The UFC returns to Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday with an intriguing bout between former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and dangerous contender Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine.
Sherdog.com contacted dozens of professional fighters and trainers for their opinions on the UFC 96 main event. Some were reluctant to give a prediction, but plenty were willing to lay their reputations on the line and try to forecast what will transpire in the Octagon.
Juanito Ibarra: Come on, son! I've always said that Jardine is made for Rampage, and I believe that Rampage will take him out with uppercuts. Either an uppercut or knees.
Zac George: Jardine out-uglies him in the staredown, getting the early lead. But Rampage catches him off a kick for the TKO late [Round] 1/early 2 [stoppage].
Elvis Sinosic: This is a tough match to call. Keith has a very unorthodox counter style. He can catch you off on any given day. He also has some inconsistent matches. He can win or lose to the top guys, and it is hard to predict. Rampage has a more consistent style. He has had some ups and downs but has come back looking focused and committed. Both have shown the ability to go the distance in matches, and this being a three-rounder, I don't think cardio will be an issue. Both guys hit hard, though I think Rampage hits harder. Rampage's form is much tighter. Rampage has shown a weakness against leg kicks, and Keith has shown good skill with them. If Keith stays on the outside and comes in with the right game plan, he can win this. Keith can spoil anyone's plans, as he has proven over and over again. If Rampage allows this to go the distance, I can see Keith winning a decision. My prediction, though, is Rampage by KO/TKO in the second or third round as he pushes forward and forces Keith to make a mistake and catches him for it. P.S. Bring Elvis back to the UFC.
Eddy Millis: Rampage is back! I believe he will KO Jardine the same way he did [Wanderlei] Silva: left hook, Round 1.
Ron Frazier: Rampage by KO in Round 1.
Johny Hendricks: With Rampage, he can always end the fight on the feet, and I think he will end it in the second round. But [with] Keith, you never know where his punches are coming from. I always have to wait for the replay to see what he threw, and that will be very dangerous for Jackson.
John Hackleman: I feel this will be a war between two hard-core junkyard dogs. I think they are going to slug it out. I think there will be some powerful slams and some fence-to-fence punching and kicking. But I feel that Rampage is just a little bit quicker, a little more powerful, a little more explosive, and I feel like he will win a hard-fought decision. If a left hook or powerful right hook finds its mark, it will be a knockout. That's my prediction, and don't misquote me or make me sound stupid. Oh, and "The Pit" is spelled with one T.
Cub Swanson: I like Rampage, but I'm gonna say Jardine by a ton of leg kicks.
Travis Lutter: Great fight, with Rampage, I think, winning. Can't wait to watch it.
Gabe Ruediger: Is there really another PPV? Quinton has shown a greater depth in skill, and his KOs of Wanderlei and Chuck prove his power. I've got to go with Quinton, although Jardine is very tough and skilled.
Nick Thompson: Rampage via hit and run.
Scott Bieri: It may not be pretty, but I'm going with Keith "Techno Viking" Jardine. The Mean One will stay out of 'Page's power while peppering the former champ low and high en route to a decision.
Duke Roufus: Rampage wins this one, [but] not without a tough effort from Keith.
Erik Paulson: I have had Rampage in at my gym in the past month helping Josh Barnett get ready, and all I have to say is that if Quinton is on like he was on with Josh, then I believe that Keith won't have a chance with him. Plus he's super funny.
Cung Le: Rampage by TKO.
Dewey Cooper: Anytime you have a main event fight on a UFC card, you normally think of a competitive fight. I view this fight as a no-brainer. Rampage by KO in the first or second [round]. Jardine has wins over Chuck Liddell and a KO win over Forrest Griffin, but I see a reenactment of Jardine versus Silva. Lights, camera, action: win by KO, Rampage Jackson.
Jess Liaudin: Keith showed that he can hang with a good striker like Chuck and Forrest or even Brandon Vera. He's got an unorthodox style, which makes him hard to predict, and he can surprise you with it. And on top of that, he's got some very mean kicks. Rampage has got more of a conventional striking style but with a lot of power. I won't be surprised if Jardine learned from the Forrest vs. Jackson fight and uses a lot of low kicks to give Rampage a hard time and then follow with punches. I am gonna go with Quinton, though. He is a very good counter striker, and if you go at him with wild shots, he will cover up well and hit you with that big left hook and he usually doesn't need to throw another one if he connects. Regardless of the outcome, it's gonna be a great fight.
Tom Gavrilos: Rampage needs to look out for leg kicks. After watching tape of the fight against Forrest, Jardine may try and exploit his leg kick defense. And that's dangerous because Jardine kicks like a mule! Rampage's boxing has improved leaps and bounds since his Pride FC days, and he was a major factor then. He is a beast now. Rampage stops Jardine in this fight. Better wrestling, superior power and more technical boxing will prevail. This fight has major implications for the title run, so both guys should be bringing their A-game, and I, for one, am very much looking forward to it. Also I would like to clear up for the record that it is not Rampage on the MMA Warehouse logo. And that info is right from the owner's mouth!
Stav Economou: Rampage all the way: KO second round. Quinton is going into this fight with huge momentum after KO'ing Wanderlei. He is just too strong and too technical for Jardine to handle.
Ray Sefo: I would have to agree with Tom [Gavrilos] and Stav [Economou] and also think that Quinton is going to be too strong for Jardine. Remember Quinton is also coming off a big win over Wanderlei Silva; that also makes him even more dangerous. I was out with him about two months ago, and he's in a good place right now and is really wanting to get that title back. I'm pretty sure he's going to be training his ass off. Of course, Quinton is a friend, so I'm rooting for him to win this one and move on to fight for the title again. May the best man win. Good luck to the both of them! God bless!
Erin Toughill: First, Rampage is a friend and I really like him, so I definitely want him to win. With that being said, in my opinion, as long as Rampage's confidence is at 110 percent, he can't be beat. I think Rampage has everything to be the champion. As long as he's mentally, spiritually and physically strong, no one can beat him. Rampage can take a punch and can definitely recover from being hit. Jardine's chin, on the other hand, is suspect. He's been KOed by punches a few times, but also has the ability to KO people with punches and kicks. Keith doesn't do well against aggressive strikers, so advantage for Quinton. Both are dangerous in the pocket, with Quinton more so. Rampage has better boxing, so he needs to use that (along with movement and countering) against Jardine. Jardine doesn't have the same movement, but Rampage had better block Jardine's kicks. I don't see this fight being on the ground much, but both are good with ground-and-pound. At any rate, I think Rampage wins this if he plays it smart, doesn't underestimate Jardine and uses effective/aggressive countering. Rampage wins by KO in second round.
Thomas Denny: I like Jardine a lot. [He's] a cool guy, but I will go with Rampage by a "hit you so hard your mama will feel it" punch.
Brad Pickett: It has to be Rampage for me by KO/TKO, as I just think he is the badder man.
Stephane Vigneault: I think Rampage will KO Jardine, but Jardine surprised with his performances against Chuck and Forrest. You never know what he can do. Jardine's stand-up is very unorthodox, but we saw that work against Chuck and Forrest. But this time I think the power of Rampage will be too much.
Patrick Cote: I'm going with Quinton, but it will be hard, I think. Jardine is so unorthodox and tough with heavy leg kicks, but I can see Jackson knocking him out in the second round.
Robin Black: When Rampage lost to Forrest, it was the leg kicks that really made the difference. Old Dean-Mean has nasty leg kicks, and you know that Greg Jackson will be brewing a game plan that uses them. But if my small brain can predict that, you know Rampage's team of big brains is preparing for that. So, it'll be Rampage's huge knockout fists versus Jardine's scrappy stand-up and awesome beard. I call Rampage winning a very explosive Fight of the Night.
Pros who picked Jackson: 24
Pros who picked Jardine: 3
Mike Sloan contributes to Sherdog.com.