During the UFC on FOX 6 weigh-ins, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson fired off a warning shot at opponent Glover Teixeira as the two stood face-to-face.
"I'm in the best shape of my life," he said. "I trained as hard as f--- for you. I don't like when people say they will knock me out, like your boy Chuck [Liddell] did. It's going down, homie. You don't know what you asked for."
Despite the conviction with which he spoke, for Jackson, the end came with it a stark dose of reality. Jackson could not muster much of a challenge for Teixeira, who out-landed him 103-54, scored a knockdown and put Jackson on his back five times en route to a unanimous decision.
It was decidedly one-sided, and it left Jackson with some pause about where exactly he stood among the sport's elite.
"I don't know if I can compete with the top-level people anymore," he said in a reflective FUEL post-fight interview. "It's my first time losing three fights in a row. I'm not going to give up though. I'm going to go back to the drawing board and work on everything. I feel like maybe I can come back if I get my mind to it, but right now if any show picks me up, that's my marketing pitch -- 'Hey, I'll come on and put on a great show for you.'"
In 12 UFC bouts over six years, Jackson went 7-5, reaching his pinnacle with back-to-back wins over all-time greats Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson. The former made him the UFC light-heavyweight champion; the latter made him the only man to unify the UFC and PRIDE titles.
Jackson is still just 34 years old, but in his 14th year as an active fighter, time is working against him. With his admission that he may never recapture his past status, his next decision is whether continuing on is worth it. In citing a desire to continue, Jackson invoked the name of Gary Goodridge, a fighter who knows he went on too long, and now has a diagnosis of dementia pugilistica to show for it. For all the complaining about opponents' game plans, promoter disrespect and fan bias that made Jackson at times sound like an ingrate, no one wants to see a similar fate for him. Whatever he decides, here's hoping his next moves brings with it happiness.
On to the predictions ...
Johnson showed the resolve of a true champion on Saturday night after struggling the first two rounds including suffering a knockdown in round two, then coming back to out-work Dodson with a fantastic final 10 minutes. As a sign of his otherworldly conditioning, Johnson landed 65 of 80 strikes in round five as Dodson wilted under the torrid pace. Since the flyweight division is still not completely formed, there aren't a whole lot of options to go to for his next defense.
Prediction: He fights the winner of UFC 156's Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall fight
It all started to slip away from Dodson somewhere in the third round. Maybe it was the illegal knee to the head, maybe it was simple fatigue. Only Dodson knows the answer to that. The upside for him is he knows how close he is to being the best flyweight in the world, and that's a significant takeaway from a defeat that is probably otherwise hard to swallow.
Prediction: He faces John Lineker
Showcasing a complete game, Teixeira breaks into the top 10 with his most significant win, positioning him for a bout that will elevate him towards a title shot. I foresee the UFC returning to an idea they once had for him, but now makes more sense.
Prediction: He fights Mauricio "Shogun" Rua
We saw many impressive performances on Saturday, but no one dazzled like "Showtime," who starched the tougher-than-leather Donald Cerrone in under a round. That's a fantastic showing made even more stunning given Pettis' 11-month layoff. Now he may be faced with a decision about another stint on the sidelines. He certainly deserves to fight for the belt, but champ Ben Henderson and Gilbert Melendez don't fight for another three months. That means Pettis could be waiting until the fall to fight again.
Prediction: He waits to fight the Henderson-Melendez winner
I'm not sure how many observers saw Grant coming as a contender after starting his UFC tenure with a 3-3 record. But that was as a welterweight. Since dropping down, his powerful Muay Thai game and natural grit have vaulted him into the mix, and it's time for a step up in competition.
Prediction: Grant vs. Pat Healy makes all the sense in the world
Lamas is another fight who has benefited greatly by dropping down to a lower weight class. He's 4-0 with 3 finishes since making the most to featherweight, and now firmly entrenched as a top five guy.
Prediction: He fights Dennis Siver
Bader's fight with Vladimir Matyushenko was a must-win in terms of his career development. He was fighting a 42-year-old whose best skill -- like his own -- is wrestling, and who -- unlike him -- boasts little knockout power. A loss would have been devastating. Bader came through with a 50-second submission win, and now he'll look for some consistency.
Prediction: He faces Phil Davis