nervous, and did not want to get caught with a big shot. I would not be surprised if Rampage was very aggressive in this fight.
Tom- March 6, 2009 at 11:01 pm
its the UFC hall of fame not MMA hall of fame, therfor bas rutten should not be inducted
Diggler- March 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm
Rampage wins via "HIT AND RUN"

SDGRANT- March 6, 2009 at 8:02 pm
I just won $500 on a scratcher lotto ticket and I quickly placed 250 on jardine. I love that guy as a fighter and I hope he puts Quinton "The Devil's In My Head" Jackson down like a crippled dog.
Clyde- March 6, 2009 at 5:37 pm
I do like the idea of this being a scouting opportunity for Greg Jackson's camp when you clearly think he's going to get KO'ed pretty quick:

"Rashad, I've got it... don't let him punch you in the face and knock you unconscious"

"Wow, Greg. Once again you've shown what a master of strategey you are."

I'm sure Jardine could pull out a win, but I'm rooting for Rampage.

Finally, Evan tanner shouldn't be in the hall of fame. I like the guy and I really wanted him beat Kendal Grove but the point of a hall of fame is to honour the greatest contributors to a sport. I'd also prefer that it wasn't a UFC hall of fame, but one for MMA. Alas, UFC is the recognised brand and as it stands, they get to call the shots.
Stevia Addict- March 6, 2009 at 5:11 pm
So Matt Serra is in your Hall of Fame too Big Chris?
Stevia Addict- March 6, 2009 at 5:09 pm
Sorry I didn't see Jonny5's response before I posted. I defer to the better example.
Jonny5- March 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Fri, 03/06/2009 - 10:51
Evan Tanner was the champion..he deserves to be in the Hall of fame, not just because he died young....

Ok by that reasoning Steve Jennum for UFC hall of fame!!!!
GeorgeWashington- March 6, 2009 at 12:52 pm
I agree with Goog, fuck Rampage and his energy drink fueled...rampages
DecipleofMagus- March 6, 2009 at 12:33 pm
I love Kongo, I love what Lesnar did to Herring haha
Wildcard- March 6, 2009 at 12:30 pm
Dude first of all respect to Evan Taner but lets face it he is dead...he didnt do shit as a champion, he was only the champ once. He couldn't defend it, he didnt do shit in the MW division to be remembered, didnt do shit at 205 it was a joke, then he became an alcoholic who lost all his fights in his last appereances.

So in a realistic aspect we all like to give dead people a break, you think Evan Tanner's ghost will come back and say "Hey Youtube guy make more awesome HL videos of me while playing Creed- My Sacrifice in the back" No he doesnt give a shit, the UFC doesnt give a shit, and neither should we, fuck give Anderson or Franklin the HOF before Tanner, but at the end is only my opinion.
armfarmer- March 6, 2009 at 12:26 pm
haha ok. I guess I'll agree he is one dimensioal in how he fights but not in terms of skill. I think he would benefit a lot from changing things up maybe going for a takedown here and there. He's too predictable and people have him figured out now, so in that sense he is one dimensional. I think we can stop beating this dead horse now.

And I still think Kongo and Herring both suck.
DecipleofMagus- March 6, 2009 at 12:20 pm
OK fine, liddel is 2 dimensional, he is good striker, and good at keeping himself off the ground. but that's it! I still dont like him.
armfarmer- March 6, 2009 at 12:17 pm
and Rampage I guess but I think he was pretty much done already by the time it hit the ground. In their first fight I mean.
armfarmer- March 6, 2009 at 12:14 pm
Yeah well he can't sprawl as good as Liddel and if he could I wouldn't call him one dimensional. I just don't think you can call a division 1 wrestler that KTFO almost every opponent with standing strikes one dimensional. Maybe 2 dimensional or incomplete, but I don't think that's necessarily true either. I would bet that he actually has very good jitz.

Besides it's not like he's never been taken down in his career. Lots of guys have gotten him down but keeping him down and dominating from the top is another story. I think Randy is the only person who's ever pulled that off.
armfarmer- March 6, 2009 at 12:12 pm
I completely get what you're saying but I have to disagree. When you fight guys like Babalu, Tito, Jeremy Horn, Cotoure, Randleman, Monson ect. and you aren't getting gnp'd or submitted left and right then you are not one dimensional IMO. It's just his style and the way he chooses to fight. He has the skills he just chooses not to use them. He's not defensless on the ground, he just prefers to get back up asap (and he's very good at it) rather than play around in gaurd.
armfarmer- March 6, 2009 at 12:09 pm
In 27 fights Liddel has lost 2 by being outgrappled, 1 of which was 10 years ago and the other he avenged 2 times by KO. He's also fought a whos who of top notch grapplers in his career. I think that means he's far from one dimensional.

Unless you are claiming that Lidell is a one dimensional grappler.. but I doubt it.
DecipleofMagus- March 6, 2009 at 12:07 pm
Liddel is a one dimentional striker with an excellent sprawl, thats all. Im not saying he is bad at his game and he is great at catching people running backwards and from the hip but he is not more than a crafty striker.
DecipleofMagus- March 6, 2009 at 12:07 pm
my claim is that his amazing sprawl keeps him from going to the ground and all he has is strikes. If Kongo could learn to sprawl like liddel he would be just as great
armfarmer- March 6, 2009 at 12:03 pm
Because Lidell is not one dimensional, despite the fact that he makes himself look that way.
Mr. Mister- March 6, 2009 at 12:03 pm
That beard is one of the top 10 beards of all time. Well said DecipleofMagus
armfarmer- March 6, 2009 at 12:02 pm
"Yeah but they should put Tanners beard in the HOF"

Of course... noones arguing with you there.
DecipleofMagus- March 6, 2009 at 12:02 pm
If Kongo is not a contender just because he is 1 dimensional, then how the hell did Liddel own for so long?
DecipleofMagus- March 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm
Yeah but they should put Tanners beard in the HOF
Terrakilla- March 6, 2009 at 11:58 am
I love how everyone underestimates Jardine and tries to use the 4 out of 5 excuse so it can be said that Rampage would win the next four hahahaha! Jardine is a spoiler and a great LHW. This will be one of the hardest fights to watch since I am such a big fan of Jardine and Rampage. Machida will get the belt and keep it for a long long time.

After looking at some comments I am glad that I did not read on about the Tanner part. You suck.