Quinton Jackson and Keith Jardine Exchange Punches at UFC 96
Quinton Jackson and Keith Jardine Exchange Punches at UFC 96

Former UFC light heavyweight champion and top 205-pound contender Quinton “Rampage” Jackson topped Keith Jardine on Saturday via unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 96 at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

The event, the promotion’s third-straight March event in Columbus, drew an official attendance of 17,033 for a live gate of $1.8 million.

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The opening round of the headliner saw Jardine edge Jackson on the majority of the judge’s scorecards, clinching with Jackson from the opening bell and looking for a takedown midway through the frame while nearly completely neutralizing Jackson from doing any damage.

Jardine opened the second with wild punches the failed to find their mark before “Rampage” sent him to the canvas with a left hook. Despite Jackson’s best efforts Jardine quickly returned to his feet but the tide had turned. After briefly taking Jardine to the ground midway through the round, Jackson closed the frame with a late flurry, winning the round with 10-9 scores from all three judges.

After briefly exchanging early in the third, Jackson again took Jardine down but the fighters were quickly back on their feet. Jackson continued to look for an opening to finish Jardine but none were presented. Instead, he slowly wore Jardine down over the final minutes before finally sending him to the canvas with a last-second combo. The flurry sealed the victory for Jackson, who received scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 30-27.

Immediately after Jackson was declared the winner in the evening’s headliner the UFC offered him a bout against title-holder Rashad Evans which would headline UFC 98 on May 23rd in Las Vegas. Provided he’s injury free and up for the quick turnaround “Rampage” is expected to accept the opportunity to attempt to reclaim the light hevyweight belt.

Shane Carwin proved he’s among the promotion’s top heavyweights on Saturday with a knockout of former title-challenger Gabriel Gonzaga just over one minute into the UFC 96 co-main event.

Matt Brown, Matt Hamill, and Gray Manard also picked up main card victories, while Tamdan McCrory, Kendall Grove, Jason Brilz, Brandon Vera, and Shane Nelson were victorious on the UFC 96 preliminary card.

The UFC awarded $60,000 fight-night bonuses to Jackson, Jardine, and Hamill for their performances with Jackson and Jardine taking home “Fight of the Night” honors while Hamill received “Knockout of the Night” for his first-round head kick KO of Mark Munoz. A “Submission of the Night” award was not given out as none of the evening’s ten bouts ended via submission.

The event’s complete results were:

  • Quinton Jackson def. Keith Jardine via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
  • Shane Carwin def. Gabriel Gonzaga via knockout (punch) — Round 1, 1:09
  • Matt Brown def. Pete Sell via TKO (strikes) — Round 1, 1:32
  • Matt Hamill def. Mark Munoz via knockout (head kick) — Round 1, 3:53
  • Gray Maynard def. Jim Miller via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Tamdan McCrory def. Ryan Madigan via TKO (strikes) — Round 1, 3:35
  • Kendall Grove def. Jason Day via TKO (strikes) — Round 1, 1:32
  • Jason Brilz def. Tim Boetsch via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Brandon Vera def. Mike Patt via TKO (leg kick) — Round, 1:27
  • Shane Nelson def. Aaron Riley via TKO (strikes) — Round 1, 0:44