It's time for the main event: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Keith Jardine.
If Rampage wins, he is Rashad Evans' challenger for the light heavyweight title at UFC 98 on May 23, to replace the previously-scheduled Lesnar vs. Mir rematch. If Rampage loses, Lyoto Machida gets the title shot.
Round 1: Rampage moves in to clinch and Jardine lands a couple punches before getting pressed against the fence. Nothing much happens there so the referee brings them back to the center of the Octagon. Jardine trying to set up leg kicks with punches. Jardine kicks at the back leg and Rampage misses a right hand. Jardine grabs a single leg but can't finish the takedown. They clinch against the cage again. They're forced to break again. Jardine whiffs on a leg kick. Jardine's circling on the outside and Rampage is stalking him. Jardine throws a body kick and Rampage catches the leg and throws some fists. Rampage connects on an uppercut. Jardine with a teep kick. Jardine with a knee to the ribs. Rampage bodylocks Jardine againt the fence. They break, and Rampage throws a few errant haymakers as the round ends. I'd score it 10-9 Rampage, but it's a pretty even fight.
Round 2: Jardine exchanges fists with Rampage, and Rampage actually throws a nice leg kick of his own. Jardine misses a combo as Rampage steps out of the way. Rampage with a pair of fists. Rampage with a short left. Rampage drops Jardine with a huge left and rains down punches on the ground trying to finish it. Jardine fights his way back to his feet and they circle again. Rampage takes Jardine down, but almost immediately, they're back on their feet. Jardine is dropping his arms to his side, which is dangerous against any opponent, much less Quinton Jackson. Jardine mounts an offensive with a flurry of fists, including a big uppercut, and suddenly Rampage is in trouble. Rampage reasserts himself and they circle again. Jardine with a jab and Rampage answers with a left hook. The round ends, and man, was that fun. 10-9 Rampage again, for being the closest to finishing the fight with that left.
Round 3: They exchange with neither guy landing anything serious. Rampage with a leg kick and Jardine answers with a right cross. Rampage takes Jardine down, but Jardine fights back to his feet pretty quickly. Jardine with a leg kick, and another. Jardine with a solid right hand to the jaw. Rampage with a left hook. Jardine moves forward and Rampage cracks him with another left hook. They exchange short punches. Rampage clinches Jardine against the cage but can't take advantage, so they break. They exchange haymakers and Rampage lands a series of hard shots. Jardine throws a high kick. Seconds before the end of the round, Rampage drops Jardine with a left, and Jardine hangs on to Rampage's leg as the round ends. 10-9 Rampage. I'd score the bout 30-27 for Rampage, but the first round could have gone either way, so 29-28 sounds fair, too.
Winner: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson defeats Keith Jardine via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) after three rounds.
"To be honest, I think I needed these three rounds," Rampage said after the win, referencing the fact that his win over Wanderlei Silva was a quick one.
Rashad Evans got into the cage and went nose-to-nose with Rampage for a little prefight trask talk for May 23. Some highlights of their exchange of pleasantries:
Rampage: "I'll be well-rested for your ass. I'm a knock you clean out ."
Evans: "I'll give you the first punch, m----- f----r."
Rampage: "All I gotta say -- there's gonna be some more black-on-black crime."
I know it's just an expression, but if I were Rampage, I'd probably lay off on promising "more crime" for at least a year or so.
Joking aside, Rampage vs. Evans could be pretty explosive. Evans has the skill base to fend off Rampage's wrestling and the knockout power to give him a strong challenge on the feet, too. Either man could knock out the other, and they're both well aware of this. Plus, Rampage's experience edge is now offset by Rashad Evans having the luxury of entering his training camp with plenty of notes from his buddy Jardine on how to fight -- and how not to fight -- the former champ.