MONTREAL -- Quinton Jackson's well-publicized return to the UFC has been anything but smooth, but it was ultimately successful.
"Rampage" (36-11) earned a unanimous decision over Fabio Maldonado in the co-main event of UFC 186 on Saturday, inside the Bell Centre. The bout took place five days after Jackson won an emergency appeal in New Jersey Superior Court to prevent an injunction by his former employer, Bellator MMA, that would have kept him off the event.
Originally scheduled at light heavyweight, the bout was changed to a 215-pound catchweight due to the uncertainty of Jackson's situation. The hiccup in each fighter's preparations might have contributed to what ended up being a slow fight, with both men relatively gassed by the end. All three judges saw the three-round affair for Jackson: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
"You guys don't know how stressful this was," Jackson said. "I wanted to come here and fight in front of the Canadian fans. I heard you guys are some of the best fans on the planet. I had to fight to get here. I thought I needed to get out of the UFC, but I'm the first to admit I was wrong. The UFC is the best organization on the planet."
Jackson, who left the UFC and signed with Bellator on the heels of a three-fight skid in 2013, established his superior striking throughout the fight. He threw small flurries to Maldonado's body in close, as well as knees to the midsection. Late in the first round, he had Maldonado (22-8) covering up in the corner of the cage, defensively throwing left hands.
Maldonado answered at times with body punches, which did appear to slow Jackson, but he never managed to hurt the former light heavyweight champion. In the middle round, Jackson landed a jab and then a left hook that snapped Maldonado's head back, but the Brazilian dropped his hands and hit himself in the chin to show he was fine.
Although he was never knocked down, it was clear Jackson's punches had an effect on Maldonado. As he started to swell over both eyes, Maldonado attempted to make it a dirty fight and continuously clinched up with Jackson, but Jackson did well landing knees from the position and keeping his back off the fence for the most part.
Fightmetric counted 37 total strikes by Jackson, compared to 34 for Maldonado. Only one takedown was attempted in the fight. Maldonado converted on his lone inside-trip attempt.
"Fabio is a boxer, and I like people who stand with me," Jackson said. "He did a good job. Respect. I trained to knock him out, and he's got a chin of steel. I hit him with everything but the kitchen sink."
Both men were tired in the third. Maldonado lost his mouthpiece twice, hastily bending over to pick it up the second time it happened. Jackson did well with uppercuts in the second and third rounds and continued to just outclass Maldonado, even when tired. He opened a cut on the bridge of Maldonado's nose late.
Jackson extends his current win streak to four, three of which came under the Bellator banner. Bellator filed a lawsuit against Jackson in New Jersey, claiming the 36-year-old is still under exclusive contract with the promotion. Jackson announced in December he had legally terminated his deal due to contractual breaches by Bellator.
Michael Bisping manages his way past CB Dollaway
Twenty-three fights into his UFC tenure, Michael Bisping can still put on a show -- and win a fight.
Bisping (26-7) beat out CB Dollaway in a gutsy, three-round, middleweight fight, unanimously outperforming his younger opponent on the judges' scorecards by the scores of 29-28.
It was a much-needed win for Bisping, who has now alternated wins and losses in his past nine fights. The 36-year-old has never fought for a UFC title and is closing in on his nine-year anniversary with the company. On Saturday, he promised a title fight is still in his future.
"I know, more than anybody, that I've had my share of setbacks," Bisping said. "Trust me. I'm still working. I want this more than anyone. I will be champion one day."
Bisping fell into a groove offensively early, landing on Dollaway (15-7) with the jab and flashing the hand speed with three-punch combinations. Midway through the round, Dollaway just missed Bisping's chin with a wicked left-hook counter. Bisping grinned at Dollaway as he stepped back, acknowledging the close call.
In a similar exchange moments later, Dollaway didn't miss. He floored Bisping with the left hook and followed him to the ground, looking for a TKO finish. Bisping managed to eventually get back to his feet and finished the first round with a flurry, throwing caution to the wind.
"It wasn't so much I was hurt, but he definitely hit me," Bisping said. "I went down and was like, 'Whoa, hold on a minute.' CB Dollaway is tough, man. It was a hell of a fight. I did think it would be easier, but in the UFC, he's a top-10 guy."
Dollaway's left hook continued to threaten in the second and third rounds, but other than that one punch, he was mostly limited offensively. He worked in deep on multiple takedown attempts late in the fight, but Bisping managed to either fight them off or pop immediately back to his feet. He continued to keep the pressure on Dollaway despite the knockdown, peppering him with jabs and right hands. He caught and countered several outside leg kicks and actually spent the final 15 seconds of the fight in top position.
Bisping improves his record in the UFC to 16-7, while Dollaway suffers his second consecutive defeat. He lasted just 62 seconds in a knockout loss to Lyoto Machida in December.
John Makdessi cuts down Shane Campbell
Canadian lightweight John Makdessi gradually worked his way around Shane Campbell's length -- and finished the 160-pound catchweight fight once he managed to do so.
Makdessi (13-3) appeared bothered by his 6-foot opponent's reach at first, but eventually closed the distance and knocked him out with a piston right hand. Referee Phillipe Chartier mercifully stopped the fight at the 4:53 mark. He probably could have done so sooner, as Campbell was essentially done the entire final minute.
After eating a ton of outside leg kicks early, Makdessi dropped Campbell (11-3) with a stiff right hand after shrugging off a single-leg takedown attempt. Up to that point, it had been all Campbell, who dictated the range with his kicks and a quick jab. Inside the first minute, Makdessi was bleeding from a cut on the bridge of his nose.
Once Makdessi put Campbell on the fence, however, his tendency to go to the inside kick cost him. Makdessi timed up a perfect right-hand counter that put Campbell on his butt. Campbell turtled and covered up, as Makdessi rode his back and threw punches with both hands.
Somehow, Campbell managed to wall-walk to his feet and shoot on a single leg to slow down the fight, but he never fully recovered. Eventually Makdessi dropped him again with a right to the chin, which finally brought in the referee.
Makdessi rebounds from a decision loss to Alan Patrick in February. Prior to that loss, Makdessi had won four in a row. He is 6-3 overall in the UFC.
Thomas Almeida finishes Yves Jabouin with a flurry
Yves Jabouin had promised to stop the momentum of the surging 23-year-old Thomas Almeida -- but he couldn't even slow him down.
Almeida (18-0) cruised to a first-round TKO in his second UFC appearance, hurting his veteran opponent with relentless offensive pressure and punching combinations. Referee Yves Lavigne stopped the bantamweight fight at the 4:18 mark.
Jabouin never went down, but he stopped defending himself as he stood with his back to the cage. His coach, Firas Zahabi, protested the stoppage initially, but Jabouin made no appeal.
It was an impressive display of punching power by Almeida, who outlanded Jabouin in strikes 41-to-27 according to Fightmetric. The Brazilian appeared willing to take one to give one, as he stalked Jabouin around the cage from the opening bell. The left hook was his entry of choice, throwing it to the body and head and following with the right hand.
It was that two-punch combination that clearly hurt Jabouin along the fence with about one minute left in the first round. Jabouin tried to cover up and circle out, but Almeida cut him off and connected on an uppercut to the chin and a kick to the body. Jabouin staggered off in the direction of his corner after Lavigne stepped in.
The undefeated Almeida collects his 14th win via knockout. Jabouin drops to 2-3 in his past five fights.
Patrick Cote earns nod over fellow veteran Joe Riggs
Veteran welterweight Patrick Cote earned a unanimous decision over Joe Riggs in a bout that had 84 fights of experience between the two contestants.
Cote (21-9) managed to edge Riggs on the scorecards, earning unanimous nods of 29-28. Riggs (40-16) reacted in disgust as the judges' results were read.
Riggs, 32, certainly had his share of chances in the three-round fight. He immediately took Cote's back after tripping him to the floor but slid over Cote's shoulders after the Canadian got to his feet. The majority of the first round was spent with Cote in top position, landing short punches as Riggs tried unsuccessfully to get to his feet.
In the second round, however, action slowed to a crawl. Cote, perhaps slightly fatigued by his early output, failed to establish the same dominant top position he did in the first round. In the biggest exchange of the fight, Riggs connected on a hard straight right to Cote's chin.
With the score tied going into the third, Riggs struck first with an early takedown. He once again took Cote's back and locked in a body triangle, but Cote was able to turn into the position and get back on top to the delight of the Canadian crowd.
Late in the round, Riggs worked back to his feet and landed a few knees while holding Cote against the fence, but it was not enough to win him the fight.
"I've fought in Brazil and Las Vegas in front of tens of thousands, but nothing beats fighting in your home town," Cote said.
"Montreal fans are the best. Anyone who says they've never heard the crowd is full of crap because you always hear the crowd, and to have them on your side gives you an energy you can't get anywhere else. Joe Riggs is one of the toughest dudes I have ever fought. The man has something like 55 professional fights, which means he's never afraid to bring it."
Cote bounces back from a unanimous-decision loss to Stephen Thompson his last time out. Riggs, falls to 0-2 since re-signing with the UFC last year. Prior to the two-fight skid, he had been on a six-fight win streak fighting outside the UFC.
Alexis Davis submits Sarah Kaufman
Former UFC bantamweight title contender Alexis Davis scored her first win in more than a year, submitting Sarah Kaufman via armbar in the second round.
Davis (17-6) struggled on the feet the entire fight but capitalized immediately once action hit the floor. She executed a hip toss in the center of the cage to get Kaufman down and transitioned into a triangle when Kaufman reversed position seconds later. Eventually, the triangle gave way to an armbar, which ended the fight at 1:52 of the round.
It was Davis' first appearance since suffering a 16-second knockout to Ronda Rousey in July. It also marked her first victory over Kaufman (17-3) in three tries. The two fought in April 2007 and March 2012, with Kaufman winning each by TKO and majority decision, respectively.
"My game plan was to not rush during the first round, as we all know when I rush in, good things don't usually follow," Davis said. "I was trying to feel her out and see what type of fight she had planned. The 135-pound division is wide open right now, and I can definitely make another run back to the top."
In the first round, Kaufman appeared headed to make it a perfect 3-for-3 against Davis. She landed right hands basically at will during exchanges on the feet, slipping away from Davis' hands and tagging her repeatedly with combinations. The rights caused Davis' left eye to swell immediately.
Davis landed several kicks early, but Kaufman typically fired back with successful counters. Early in the second round, Kaufman appeared to hurt Davis with a left hook to the chin, which sent the Ontario native retreating. Everything turned on a dime however, when Davis scored the takedown.
"I was really comfortable in the first round," Kaufman said. "I knew I had hurt her with a few of my strikes. I lost focus there in the second round, and Alexis is a wizard on the ground. All you have to do it give her the smallest opening and she'll jump on it."
For Davis, it is the eighth submission win of her career, three of which came via armbar.
Kaufman, who hadn't fought in one year, suffers her first loss since a Strikeforce title fight against Rousey in August 2012.