When I heard that UFC President Dana White announced at the Spike TV Video Game Awards that UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Ultimate Fighter Season One Winner Forrest Griffin would be the two head coaches for the seventh season of the Ultimate Fighter reality series, I got giddy with glee. The 205 lb division in the UFC is without a doubt the most stacked in terms of talent. The most popular stars in the UFC with a few notable exceptions are all from the 205 lb division.
I’ve been there.
I’ve been at the bars and seen the people cheer. Who are they cheering for? Forrest Griffin. Forrest Griffin, ever since giving one hell of a performance against Stephan Bonnar in the finals of the Ultimate Fighter, has been so unbelievably popular its surreal. Anytime he’s fighting anybody, the crowd chants his name. They admire his work ethic and never-say-die attitude. His fight with Tito Ortiz may have done more for his career than anything to notarize the man, but his victory against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is what really made a lot of people say “damn… this Griffin guy is for real”.
A lot of people see Rampage as the “guy who beat Chuck” (primarily new fans who didn’t watch PRIDE). To me, Rampage has an incredible charisma. He may in fact be the best interview in the UFC. Rampage is funny. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Rampage had a hell of a career in Japan, scoring notable wins over some of Japan and American’s biggest talents. He came into the UFC in February of 2007 and was immediately flung into a match with Chuck Liddell for the UFC Lightheavyweight Title. Rampage beat Chuck at the 2003 Pride Grand Prix in convincing fashion. I saw this as Dana throwing Chuck a bone (which he does quite a bit) and allowing Chuck to get his win back. Hell, that was part of the draw. This backfired and Rampage knocked Chuck out in the first round and took the title home.
Rampage and Forrest, next to Chuck, may be the two biggest babyfaces (for lack of a better term) in the UFC 205 lb division. So naturally, placing them in a big money fight is an easy decision. So Dana thought it would be a good idea to put them in a house as competing coaches. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion (and I’m not alone in this one), the Ultimate Fighter reality series has really not done much to get ME excited in this show.
Quite simply, I’m not buying it. It’s hard for me to buy that Rampage and Forrest really have any sort of dislike for each other. I know MMA isn’t supposed to be a work, and in the cage it isnt, but I honestly believe that Forrest and Rampage’s attempts to build “heat” aren’t working because there really isn’t any. Both guys are likable, laid back fighters and it’s so easy to picture them going out after the show and having a couple brews. I really don’t think Rampage goes to the gym wanting to kill Forrest. This isn’t Tito/Ken, Hughes/Serra, or Pulver/Penn. Nowhere near that. I mean really, where’s the heat?
Still though, if you look at this fight from a spectator’s point of view, it will probably be a very fun fight with a very hot crowd. Both fighters are primarily stand-up fighters and while I feel that Forrest Griffin was at one time the more well-rounded fighter, but Rampage proved in his fight last September with Henderson that his ground game has improved tenfold. Remember the credentials of Henderson as an amateur wrestler. With that said, one thing people may forget about Forrest is that he’s unbelievably tough. I mean he’s taken some poundings but has also proven that he can’t ALWAYS survive (see Keith Jardine). But Forrest has a lot of heart.
If you’re looking for a prediction, I say Rampage takes it with a KO in Round 2, possibly 1, but 2 is my pick. Forrest is a good striker, but Rampage’s sheer power measures on a scale beyond the average fighter. Forrest may have the edge in speed, but Rampage has much more endurance now than he did during the Pride era. Rampage’s knockout power is beastly. The man hits VERY hard, much harder than Keith Jardene. It’ll take less punches, despite Forrest’s stamina. Still though, if the fight goes to the ground, which it very well may, Forrest has proven he’s no push-over, specially when he choked out Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, a man who completely obliterated Rampage in 2005 and sent him packing. Still though, while I respect Forrest Griffin, I just don’t think he’s on the level of Rampage in 2008. This new Rampage, now training with some of the best people in the world, is a much better fighter than before, and he seldom lost THEN! So if you want my view, Rampage will trample over Griffin, and perhaps move on to fight Chuck a third time, Rua, Wanderlei, or whomever else is thrown in his path next.