Quinton Jackson has designs on adding an Olympic gold medalist to his list of career conquests.
“Rampage” will return to the Bellator MMA cage for the first time in more than two years, as he squares off with Satoshi Ishii in the Bellator 157 headliner on Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The rest of the four-fight main card -- two kickboxing matches are also booked -- will feature a co-main event pairing former champion Michael Chandler opposite Patricky Freire for the vacant lightweight title, a heavyweight battle pitting Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Matt Mitrione against Carl Seumanutafa and a women’s flyweight tilt matching Ilima-Lei Macfarlane with Rebecca Ruth.
Jackson, 38, is the centerpiece. The former UFC light heavyweight champion will enter the cage with the wind of a four-fight winning streak at his back. He last appeared at UFC 186 in April 2015, when he took a three-round unanimous decision from Brazilian boxer Fabio Maldonado at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Jackson has a long track record of success upon which to lean, including victories over former Pride Fighting Championships titleholders Wanderlei Silva and Dan Henderson, onetime Strikeforce titlist Muhammad Lawal, Matt Lindland, Igor Vovchanchyn, Ricardo Arona and four former UFC champions: Chuck Liddell (twice), Kevin Randleman, Murilo Bustamante and Lyoto Machida. “Rampage” boasts 23 finishes among his 36 professional wins.
A gold medalist in judo at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Ishii arrived in MMA to much fanfare but has thus far seen mixed results. The 29-year-old last fought at a Rizin Fighting Federation event on Dec. 29, when he was cut down by a head kick and follow-up punches from Jiri Prochazka; the setback snapped a modest two-fight winning streak for the Japanese judoka. Ishii has compiled a 14-5-1 record, his other four losses coming to Mirko Filipovic (twice), Fedor Emelianenko and Hidehiko Yoshida.
With the Jackson-Ishii catchweight showdown on the marquee, here is what to watch for at Bellator 157:
Chandler’s road back to the Bellator lightweight championship runs through Freire, as the two men lock horns in a rematch for the vacant strap at 155 pounds.
Now 30, Chandler has rattled off two straight wins since suffering back-to-back-to-back losses to Will Brooks (twice) and Eddie Alvarez. The Power MMA Team rep last competed at Bellator 145 in November, when he stopped David Rickels on second-round punches. Chandler, who was an NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, captured a unanimous decision from Freire at Bellator 44 in 2011.
A two-time Bellator lightweight tournament finalist, “Pitbull” steps into the spotlight on the heels of consecutive victories over Ryan Couture and Edimilson Souza, the former producing a “Knockout of the Year” contender on Jan. 29. Freire holds the rank of black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu but has become known more for his standup prowess, having delivered 10 of his 16 pro wins by knockout or technical knockout.
Change of Scenery
Mitrione the mixed martial artist has known only life in the UFC.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 graduate will spread his figurative wings and compete outside the Octagon for the first time when he makes his organizational debut against Seumanutafa in a three-round heavyweight attraction. Mitrione parted ways with the Ultimate Fighting Championship following losses to Ben Rothwell and Travis Browne, agreeing to terms with Bellator in March. The 37-year-old operates out of the Blackzilians camp in Boca Raton, Florida, where he hones his skills under Henri Hooft and trains alongside Anthony Johnson and Rashad Evans. Only two of Mitrione’s 14 career bouts have gone the distance.
Seumanutafa made stops in EliteXC, Strikeforce, King of the Cage and M-1 Global before throwing out his anchor in Bellator. He has not fought since he disposed of disposed of Javy Ayala with second-round punches in January. Seumanutafa, 26, has alternated wins and losses in each of his last six appearances.
Macfarlane made headlines in 2015 for all the wrong reasons through no fault of her own, as she dealt a savage 10-second beating against a woman who had no business being in the cage with her.
The promising Hawaiian prospect has taken the necessary steps toward putting the now-infamous “Soccer Mom KO” against Katie Castro behind her with two impressive performances in Bellator. A perfect 3-0 record will accompany Macfarlane in the cage when she meets the once-beaten Ruth in a women’s flyweight showcase. She last appeared at Bellator 148 on Jan. 29, when she needed a little more than two minutes to submit Amber Tackett.
Ruth has rattled off four straight wins, her latest triumph a three-round unanimous decision over Lena Ovchynnikova in February. The 37-year-old suffered her only pro defeat in 2014, when she wound up on the wrong side of a split verdict against Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger inside the Resurrection Fighting Alliance promotion.