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Jackson vs. Silva: The psychology of being KO'd

When Quinton "Rampage" Jackson takes on Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva at UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008, Jackson has something to prove. New fans may not realize this, but while fighting for Japan's PRIDE organization in both 2003 and 2004 Rampage was knocked out rather viciously by his soon-to-be UFC 92 opponent. After the second knockout, in fact, Rampage didn't look like the same fighter in defeating Murilo "Ninja" Rua by controversial decision and then getting stopped by his brother, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua by TKO.

In other words, it took him awhile to get over that second defeat at the hands of Silva.

"It didn't have the outcome that I wanted to have (in earlier fights against Silva) but this is my time to make it right in my mind," Rampage recently said at a UFC 92 conference call. "I'm a little bit older and more mature now. I'm a lot better with my skills and everything. So I feel like this time right here, this is the time where I can go and give it my all, my hundred percent."

The fact is that Rampage certainly has grown in all facets of his game since those losses to Silva. In fact, his cardio and technical striking skills have improved to the point that he's hardly the same fighter. So when he says, "this is a whole new Rampage," he's not making that up. Still, it's widely believed that coming back from a knockout is a difficult thing. It gets in your head. Of course, that ideology is usually used to address fighters coming back from being knocked out in their last fight, something that is not plaguing the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. On the other, losing to someone in the past by way of submission or decision is one thing. These were two nasty knockout losses (particularly that last one). And like this time, Rampage had believed it would be his time to overcome Silva way back then.

So how much do those knockouts plague him? Well, he certainly has gone on record to say that he needs to make this whole situation right in his mind. The question is, how do you go about beginning to do that from a training angle?

Change things up, that's how. For Rampage, that in part meant traveling over to the Wolfslair Academy in England, home of Michael Bisping. "My training went really well. . . I had some really excellent sparring partners and stuff like that. So I was really happy about that. . .You know, a lot of people don't want to do that (train with good sparring partners) because there's a good chance they'll get their ass kicked when they step out of their element. So I got some guys who fight like my opponent and training went very well this time. . . It was kind of like a cold area so I had to man up and really work my ass and train hard," Rampage said.

In the end, this is a different fight than those these two rather legendary competitors partook in several years ago. Even Silva agrees to that. Still, the questions are plentiful. How much better is Jackson on his feet than before? Has Silva lost skills since their previous encounters? Will Rampage choose to try and take his opponent down and ground him down to bits? If he gets hit with a big shot, will the past come back to haunt him in his own mind? Will he begin to doubt himself?

Or will he make this whole situation right in his mind, as he plans to?

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Frank Mir should be great. Forrest Griffin vs. Rashad Evans will be a match between two fighters that always demonstrate tremendous heart. But this fight, for hardcore MMA fans, has been a long time coming and could be the most interesting one of the night.

Rampage doesn't appear to have thrown a rock in the water with his opponent's name on it like Georges St. Pierre did before his rematch against Matt Serra. Regardless, we'll find out if he was able to exercise his Wanderlei Silva demons on December 27, 2008.

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