“[I’m not going to be] a sore loser,” said Jackson at the post-fight press conference. “I thought I’d be really mad [if I lost], especially after [Jones] did what he said he was going to do and finished me. I gained a lot of respect for Jones. I thought he was hype, but he’s good. He fought me and did some great stuff. I don’t see anybody beating Jones.”
Jackson tried in vain to close the distance throughout his clash with Jones at the Pepsi Center in Denver, but could not accomplish his objective. Jones continually peppered the former light heavyweight champion with a variety of laser-like techniques, preventing Jackson from sitting in the pocket and looking for a knockout shot.
“I was very confident [going into the bout],” said Jackson. “A couple of times, I got a little desperate. I was a little disappointed because I wasn’t sticking to my game plan and was kind of frustrating myself. His reach and presence were really hard to deal with. I had guys in training who were taller than Jones, but I guess it’s different between sparring and a real fight.”
Jones became more aggressive in the fourth frame, driving Jackson against the cage with a double-leg takedown. Rather than fall to his back, however, Jackson turned his body to the side in an effort to stand and avoid the ground and pound Jones had used effectively earlier in the contest. The champion went for the finish, digging in one hook in and cinching a rear-naked choke that would force Jackson to submit for the first time in his UFC career.
Though Jones admitted after the fight that he felt Jackson’s fatigue before the finish, Rampage asserted that his in-cage demeanor was partially by design, an effort to escape the dangerous position and avoid further damage to his already lacerated eyebrow.
“I was actually playing possum a little bit, because I was hoping he would fade a little,” said Jackson. “I turned so he wouldn’t elbow this cut anymore.”
Though Jackson stated multiple times that he felt no contender at light heavyweight could dethrone the champion, Rampage did reveal who he thought had the best chance to solve the riddle that many view as the toughest puzzle in all of MMA.
“I think Rashad [Evans] is the only one who has a chance to beat him,” said Jackson. “[Evans] trained with him and so he knows, but I don’t see anybody beating [Jones], straight up. I take my hat off to him.”
Following his defeat, Jackson requested to compete opposite fellow former champion Mauricio Rua at the UFC’s upcoming return to Japan in 2012. Though “Shogun” already has a fight booked against Dan Henderson at UFC 139 in November, Jackson is still pining to avenge his defeat to the Brazilian in the first round of Pride Fighting Championships’ 2005 middleweight grand prix.
“It would be very special [to rematch Rua in Japan]. I have a lot of respect for Shogun,” said Jackson. “I didn’t know he was fighting Henderson, but it would be a dream come true.”