They were right, this is a classic matchup. Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell is a UFC hall of famer and former light heavyweight champion. He was once the most dominant fighter in that weight class and has knockout power that you wouldn’t believe. Rich “Ace” Franklin is a former UFC middleweight champion, and was once the most dominant fighter in that particular weight class. Both famed strikers, and both previously seen as two of the best fighters in the UFC, they now face each other in order to prove that they still have what it takes to remain in the UFC.
Chuck Liddell had lost four out of five of his previous matchups prior to this event. Two of those were TKO’s, while two of those were very devastating knockouts, the first by current top contender “Sugar” Rashad Evans and the next by current light heavyweight champ, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. After the Shogun knockout, Dana White announced that Liddell should most probably retire from his fighting career and embrace an easier, possibly desk – confined position within the UFC. Liddell refused to acknowledge that in any way and was sure that he had many more years of fight within him. He has since become a coach on the very recent “The Ultimate Fighter Season 11” and has had a fourteen month layoff since his last fight. Some say that, combined with all of the accumulated injuries of the past, plus his age, and the ring rust, that “The Iceman” didn’t have much of a chance in this fight. Lidell set out to prove everyone wrong.
Rich Franklin has also had some time away from the octagon, after a similar, devastating knockout loss to Vitor Belfort. Many have said after the matchup that Franklin was not the great fighter he used to be and, like Liddell, was showing his age.
Were the naysayers correct? Are both of these fighters too old to scrap any more? Well, for at least one of them, I would definitely say no.
Most people (including myself) predicted that Franklin would take this fight because he was the faster, younger fighter, and that he could outpoint Liddell throughout all three rounds without getting clocked with The Iceman’s trademark dynamite knuckle. None ever counted Liddell completely out, though, as everyone still knew that, despite his age, Chuck still had tremendous knockout power within his fists?
Or does he? Several times throughout the first round, he had hit Franklin square in the head with his famed right hand of doom. Yet Franklin, while obviously hurt each time, simply gutted out the pain and came back with his own flurry of attacks. Had Liddell’s only real means of victory finally escaped him?
Despite the probable answer to that question, Liddell looked outstanding throughout the round. One reason people said that he kept losing recently was that his style became too predictable. He would stick to the same old punches, stances, and sprawls like he has always done, so everyone else simply made up game plans to work around that. This time, though, Chuck can be seen mixing everything up and looking more like a true well – rounded MMA athlete. He opens up with kicks, sets up his punches with even more kicks, and even landed his rarely used takedown. He was on fire this round.
Unfortunately, that would not nearly prove to be enough against Rich Franklin. “Ace”, showing the heart of a champion and a chin of pure metal, kept coming forward and countering Chuck during their bloody striking exchanges. Even when he was devastatingly hurt by Liddell’s punches, Franklin rarely backed off, and instead kept coming forward fiercer than ever. It was this way that he knocked out Chuck Liddell with a straight right of his own, almost at the very end of the first round, with only seven seconds left.
So, I was right: Rich Franklin won, but not nearly in the way that I and many others thought he would. In fact, it was the reverse. Franklin was the aggressor and was the one who knocked out Chuck! Didn’t see that one coming.
Now what of The Iceman? Is this really it for him? Will Dana still push him to retirement after this fight? Sad to say, but that’s probably the case. Chuck showed great promise in this opening round. He fought hard, was incredibly aggressive and showed impressive cardio. He never let up. Unfortunately, the chin that many people have been questioning for more than a year now may finally prevent him from staying with his preferred career. Yes, I truly believe that Chuck Liddell has many more years of fight left in him as he claims, but unfortunately, it seems that he really can’t handle direct blows as well as he could years ago, and in this game, that’s a terrible weakness to have. I’d love to see The Iceman fight again in the future, but I wouldn’t know if that would be the best, since his body really is showing the wear and tear of the past.
All respect to Rich Franklin, though. He fought a very hungry, very aggressive Chuck Liddell and he beat him at his own game. What's even more impressive was that he knocked him out despite a broken arm! Franklin confirmed during his interview with Joe Rogan that Liddell broke his left arm with one of the body kicks that cleanly landed. Rich still kept going, though, and won in spectacular style!
I still really like Rich and he remains one of my favorites within the UFC, so I’d like to see him climb his way back up into the ranks and get another title shot, whether within the light heavyweight, or the middleweight division.
Check out more great pics of UFC 115 over at the official UFC site!