Duane Burleson / AP
Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010 | 1:12 a.m.
DETROIT — Unlike the last time Lyoto Machida was involved in a decision, there will be no immediate rematch this time.
Despite a split decision result and an offer to do it again from Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson himself, the UFC 123 main event fighters will move on to other opponents and not face one another again immediately.
UFC president Dana White made as much clear at the post-fight press conference.
“No,” answered White, when asked if a rematch was in store for Jackson and Machida. “As far as I’m concerned, and as far as the judges are concerned, Rampage won the fight.”
White seemed visibly irked that Jackson would even offer Machida a rematch, adding that Jackson had “100 percent” won the first two rounds of the fight.
When it was brought to White’s attention that although Jackson may have won the majority of rounds, he took much more damage in the third than he inflicted in the first two, White shot it down.
“That’s not the fight I saw,” White said. “(Machida) put on that burst where landed five or six punches but there was no knockdown. You don’t win a fight by landing five or six punches.
“It’s a three round fight. You win two of the rounds, then you’re the winner.”
For his part, Jackson later said he was wrong in offering Machida a rematch and said he did so only because his head was still ringing from the final round.
After utilizing a very conservative game plan during the first two rounds, Machida pressed the pace in the third and nearly finished the fight as a result.
He stunned Jackson with a flurry up against the cage with half the round left and nearly locked in an armbar attempt after taking Jackson down following the exchange.
It was that series of misfortunes, said Jackson, that skewed his memory of the fight.
“I had just got done getting punched in the face,” Jackson said. “My trainers and everybody told me I won the fight. It was one of those things where I thought I had got my ass whooped because I was just on the ground taking a flurry in the face.”
Although Jackson acted as if he had stole a victory when the scores were announced, the fact is that the 32-year-old former champion fought what White referred to as a “brilliant” fight.
Stylistically, it looked like a bad matchup for Jackson on paper. An upright fighter who likes to come forward with tight, power punches is potentially an easy target for an elusive counter fighter like Machida.
However a few small changes to Jackson’s game did a world of good for him during the fight.
And because it came down to such a close decision, his aggressive nature likely helped him take the early rounds when Machida was playing it safe.
“Rampage fought a brilliant fight tonight,” White said. “I loved the way that every time Machida would throw a leg kick — here’s the thing, if Rampage fights the way he usually does and Machida keeps throwing those leg kicks, Rampage wouldn’t have been able to walk after the second round.
“But every time Machida would throw that leg kick, Rampage would come forward and fire. When they would clinch, Rampage would do damage the entire time. I thought he fought a brilliant fight and the type of fight he had to against Machida.”
Jackson later said he actually wasn’t even as aggressive as he had wanted to be, but admitted he was pretty happy overall with the performance.
It was the first in a long time he said he consciously tried to motivate himself in the same way he used to while fighting for the Japan-based PRIDE organization earlier in his career.
On a recent trip to Japan, Jackson says an old fan reminded him of how he used to fight back then — an experience that hit him hard.
“One of the people interviewing me remembered me from my PRIDE days and he gave me the most heartwarming interview I almost broke into tears,” Jackson said. “He said back in PRIDE, I had a different style and asked me why I don’t fight that way anymore.
“I told him I guess it’s that energy from the crowd. Back then, I fought for honor and respect then I came here and I was making way more money than I ever had and I got greedy. I was fighting for the dollars. I wanted to come out and get that old spirit back.”
Jackson appeared to succeed in finding his old stride. He walked out to his old entrance song from his PRIDE days and slammed Machida to the mat during the third round in a vintage, Jackson move he made famous while in Japan.
The win places Jackson in a spot for a potential rematch against either Mauricio “Shogun” Rua or Rashad Evans.
Those two are expected to fight for the light heavyweight title in the first quarter of 2011 and both hold previous wins over Jackson.
Whether or not Jackson is able to harness his old PRIDE spirit again remains to be seen, however one thing is for sure.
He won’t be doing it against Machida again in the near future.
“(Rampage) is in the mix,” White said. “The two guys fighting tonight are at the top of the 205-pound division and Rampage came out on top tonight.”