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|Quinton Jackson, right, kept his hands busy enough to please two of the three judges.|
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Things did not turn out quite the way Quinton Jackson initially thought they would Saturday at UFC 123.
Immediately after the horn sounded to end his light heavyweight fight, Rampage conceded defeat. Despite words of encouragement from his handlers, Jackson stood dejected.
In Jackson's mind, his opponent, Lyoto Machida, had done enough to earn the nod. But two of the three judges -- Jeff Blatnick and Salvatore D'Amato -- saw the fight differently: Each gave Jackson the nod, 29-28. Only Doc Hamilton favored Machida by a score of 29-28.
Jackson's opinion of the fight didn't change much after the result was announced.
"[My aggression] was the only thing that won the fight for me in there," Jackson said. "'Machida whupped my ass in there,' that's what I was saying to myself.
"I didn't do what I wanted to do, and he kind of bloodied my nose. I have to consider that an ass-whipping. The fight was so close that I must say, even though I don't want to, I have to give him a rematch. An immediate rematch would be the fair thing."
Jackson is a very talented fighter. But he isn't a judge, matchmaker or promoter -- and because Jackson briefly failed to remember his role, UFC president Dana White found it necessary to quickly remind him.
"No. There won't be a rematch. As far as I am concerned and as far as the judges are concerned, Rampage won that fight," White told ESPN.com. "You guys know me; I don't play favorites, I don't pretend to judge fights that go my way; I call 'em like I see 'em."
Jackson would later admit he spoke a bit too soon. He was sure that Machida's strong finish to the third round would sway the judges.
It was a closely contested bout; each of the first two rounds could have gone to either fighter. Only in the third was there a clear winner, Machida.
From White's vantage point, those first two rounds belonged to Jackson. To see Jackson mope around the cage before the results were announced struck a nerve with White.
"Me and Rampage are getting along, but he p----s me off again," White said. "I had Rampage winning that fight. But Rampage is slumping down and raising the other guy's hand, acting as if he lost.
"Rampage was the aggressor. He moved forward the entire fight. I 100 percent had Rampage winning those first two rounds, and I gave the third round to Machida."
With both Jackson and Machida coming off losses, a win was essential to get back in the title conversation. White refused to guarantee Jackson a shot at the Mauricio Rua-Rashad Evans winner but said he is now being considered.
"He's in the mix," White said. "Those two fighting [Saturday] are at the top of the heap in the 205-pound division. And Rampage came out the winner tonight."
The action didn't go quite the way Jackson wanted, but he expected Machida to try to elude his power shots.
Jackson showed a lot of patience against Machida. He wasn't his normal overly aggressive self; had he been it would have opened many counter opportunities for Machida. But the few times he went into attack mode, Machida often made him miss. Jackson sometimes got frustrated with his inability to connect against Machida on a consistent basis.
He wanted very much to get a knockout. Jackson never came close to getting it and gave his showing low marks.
"I was really going for the knockout," Jackson said. "I wanted to knock him out, so I'm a little disappointed in my performance. I didn't do everything I wanted to do."
In the days heading into this bout, Jackson spoke frequently of his desire to entertain fans. He wanted very much to do that Saturday before 16,404 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
But Jackson (31-8-0) has enough experience under his belt to know that not every fight -- even those he is involved in -- will be exciting. Jackson also must realize that he won't win every fight by KO.
Besides, Machida's fighting style makes most fighters look bad. It also makes for potentially less-than-thrilling bouts.
Jackson called Machida's fighting style "boring" before the bout. He had gone so far as to say he wanted to fight someone other than Machida. But after experiencing Machida (16-2-0) inside the Octagon, Jackson appreciates the former 205-pound champion's fighting technique.
"It is different fighting Machida than looking at him fight," Jackson said. "He was elusive and everything, but it really made for an exciting fight because I remember trying to punch him and he was already on this side over here.
"I have more respect for his style. I wish I could move like that. I wouldn't want to watch it, though."
Considering his premature reaction Saturday, Jackson likely has more respect for matchmakers and promoters, maybe even judges.
As for Machida, this loss might force him to re-evaluate his approach to fighting. White thinks it is time for a change.
"That [elusive] style did work against [Machida] tonight," White said. "The first couple of rounds, he was laying back.
"He is one of those guys in whom you see signs of brilliance. Like when he threw that knee. It was like this quick-flying knee that he hit Rampage in the body with. I know that hurt [Rampage]. Then Machida lays off and runs around in circles."
Machida has lost two fights in a row. Maybe the opposition has begun to figure him out. White is correct: Change is in order.
Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.