A decade since their third meeting, arch-rivals Rampage Jackson and Wanderlei Silva meet for the fourth time in the co-main event of Bellator 206.
Once upon a time, Wanderlei Silva was considered one of, if not the most destructive force in the light heavyweight division. His ferocity and relentless attack made him a legend as he cut-down the competition for years in Japan before the turn of the decade. Rampage Jackson did not get the better of Silva in Japan. Instead, he got his revenge in America where he had the best success of his career. Throughout it all, the mutual animosity between the two was never lost. Nearly a decade since their last encounter, Rampage and Silva will now meet again for the fourth time at Bellator 206.
In many ways, the rivalry is a defining hallmark in the careers of both men. Silva won both their meetings in PRIDE, winning by knockout in both 2003 and 2004 with stoppages that came to define his legendary destructive capabilities. “The Axe Murderer” would embark on an electric UFC campaign in 2007. Though inconsistent throughout his run, Silva’s appearance on a card never failed to generate excitement and delivered memorable battles seemingly with every performance.
2013 appeared to be the unceremonious end of Silva’s career. He had an eventful coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil against Chael Sonnen, but failed to submit to random drug testing and get a license to fight in Nevada before the bout ever came to fruition. He would receive a lifetime ban for the ordeal and retire in 2014. Though his ban was overturned in 2015, it appeared as if Silva had already closed the book on that part of his life.
In 2017, Silva surprised the MMA world by announcing a return to action. After several years away, he had his long-awaited bout with Sonnen in which he lost a unanimous decision. Now after more than another year away, and at 42 years old, Silva returns to square off with his long-time nemesis.
Jackson, 40, has already been vocal that his time in the fight game is nearing the end as well. The fight with Silva is the latest in a career that has taken him around the world. Like his rival, Rampage became a star in Japan before moving on to have a memorable stint in the UFC.
Arguably, the best run of his career came in 2006 where he went on a six-fight win streak, culminating in wresting the UFC title from MMA superstar Chuck Liddell and a subsequent title defense against Pride champion Dan Henderson. He would lose the title in 2008, but would end the year by avenging the losses to Silva with a first-round knockout. To this day, Rampage claims the victory was the biggest of his career despite no title of any sort being on the line due to the rivalry the two had over the years.
Stylistically, Wanderlei Silva must overcome the power of Rampage Jackson in a heavyweight bout. It should be noted that the two have never collided above 205 pounds and Saturday’s contest will be at heavyweight. However, Silva’s chin is highly questionable after a legendary career filled with intense battles. His strategy will be to get inside where he can load up on his looping punches and initiate the Muay Thai plum, but doing so will mean taking shots on the way in. Should he be able to avoid heavy damage, a high volume attack will be key as he does not figure to overpower Rampage with short shots for the possible fifteen minutes.
Jackson has been far more active than Silva since their last meeting, most recently engaging in a close fight with Chael Sonnen in the Heavyweight Grand Prix. For Jackson, the key will be to punish Silva every time he attempts to close the distance. In a three round fight, it stands to reason that Jackson will do more damage and be able the oncoming attack from Silva. He must take care to use his takedowns and initiate exchanges should he find himself unable to catch Silva as to avoid getting outpointed in a possible decision.
Moving forward, Wanderlei Silva may never get a better opportunity to walk away in a blaze of glory than with a victory against Rampage. A title run does not figure to be in the cards nor are there many matchups that figure to be competitive for him at this stage. For Rampage Jackson, the heavyweight division will have plenty of competition in the coming months as the Grand Prix concludes. If this does end up being the final contract of his career, then it would only make sense for him to walk away at a time when there are exciting matchups for him to engage in.