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Fortunes Changed for Five at UFC Fight Night 58

There are a number of different ways UFC can approach its latest signing, Rampage Jackson. But using the old star on the way out to make new stars may not be a role Jackson relishes.

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports
For the second time in three weeks, one of the biggest stories after a UFC show wasn't about the winner of the main event, but rather a major signing from another organization.

While the signing of C.M. Punk two weeks ago was controversial in the sense he had never fought professionally, there was no question about his legal status, having just completed a settlement out of court with his former employer, World Wrestling Entertainment, which made him a free agent.

Bellator, which had Quinton "Rampage" Jackson under contract, denies any such thing happened.

"Let us be clear that Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson is under an exclusive contract with #BellatorMMA," tweeted Scott Coker immediately after the UFC announcement during Saturday night's show from Barueri, Sao Paulo, Brazil. "We will protect our contractual rights."

Jackson claimed later in that evening on FOX Sports 1 that he terminated his contract with Bellator. He didn't get into details as to what he meant, beyond saying Viacom didn't live up to the contract he signed in June of 2013. At the time it was pushed as being a dual contract for both MMA and pro wrestling on Spike TV properties.

If this turns into a legal battle, he, and UFC, must believe Bellator breached the deal. UFC has made a habit of not signing contracts with fighters who have valid deals elsewhere, at least if they knew about the deals at the time.

Jackson is a bigger loss to Bellator than he is a gain for UFC. Bellator is looking at people who can be characters and move television numbers, both things Jackson is very good at. He can star in a pre-fight Countdown show, and promote a fight well, and has a big name. From a name standpoint, he was probably the biggest star Bellator had on its roster.

At 36, with his best days long behind him, Jackson's three Bellator fights were a wins over journeyman Joey Beltran, an undersized Christian M'Pumbu,  and a decision over King Mo Lawal that few thought he won. Given Jackson screaming that he wanted a rematch before the decision was read, it didn't appear he thought he won either.

Before his Bellator run, he had lost three in a row in UFC, although they were all to ranked fighters, a title fight with Jon Jones, and decision losses top light heavyweight contenders Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira.

Jackson, at this stage of the game, is not going to be a contender in the UFC. But he is a star, and with the company running more shows than they have needle moving star power to fill, there is always room for guys like Jackson on the roster.

He talked about wanting to fight early next year, and UFC does have a show on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles, not far from his home. The question becomes how UFC wants to handle someone who clearly needs to be handled with kid gloves. It doesn't matter where Jackson works, whether it be PRIDE, UFC, TNA wrestling or Bellator, the track record is there. He's all smiles at the start, and gradually becomes disenchanted. It could take weeks, months or maybe a few years, but the end result is always the same.

With UFC, he was complaining about his matchmaking, not wanting to fight wrestlers. The problem is, nearly everyone at the top level these days is going to have a good deal of wrestling ability.

So does UFC want to use Jackson to make a new star, such as an Ovince St. Preux or Jimi Manuwa, both of whom would be favored to beat him? Do they put him with a big star in the division, such as the loser of the Anthony "Rumble" Johnson vs. Alexander Gustafsson fight to have a bigger fight on a major show? Because at that level, he'd be hard pressed to win. Or do they do like Bellator, and find a Beltran or M'Pumbu, who Jackson would be expected to beat? Or do they put him with Patrick Cummins, an opponent who may be able to outwrestle him, but has proven he understands building up a fight, so you have a good promotion for a fight?

If Jackson were to lose, his mood is likely to change quicker. If they try and find people he can beat, he'll be happier, but there will be less value to him for the promotion long-term.

The other question is how this signing relates to the antitrust lawsuit filed earlier in the week against UFC. If Jackson's contract was breached by Viacom, this would not relate to the suit at all. UFC has every right to compete for available name talent, no matter who they most recently worked for. If the contract wasn't breached, if anything, that would indicate a clear attempt to sign away the top star of a rival group who is under contract.

Let's look at how Fortunes Changed for Five stars who did fight on Saturday night.

LYOTO MACHIDA - At 36, Machida (22-5) rebounded from his middleweight title loss to Chris Weidman with one of the most impressive looking wins of his career, stopping No. 10-ranked contender C.B. Dollaway in just 1:02 with a paralyzing liver kick.

Immediately after the match, there was talk of a bout with Luke Rockhold (13-2). On one hand, the match makes all the sense in the world. They are both top contenders who have never faced each other, coming off big wins. Both are tall, and noted for their kicking game, but both are strong in every aspect of MMA.

If Chris Weidman retains his title over Vitor Belfort on Feb. 28, as he is heavily favored to do, a Rockhold win over Machida should earn him a title shot. If Machida wins, it may open the door for Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (21-3), who has been out after elbow surgery, since Weidman beat Machida on July 5. The fight was great and Machida had his moments, but there was no doubt who won.

C.B. DOLLAWAY - Dollaway had seemed to turn his career around in the last four years, but the quick loss puts a stall to any hopes of being in the top tier of contenders.

Two other fighters who were near top contender status in recent months, only to fall short in their last bout would make for Dollaway's best next opponent. Tim Kennedy (18-5) or Michael Bisping (25-7) would be opponents Dollaway should want. Kennedy, coming off injuries, has said things that make it questionable if he wants to fight again. Bisping has made it clear he does want to fight again, but also may be hoping for a bigger name. Because of Bisping's ability to promote a fight, UFC is always looking for a money fight with him. But this may be his right opponent at this point. Dollaway and Bisping are big enough names that the fight would likely be positioned well, and a win would mean something to lead to setting up a big match next.

RENAN BARAO - On the positive side, Barao (35-2, 1 no contest) is only 27 years old. Nothing bad happened here. He made weight with seemingly no issue, and he finished a tough Mitch Gagnon via submission in the third round Saturday.
That's change from the previous two scheduled bouts. Leading to his title loss to T.J. Dillashaw, he had major problems the last week when it came to weight. Before his scheduled return match for the bantamweight title, he collapsed trying to make weight and the fight never took place.

But he did not look like the killer that he had been in dominating every UFC and WEC fight he had until running into Dillashaw on May 24.

What makes sense next would be a fight with Raphael Assuncao (23-4). Assuncao vs. Barao had been talked about, and in fact, was scheduled as a title fight that fell through when Assuncao was injured and Dillashaw stepped in. It would make sense to have that fight in close proximity to the Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz title fight, making it the natural title eliminator fight, as well as a backup ready to peak on the same day in case either of the fights in the title match get hurt in training.

PATRICK CUMMINS - Less than a year ago, Cummins (7-1) was the butt of all kinds of jokes about the barista who was fighting in the semi-main event on a major pay-per-view. The joke was that Dana White called some guy working at a coffee shop because he needed an opponent for Daniel Cormier.

Even though Cormier won that fight, those who trained with Cummins, or knew of him from Penn State wrestling a decade ago, knew he was no joke. And in using his wrestling to dominate Brazilian Ultimate Fighter winner Antonio Carlos Jr. (5-1), Cummins is now having the last laugh on the amateur comedians.

More impressive than just winning, Cummins spent most of the fight on the ground with a strong submission threat in Carlos Jr. Carlos Jr., in his days as a brown belt, won two world championships in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Cummins was threatened several times, but always worked his way out of trouble.

Corey Anderson (5-0), a fellow wrestler, who is coming off a win two weeks ago, would be a fight that would be a strong test for both men.

ERICK SILVA - Silva (17-5, 1 no contest), in his first fight since his loss to Matt Brown in one of this year's best fights, continued his pattern of either winning fast or not at all.

Silva's 65-second win over Mike Rhodes was his fifth in UFC competition, all of which were in the first round, and all but one was shorter than this one. Two other fights he nearly won, as in the Brown fight, Brown was a split second from being done in the opening minute, and there was a disqualification loss to Carlo Prater in 29 seconds for a punch to the back of the head was in a fight he looked on the verge of winning. He was also close to winning early against Dong Hyun Kim, until Kim came back for a second round knockout. So in his nine UFC fights, the only opponent who wasn't in trouble quickly was Jon Fitch. In 2012, when Silva fought Fitch, Fitch was still one of the best welterweights in the world.

A good opponent next would be Neil Magny (13-3), Rick Story (18-8) or Gunnar Nelson (13-1-1). All three would be the type of matches that would boost the winners' stock and could break Silva into the top 15.

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