It took all three rounds, but Quinton “Rampage” Jackson earned a return shot at the UFC light heavyweight title, and due to Frank Mir’s recent knee surgery, Jackson will get that shot at Rashad Evans on May 23 at UFC 98 in Las Vegas.
His road to Rashad wasn’t without its potholes, however. At UFC 96 on Saturday night, Keith Jardine fought Jackson with a much more aggressive style than is the norm for the Jackson’s MMA fighter.
Jardine landed more frequently throughout the fight, giving Jackson fits with strong leg kicks and charging in and out with punch combinations.
After surviving a trip to the canvas courtesy of a Jackson left hook early in the second round, Jardine nearly dropped Jackson to the canvas with an overhand right later in the round.
Quinton Jackson, though, was the more accurate fighter throughout. He used that accuracy to put Jardine on the mat not only early in round two, but once again as the fight came to an end in the third, to earn a unanimous decision.
Judges Nelson “Doc” Hamilton and Douglas Crosby saw it 29-28 for Jackson, while Cecil Peoples scored the fight 30-27 for the former UFC light heavyweight champion.
Jackson gave his respect to Jardine after the fight, saying, “It was a lot of pressure to come in here and fight Keith Jardine. Keith is a really tough guy. I didn’t expect him to be that tough.”
Before he could exit the Octagon, the UFC brought current champion Rashad Evans in to hype up their UFC 98 bout.
The two were nose to nose, Jackson repeatedly stating, “Rashad, I’m getting that belt back. I’m getting that belt back. See it, Rashad; see it. I will be better than I was today. I’m gonna be well rested for your ass. I’m gonna knock you clean out. I’m gonna get my belt back.
“I want my belt back!”