Matchups to make in wake of Rampage-Tito announcement

In a mixed martial arts landscape dominated by the UFC, Bellator has made inroads with an alternate approach — mixing just a couple of UFC alumni with some younger or lesser-known fighters in tournaments broadcast for free, now on former UFC channel Spike.

So it’s a little strange to see their big announcement yesterday of a pay-per-view event featuring two fighters waaaay past their primes.

Tito Ortiz was a star of the early UFC. Great. Now let’s check out his last 10 years:

– Convincing losses against the other two light heavyweight stars of the 2000s, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell.

– A five-fight win streak that included two split decisions and two wins against the aging Ken Shamrock.

– Since then, he’s 1-7-1.

Then we have Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, whom you might remember from the time he “motorboated” a female interviewer. He had a good run when he moved into the UFC in 2007, beating Liddell and Dan Henderson before giving up the light heavyweight belt to Forrest Griffin. Then he knocked out Wanderlei Silva in 2008 to avenge a couple of spectacular losses in Japan.

Since then, Jackson offered little in his grudge match with Rashad Evans, got a dubious decision against Lyoto Machida, beat the faded Matt Hamill, and lost his last three.

So in honor of this matchup, let’s consider a few other pay-per-view possibilities:

– Men’s basketball: Duke-UConn 1999. The rematch. (Hey, at least 3-4 of those players are still in the NBA.)

– Golf: Lee Trevino vs. Jack Nicklaus in a long-driving contest.

– Boxing: Evander Holyfield vs. anybody.

– Tennis: Anna Kournikova vs. Jennifer Capriati.

– Men’s basketball: Duke-Kentucky 1992. The rematch.

– Cycling: Lance Armstrong vs. the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Now here’s the sad part: I bet Rampage vs. Tito actually does pretty well.

Sure, some of the others might draw some attention for the novelty factor. But people won’t turn away from the actual NCAA Tournament to sit in rapt attention as retired basketball players get back on the court. A thrilling finish at The Masters will still outdraw a fun afternoon with Trevino and Nicklaus, who would be more likely to entertain the crowd with a few stories and jokes — something Rampage and Tito won’t really have time to do.

But MMA fans, especially the “casual” crowd, may still react more to the old favorites than the younger, more advanced fighters who have come up behind them. The UFC’s numbers aren’t what they used to be.

The UFC has four pay-per-view events scheduled this fall. The main events:

– UFC 165: Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafson.

– UFC 166: Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez vs. former champion Junior dos Santos, the third match of a trilogy.

– UFC 167: Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks. (Yes, “Johny.” The other n is hidden in his beard.)

– UFC 168: New middleweight champion Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva, a rematch of Weidman’s stunning upset July 6.

St. Pierre and Silva are two of the best fighters ever, and Jones is in that conversation as well. Velasquez and dos Santos smashed aside the old guard in the heavyweight division. The UFC cards also will be far deeper than what Bellator has to offer — interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao, fast-rising heavyweight Daniel Cormier and former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt are among the undercard fighters already announced.

So the UFC cards should do far better than what Bellator is offering. Will they? We’ll see.

What’s on: UFC 114, Culture Clash at Mandalay

UFC 114
Prelims: 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Spike
Main card: 10 p.m. ET Saturday, pay-per-view
Venue: Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Rankings from USA TODAY/SB Nation; odds from

Main event, light heavyweights: Rashad Evans (#3) vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (#4)

It’s the first time a UFC main event has featured two African-Americans, it’s a showdown of former champions, it’s a long-delayed matchup of two coaches from The Ultimate Fighter, and it’s a title eliminator, with the winner getting a shot at champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

But it’s really all about the talking.

Continue reading What’s on: UFC 114, Culture Clash at Mandalay

Judging the Rashad-Rampage UFC conference call

Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson spent most of a season of The Ultimate Fighter jawing at each other. Odds were pretty good they’d do the same thing in Tuesday’s conference call to promote next Saturday’s UFC 114 fight card. The UFC is depending on them as the draw, as the co-main event of Antonio Rogerio “Little Nog” Nogueira vs. Forrest Griffin fell apart with a Griffin injury, and substitute Jason Brilz doesn’t quote carry the same star power.

So let’s judge this conference call as if it were a fight. A 10-point must system is in effect. The most thorough instant recap is at, which I’m using as a sort of instant replay on what I heard. Also, the full audio is at

(Interesting start: UFC President Dana White, not the PR staff, is hosting.)


Rampage: Rashad shouldn’t run his mouth because he’s not at the same level. This fight is like a step backward.

Rashad responds on the next question (I think it was actually mine, but whatever I asked was forgotten in the answer): “M–f–, who is he to fight me!” Rashad beat Forrest Griffin, who beat Rampage. That brings Rampage back in for some back-and-forth that’s hard to follow, though we hear Rampage saying he didn’t train for the Forrest fight. Oh, and he didn’t lose.

Then Rashad lays the hammer down: “Stop acting like just because you’re black, you’re stupid. I can’t stand that attitude.”

We segue into some argument about who has a belt and who doesn’t. Neither fighter currently has a title, but Rampage claims to have three belts.

Rashad says he sent Rampage a package. Rampage says he didn’t get it and says he’s a “grown-ass man” while Rashad is playing “little-boy games.” Then he answers Rashad on the “big words” argument, saying Rashad has no sense of humor. That doesn’t really work after accusing your opponent of “little-boy games.”

RASHAD, 10-9


They start with some inconclusive sparring over who turned down which fight. This matchup was put on hold for several months for Rampage’s A-Team filming. Rampage claims Rashad backed out of a fight to improve his odds of keeping the light heavyweight belt a little longer. Rashad answers that he turned down a fight because it was on a quick turnaround while he had a newborn baby.

That gives Rashad the edge, but he quickly devolves into some unnecessary sexual stuff. That’s a one-point deduction.

Rampage has landed a couple of zingers during this round. He responds with sexual stuff as well, so he also loses a point. This one’s hard to score.



Rashad teases Rampage about using smaller guys in training and then acting like he accomplished something when he wins in sparring. Rampage claims Rashad has a glass jaw, a tough accusation against someone with one career loss.

Asked to trace their dislike of each other, they go to back Evans’ days on the Gladiator Challenge circuit. Rashad says he admired Rampage then and was crushed when he lost to Wanderlei Silva, who devastated Rampage twice in Japan before Rampage took revenge in the UFC. Rampage said he thought Rashad was OK until he celebrated a win over a friend of Rampage’s.

Not much of substance here.

DRAW, 10-10.

Final tally: DRAW, 28-28.