Silva-Rampage III: Bad Blood Breakdown - Part I

Michael DiSanto, UFC - Make no mistake about it, there is no love lost between former champions Wanderlei ‘The Axe Murderer’ Silva and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson.

It all started a little over five years ago in Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championships. Silva was the promotion’s longtime 205-lb champion, if not its top overall talent. Rampage was the brash No. 1 contender and, in the minds of many fans, the only man who posed any real threat of dethroning Silva.
By Michael DiSanto

Make no mistake about it, there is no love lost between former champions Wanderlei ‘The Axe Murderer’ Silva and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson.

It all started a little over five years ago in Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championships. Silva was the promotion’s longtime 205-lb champion, if not its top overall talent. Rampage was the brash No. 1 contender and, in the minds of many fans, the only man who posed any real threat of dethroning Silva.

As the highly anticipated PRIDE 205-lb Grand Prix approached, Rampage did his best to get under the skin of the champion with his entertaining, yet extremely venomous, trash talking, firing very personal insults at the champion during every interview. Silva wasn’t accustomed to being the target of such verbal attacks. After all, Silva hadn’t lost in more than three years and was widely considered sport’s most feared striker, if not the game’s top overall fighter, pound for pound.

The promotion appropriately placed champion and No. 1 challenger on opposite ends of the tournament bracket, with each combatant needing to win two fights in order secure the mouth-watering matchup. The tournament began on August 10, 2003, at PRIDE Total Elimination 2003. Rampage took care of business first, squeezing out a dangerously close split-decision win over a tough Murilo Bustamante in the third bout of the evening. Silva followed suit by savagely disposing of Kazushi Sakuraba via first-round knockout in the main event.

As expected, Rampage continued firing verbal jabs at the champion as PRIDE Final Conflict 2003 approached three months later. Rampage was the first to compete, and he once again took care of business, this time scoring a dominant second-round technical knockout win over UFC superstar Chuck Liddell. The champion competed in the very next bout of the night, scoring a solid unanimous decision win over a very dangerous Hidehiko Yoshida.

After an hour or so to rest up, the grudge match between Silva and Rampage was finally underway.

The pair approached each other cautiously at the opening bell, circling as they felt each other out with solitary strikes. After a few moments, Rampage scored a big takedown and began his trademark ground-and-pound attack. Silva defended well, but there was no doubt that Rampage was winning the bout half way through the round. Then, the referee inexplicably called for the fighters to restart the action on the feet due to inactivity.

That single decision forever altered the outcome of the fight, as Silva attacked aggressively with punches, prompting Rampage to cover up in a defensive mode. Silva quickly seized the opportunity to secure the Thai clinch and begin firing knee strike after knee strike to the face of the challenger. Rampage smiled as he momentarily broke free, but it was clear that he was both exhausted and badly hurt. Undeterred, Silva attacked with more strikes, prompting the referee wave off the action at 6:28 of the opening round.
But that was far from the end of the story.

Rampage did not take the loss graciously. Instead, he blamed the result on two factors: (1) what he deemed to be a bogus standup by the referee and (2) the champion having an easier road to the finals. Neither claim was valid.

After working some good ground and pound off of a failed arm bar attempt, Rampage became very passive inside Silva’s closed guard, spending almost a full minute laying on his foe with his head pressed into Silva’s upper chest, which is a defense-first position, unlike when one postures up to really wreak havoc with punches. Also, it is hard to argue that Rampage suffered much during his two-round destruction of Liddell, so it is difficult to believe that he was suffered significantly more depletion of his gas tank than Silva, who fought the full distance against Yoshida.

Nonetheless, that was Rampage’s story, and the affable American wasn’t deviating from it, demanding a rematch against Silva at the first available opportunity and resuming his verbal attacks.

Silva’s response was a simple one. In an interview with this writer, the Brazilian stated emphatically, “I don’t like Jackson; I will fight him again any time for pleasure.”

One year later, both men got their wish, as Silva defended his 205-lb title against Rampage at PRIDE High Octane. Rampage was fresh off back-to-back knockout wins over notable challengers when he stepped into the PRIDE ring on October 31, 2004. But he was facing a man who hadn’t lost in his last 17 bouts, a stretch that was approaching four years.

Rampage promised that this bout would end differently. Silva disagreed.

The first round was a competitive affair that saw both men score big punches and knees. Nevertheless, Rampage’s takedowns and beautiful counter right hand that dropped the champion just before the end of the round put him ahead after 10 minutes of action.

Undeterred, Silva came out like a man possessed in the second stanza. Rampage scored an early takedown, but Silva quickly reversed him and attacked his downed foe with foot stomps and a soccer kick to the head. When Rampage made it back to his feet, Silva continued his ferocious assault. Moments later, one of his looping nuclear right hands found its mark, causing Rampage to cover up and retreat to the ropes.

Just like in the first bout, Silva wasted no time securing the Thai clinch once he had his foe hurt. This time, however, Rampage was not smiling, and the champion did not give the referee an opportunity to step in to save him. Instead, he fired five quick knee strikes from the clinch. The fifth found its mark, instantly separating Rampage from consciousness.

The image of an unconscious Rampage draped over the second rope with his arms hanging limply at his sides while blood gushed from his freshly broken nose while Silva celebrated over his fallen foe is an image that I will never forget.

The Axe Murderer promised violence, and he absolutely delivered.

Much has happened in Rampage’s career since that fateful Halloween night in 2004. Rampage rebounded from the devastating loss like a true champion, embarking on a nine-fight reign of terror across three promotions that culminated with him winning and successfully defending the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Unfortunately for the brash, unpredictable star, he lost the title to Forest Griffin in July of this year after a closely contested five-round battle.

Rampage desperately wants the opportunity to challenge for his title once again, but there is just one problem: an old nemesis once again stands in his way—Wanderlei Silva.

On December 27, Silva and Rampage will square off for the third time. Both are fighting to prove that they should be first in line to challenge winner of that night’s Griffin versus Rashad Evans bout for the UFC light heavyweight championship.

But that begs the obvious question of whether Rampage can somehow find a way to beat the man who stopped him twice in the past?

Next up: Breaking down each man’s keys to victory.


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