Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's courtroom battle leading up to UFC 186 had more fireworks than his return to the Octagon.
After a back-and-forth legal fight finally enabled the former UFC light heavyweight champion to return to the company earlier this week, Jackson and Fabio Maldonado put on a plodding, slow-paced brawl Saturday night Montreal's Bell Centre.
"You guys don't know how stressed I was ... I won that fight to get here," Jackson said. "I had to fight to get here."
In the end, Jackson landed more often and more cleanly, enabling him to win a unanimous decision in a 216-pound catchweight fight. The judges' scores were 29-28 and a pair of 30-27s.
"Fabio, he's a boxer, I said man, he's got moxie, he's going to stand with me," Jackson said. That guy's got chin of steel, ‘cuz I hit him with everything but the kitchen sink."
Jackson (36-11) set the tone in the opening round, throwing leg kicks and landing both from distance and in the clinch. The second round was the fight's closest, as Maldonado (22-8) landed more while Jackson noticeably slowed down. In the third, Jackson pushed through his fatigue and once again began to connect, as a fading Maldonado's output slowed.
Jackson, who left the UFC two years ago to join Bellator, jumped back to the UFC, but Bellator sued to try to prevent the fight from happening. Bellator won an injunction in a New Jersey court, and the UFC was prepared to put former hockey enforcer Steve Bosse in Jackson's place. But on Tuesday, a New Jersey appellate court lifted the injunction, putting "Rampage" back in the bout.
"I thought I was going to do better by leaving the UFC and I was wrong," Jackson said. "The UFC is the best organization on the planet."
Jackson won his fourth fight overall and snapped a three-fight UFC losing streak in the process.