I read with interest the new Jon Jones' talking point, a suggestion that Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's game had stagnated. People are picking up on it, but it's largely a nonsensical critique. What does it mean for his game to have "stagnated?" How would that apply to other sport's greats?
Why did Peyton Manning keep going out there and throwing touchdown passes? Why didn't he scramble more like Steve Young used to? Stagnant.
Roger Federer often runs around his backhand to hit a monster forehand smash. Why not mix in some Novak Djokovic style backhands? Stagnant.
Ichiro Suzuki just continued to get hit after hit for the Seatle Mariners. Surely he could have jacked some homeruns instead? Stagnant.
In those cases, of course, the complaints are absurd. The athletes in question are among the best in their sport, successful beyond their wildest dreams, stars of the highest magnitude. Rampage Jackson is no different. What critics are calling stagnant is actually a refined, mature, and successful game, built over 40 professional fights. This supposedly stagnant game has led Jackson to a 7-2 record in the UFC, including wins over four former world champions.
Jackson is a 33 year old fighter with a decade of professional experience. He's not a young guy getting a feel for what works for him in the cage. He's established that under fire. He's not stagnant, as much as he's comfortable with what he does well and understands what he doesn't do well. He's found his limitations, worked towards his strengths, and done as well as he can to eliminate weaknesses.
What makes these criticisms so infuriating to longtime fans is the fact that Jackson actually has put in a ton of work to get better as a fighter. This isn't a guy holding on desperately to something that isn't working. He's a wrestler who has, over time, developed a boxing heavy game. It's fair to knock some guys for not exploring the wide world of the mixed martial arts. But Rampage has worked hard to create and sharpen skills he didn't come to the sport possessing.
It makes no sense for Rampage Jackson to try to reinvent his game. He's already developed the skills needed to maximize his abilities. He's not a work in progress - he's a world champion level fighter still competing at the top level. Jackson may not beat Jon Jones - but it won't be because he didn't change his game. He got to the top for a reason; win or lose, it only makes sense to go out swinging, playing his game. After all, it's worked pretty well so far.