Although Quinton Jackson (Pictures) lost his UFC light heavyweight title Saturday to Forrest Griffin (Pictures) in a grueling 25-minute bout, his camp is ready to keep fighting.
Jackson's coach, Juanito Ibarra, plans to protest the unanimous decision with the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
"We got robbed," Ibarra told Sherdog.com Sunday afternoon. "We won the majority of the fight."
Judges Adalaide Byrd and Nelson Hamilton scored the bout 48-46 for Griffin, while Roy Silbert turned in a 49-46 tally for Griffin.
It's extremely unlikely that a protest would change the outcome of the fight. Ibarra isn't hopeful in that regard, but less than 24 hours after his fighter had lost in the UFC for the first time, the coach seemed determined to learn exactly how the fight was scored.
He was baffled that Byrd and Silbert gave Griffin a 10-9 advantage in the first round, during which Jackson dropped the challenger. In Ibarra's view, the knockdown warranted a 10-8 round in Jackson's favor. He believes Jackson won the third and fourth rounds on 10-9 scores, though he said Griffin deserved a 10-8 second round and a 10-9 fifth. That comes out to a 47-46 win for Jackson.
"You have to beat the champion," Ibarra asserted more than once.
Randy Couture (Pictures), a coach and training partner of Griffin, gave a slight edge to the new champion.
"I thought that it was a very, very close fight," Couture said. "I thought that it was three rounds to two [for Griffin]. I thought that Quinton did enough to win two of the rounds clearly. I thought they may have been able to give Quinton a 10-8 round in the first round with the knockdown and then the second round you could have given Forrest a 10-8 round.
"And it could have went the other way. If one or two rounds went the other way, it could have been three rounds to two for Quinton. It was that close."
Strategies and execution
Couture's concern before the bout was a reasonable one: that when hit, a brawler at-heart like Griffin would resort to brawling.
"He has always wanted to bang," Couture said. "From the Bonnar fight on, just a brawler. That's what he thinks is exciting. That's the way he likes to fight. But at some point he realized that's not always the wisest choice, especially with a guy who hits as hard as Quinton."
The plan was to stay on the outside, use angles and footwork, work a long jab, a long hook and then finish with a kick. The kicks, as it turned out, did major damage, hobbling Jackson in the second round and changing the course of the fight.
Griffin did venture inside a few times, however, and paid for it. He took an uppercut in the first round that floored him and was cut over the eye in the fourth. Ibarra wanted Jackson to lure Griffin into more exchanges.
"I wanted Rampage to stay in the middle of the cage and make Forrest fight him," Ibarra said. "I think Rampage would have knocked him out, or hurt him and grounded and pounded him."
Griffin fought a smart fight, though. He never stayed inside for long. Instead, he chipped away and kept moving, occasionally stopping to drop a heavy kick into Jackson's lead leg.
"I thought Rampage needed to use his speed more," Ibarra said. "That's what was so disappointing in the fifth round: There was no speed, no combinations. Forrest is so long, you have to beat him to the punch. You have to be the first to set up that jab."
Ibarra also felt Jackson should have thrown more body shots. But make no mistake, even though he believes Rampage could have performed better, Ibarra is certain that he performed well enough to keep the belt.
Couture had little criticism of Griffin's execution, though the fighter didn't hesitate to critique himself.
"I'm happy with the way things turned out," Griffin said at the postfight news conference, "but there's a lot of stuff I planned on doing that I didn't do, a lot of things I worked on that didn't work out."
Wrestling, for one.
"Wrestling is something that we've worked on a lot since the Jardine fight," Couture said. "That was the one piece of the arsenal that [Griffin] was missing, and I think everybody knew that after some of the submissions he had in other fights that his ground skills were good. Everybody knows that he's a brawler and that his striking is formidable. He had no transition skills at all, so there was never a threat. … It's something we worked a lot on, but he didn't have to do that much last night."
Griffin was having success striking from the outside, but Jackson's wrestling skill and punching power also deterred him from wrestling more.
"He's got that one-punch power," Griffin told UFC.com on why he didn't work more from the clinch. "And a couple of times he hit me in the head or hit me in the shoulder, and it could have been a knockout. So I kind of pushed off and rested."
Possible deciding factors
After hurting Griffin in the first, Jackson planned to put him away in the second round.
"That's when I was fixing to go for it," Jackson said at the postfight presser. "He threw me a whammy. He hurt my leg. That's what messed me up."
Couture agreed: "I think the leg kicks hampered Quinton's mobility enough that he wasn't able to close that gap and get that inside range where he's very, very effective and very explosive."
Jackson also said he probably had "a little cage rust" after not fighting since September 2007. However, it had been just as long since Griffin last competed. Couture pointed to Griffin's size -- "We saw that as a big advantage in this fight" -- and his aggression as helping him get the nod.
"I think in the third, fourth and fifth rounds, Forrest carried the aggression in the fight," Couture said. "He was pushing the pace of the fight, controlling the tempo of the fight. Even the times when they were on the ground, Rampage wasn't able to damage Forrest. Forrest was able to scramble and get back up. He had the one nice submission attempt with the triangle. I think that [aggression] was the biggest difference."
Jackson said Griffin didn't hurt him on the ground either. Ibarra echoed that statement and added that Griffin's offense, including his submission attempts, should not have trumped the work Jackson did with his hands.
Ibarra on rematch: I got it
The unanimous decision for Griffin was greeted with cheers and some boos. Exhausted after the biggest win of his career, a significant upset that had made him a UFC champion, the 29-year-old thanked the audience at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
More boos followed -- the inevitable result, no doubt, of any close decision.
"Hey," Griffin responded. "What the hell? What? What? Are you kidding me? Come on."
He acknowledged that the fight was close.
"And I don't want to because he hits too f---ing hard," Griffin said, "but I think we're going to have to do that again."
In the Octagon after his loss, Jackson seemed to admit defeat. "He just whooped my ass," Rampage said, but later, at the postfight presser, his perspective had changed.
"I feel like I won the fight," he said. "When I think about it, and my cornermen and other people who watched it, they thought he won the second and maybe the last round. And I won the rest."
Despite changing his opinion, Jackson remained respectful.
"I didn't want to leave it up to the judges," Jackson said. "But you know what? I didn't think Forrest could hang with me. I said if Forrest gets past the third round, he'll gain my respect and I respect him. And if I ever fight him again, I'm gonna respect the hell out of him with my right hand."
According to Ibarra, there is no "if" concerning a rematch.
"I got it. I got it. I'm not waiting. Next fight," said the coach, who explained that he approached UFC President Dana White and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta in the Octagon about making a rematch. "I asked for it, immediately, in the cage, and Forrest agreed. The rematch is going to go like I first thought. Forrest is going to try to do more, and next time he's gonna get beat."
Said Couture: "It could be the next big trilogy in the weight class. It was a terrific fight, a back-and-forth battle, and that's the kind of fight people want to see again."
Given some time to ponder another bout with Jackson, Griffin wasn't backing down. Besides, he doesn't exactly envision an easy run as the UFC light heavyweight titleholder.
"I'm not a feared guy, but the thing is, I'm going to fight you for 25 minutes," he said. "Whoever you are, anybody at 205, I'm not going to break. I'm not going to quit. It's the same s--- I always say. I'm not … you look at the champions. Anderson Silva: terrifying. B.J. Penn (Pictures): terrifying. Every other champion but me is pretty terrifying. I'm just a dude trying to put it together. But the one thing I've got is I'm going to fight you to the end, like a dog. And other than the third round [against Jackson], where I decided just to kind of hangout, lay on my back there, I feel like I did that. And next time, I'll bring it better."