Rust from a 14-month layoff, wear and tear from a long distinguished career and 20 extra pounds conspired against Quinton Jackson, and he still persevered.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder improved his Bellator MMA record to 4-0 with a split decision over 2008 Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii in the Bellator 157 main event on Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Judges Sal D’Amato and Robin Veale scored it for Jackson, 29-28 and 30-27, while Ross Swanberg saw it 29-28 for Ishii.
Early returns were not positive for Jackson. Ishii executed a pair of trip takedowns from the clinch in the first round and maintained top position for a significant chunk of time. “Rampage” answered the challenge in rounds two and three, where he punished the Japanese judoka with close-quarters knees and uppercuts. Ishii saw any chance at victory pass him by during the final five minutes, as he whiffed on a takedown and wound up pinned beneath Jackson, eating punches and elbows to the body and head.
In wake of Bellator 157 “Dynamite 2,” here are four matchups that ought to be considered:
Quinton Jackson vs. Liam McGeary-Phil Davis winner: Jackson has rattled off five straight wins since suffering consecutive UFC defeats to Jon Jones, Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira between Sept. 24, 2011 and Jan. 26, 2013. At 38 years of age, there has to be some concern about exactly how much “Rampage” has left in the tank. Few fighters can match the mileage he has put on his body over the course of a 48-fight career, which is all the more reason for Bellator matchmakers to strike while the iron is still hot, or at least warm. Sidelined with an injury since he bested UFC hall of famer Tito Ortiz in September, the unbeaten McGeary is expected to defend his Bellator light heavyweight championship against Davis in the coming months.
Michael Chandler vs. Benson Henderson: The Bellator lightweight throne did not sit vacant for long. Chandler reclaimed the 155-pound championship with a vicious one-punch knockout on Patricky Freire in their co-main event. The NCAA All-American wrestler separated “Pitbull” from consciousness 2:14 into round one, a mean right cross doing the heavy lifting. Chandler, 30, spent the bulk of his training camp with the Blackzilians, where his work with Henri Hooft, Neil Melanson and others seemed to pay immediate dividends. He will carry a three-fight winning streak into his next appearance. Henderson made his organizational debut as a welterweight at Bellator 153 in April, losing a lopsided decision to champion Andrey Koreshkov.
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Anastasia Yankova: Macfarlane cleared another hurdle in her development, as she submitted Resurrection Fighting Alliance veteran Rebecca Ruth with a standing rear-naked choke in the second round of their women’s flyweight showcase. Options in the fledgling 125-pound division remain limited for the undefeated prospect. The 26-year-old Macfarlane has taken out Ruth, Amber Tackett and Maria Rios since touching down in Bellator a little less than a year ago. Yankova, 25, has submitted each of her first three professional opponents, including Anjela Pink, whom she tapped with an armbar at Bellator 152 on April 16.
Justin Lawrence vs. Goiti Yamauchi: Spawned by Season 15 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, Lawrence has begun to fulfill his considerable promise at 145 pounds. The 26-year-old Pacific, Missouri, native registered perhaps the most significant victory of his 12-fight career, as he stopped former Pancrase champion Isao Kobayashi with second-round punches on the undercard. Lawrence has gone 5-1 -- his only setback came in a split decision to Roufusport’s Emanuel Sanchez -- since being released by the UFC in 2013 following back-to-back defeats to Max Holloway and Daniel Pineda. Yamauchi last competed at Bellator 151 in March, when he saw a three-fight winning streak grind to a halt in a unanimous decision to Bubba Jenkins.