The fight nearly didn’t happen. Bellator MMA, Jackson’s previous employer, was granted an injunction preventing him from competing on the fight card alleging that he was still under contract with the fight promotion. On April 21, just four days before the event at the Bell Centre, the injunction was lifted clearly the way for Jackson’s return.
Due to the fight coming back together so close to the event, the two fought at a catchweight of 215-pounds instead of the originally planned 205-pounds.
Jackson pressed forward and took the fight to Maldonado. He landed combinations and leg kicks. He delivered knees to the body while in the clinch. Maldonado was content with sticking to his boxing.
Maldonado picked up the pace in the second frame and pressured Jackson. He targeted the body and pressed Jackson against the cage. For a moment, it looked as if Jackson was beginning to slow down. It was an illusion. In the closing minute of the round, Jackson began landing combinations. He had success on the inside with uppercuts and left hooks, and Maldonado opted to take him down.
Jackson dictated the pace in the final round and outworked Maldonado. Maldonado would throw one shot and Jackson would answer with a flurry of strikes. After fifteen minutes of fighting, the judges scored the bout for Jackson by unanimous decision.
“You guys don’t know how stressful that was,” said Jackson about the court battle with Bellator MMA. “I had to fight to get here. Some haters were trying to stop me from returning to the UFC.”
Jackson left the UFC in January 2013 after suffering three consecutive losses. He signed with Bellator MMA and put together a three-fight winning streak heading into Saturday’s event. The 36-year-old was happy to be back in ‘the best organization on the planet.’
“I thought I was going to do better by leaving the UFC. I’m the first to admit that I was wrong,” he said. “The UFC is the best organization on the planet. I tested it.”
Considering the circumstances surrounded the bout, Jackson put in an impressive performance. He mixed up his striking and appeared more technical than he has in years.
“I’ve been wanting to kick for so long, but when people are desperately trying to take you down the last thing you want to do is kick,” said Jackson following the win.
“Maldonado is a boxer. I was like, ‘this guy’s got moxy. He’s going to stand with me.’ He did a good job. Much respect,” he added. “I trained to knock him out. That guy has a chin of steel because I hit him with everything but the kitchen sink.”
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