UFC 123 will mark the UFC's first return to Detroit since the odd UFC 9 event which featured no closed fist strikes. At that time, just about everything else was legal, including having a 400 pound sumo wrestler fight a 185 pounder. Footnote- Mark Hall crushed Koji Kitao in 40 seconds after breaking his nose.
This event will feature a bigtime fight between enigmatic Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida (16-1) and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (30-8). Rampage has promised that he is rejuvinated, hoping to channel his Pride Fighting days when he fought more for the love of the game than the money. Word out of the Machida camp points to Lyoto being extremely focused since his first loss suffered at the hands of Shogun Rua.
Rampage brought raw power and energy to the fight game when he burst on the scene in Pride, slamming and crushing just about everyone in sight. When he came to the UFC, he quickly met Chuck Liddell, knocking out the Iceman and claiming the title. He then became grounded, losing the title in a sluggish performance against Forrest Griffin and an apprehensive performance against Rashad Evans.
(Rampage KO's Liddell in Pride)
Lyoto's rise to stardom came first in the Japanese fighting circuit when he used a head kick and punches to TKO Rich Franklin, choked out K-1 star Michael McDonald and scored a decision win over BJ Penn. He soon came to the UFC, where he notched several decision victories, rarely getting hit. In 2009, Machida came into his own, KO'ing Thiago Silva, then Rashad Evans to capture the title.
Look for Machida to use his Shotokan Karate style to keep his distance on Rampage. Rampage will stalk Machida, trying to unload his power punches. Rampage will have to try to cut off angles and get a takedown or two to win the fight. The question is, will he eat too many Machida counter strikes before he can do that.
Penn v. Hughes 3 is the co-main event, and should be as exciting as the previous two bouts the men have split. In the first match-up, Penn (15-7)was able to control Hughes (45-7) and use a rear naked choke to win the fight and the belt in the first round. In the second, Hughes seemed to over-power and out-cardio Penn, using a crucifix and punches in the third round to secure a TKO win.
I expect Matt Hughes to utilize the takedown early and often to try to get the fight to the mat and unleash ground and pound. Hughes will again have the power and wrestling advantage in this fight. Penn will try to keep the fight standing, using his superior striking and keeping the distance. Penn does not want to get in the clinch in this fight. While Penn has the BJJ advantage, I don't think he will be using it other than to get up off his back.
TUF 5 vet Joe Lauzon fights TUF 6 vet George Sotiropoulos (13-2) in a lightweight scrap for a step closer to a number 1 contender match. Sotiropoulous has been on a tear as of late, using his reach during his stand-up and using excellent control on the ground. George with a perfect 6-0 UFC record has wins over Kurt Pelligrino, Joe Stevenson, Jason Dent and George Roop in his last four fights.
Joe Lauzon (19-5) is a gritty fighter with a solid overall game. When Lauzon is aggressive is when he looks his best. In his last performance, Lauzon absolutely steamrolled Gabe Rudieger. Joe has other UFC wins against Jens Pulver, Jeremy Stephens and Kyle Bradley.
Quinton Jackson v Lyoto Machida
Matt Hughes v B.J. Penn
Joe Lauzon v George Sotiropoulos
Tim Boetsch v Phil Davis
Maiquel Falcao v Gerald Harris
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