Liddell Goes Down; UFC With Him?

This was the time for the UFC to breakthrough. It's most marketable star, Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell, had his Light Heavyweight belt on the line in one of the most hyped UFC events of all time.

ESPN.com had just launched a Mixed Martial Arts page. Sports Illustrated had an MMA cover for the first time. After the disappointment of Floyd Mayweather/Oscar De La Hoya in the fight that was supposed to "save" boxing, this was the night to showcase MMA as the combat sport of the future.

BAM.

Liddell goes down in under two minutes.

Even more disappointing than the fact Liddell got knocked out (these things happen) was the fact that the punch that sent him to the canvas didn't have that "oh sh&%!" quality to it.

MMA knockouts are supposed to be devastating, like Gabriel Gonzaga crumpling Mirko Cro Cop with a head kick, or Houston Alexander demolishing Keith Jardine in one of the under card fights on Saturday.

But this one was more "what the f%#^?" than "oh sh&%!"

Liddell had just finished throwing a combination and was moving back out when Quinton "Rampage" Jackson caught him with a right hook to the jaw. Even though Liddell was moving away and Jackson didn't have his full weight behind the punch, it hit Liddell right on the button.

Down goes Liddell.

Jackson jumped the opportunity and, an elbow to the head and a few punches to the face later, the fight was stopped. Liddell argued, but it was an empty protest. He was out, his left eye pointing in a very different direction than his right.

From a champion to a former champion in 113 seconds.

Now, Chuck Liddell is a badass. So is Quinton Jackson. Either one could kick my ass in 10 seconds or less.

(I say this because to imply in any way that a fighter went down easy — which I am not doing, by the way — invites the unimaginative comeback of "oh yeah, well he could kick your ass." Yes, he could. Thank you for pointing that out. Tell your mom I said hi.)

For people who have been watching the UFC for a while (or MMA in general), these kinds of upsets are part of the game. MMA fighters use 4 oz. gloves, just slightly more padding than wrapping an Ace bandage around your knuckles. Matt Serra knocked out Georges St. Pierre. Jardine kicked the snot out of Forrest Griffin, only to have the same thing happen to him by Alexander (in his UFC debut no less). Anderson Silva broke Rich Franklin's face in less than three minutes.

You just never really know.

And that's cool. I like it that way.

I just wish it hadn't happened this time.

Of all the nights where a fight needed to follow the hype, this was it. With all the attention heaped on Liddell, he needed to back it up with a war. He didn't necessarily have to win, but it had to be a war, something to catch all the people who were tuning in for the first time.

This was the time for UFC to finally push boxing into the abyss, staking its claim to the title of "America's Combat Sport." And Liddell was supposed to be the flag bearer.

But when it came down to backing up the hype, a tap on the chin sent Liddell to the canvas — and may have sent the UFC back in its quest to fully capture the national attention.

But to those of you who may be tempted to write off the UFC, don't even think about it. The Rampage Era in the Light Heavyweight division has begun. And all those fighters who were locked out by having already lost to Liddell (Tito Ortiz, Babalu among them), plus other comers from PRIDE (Dan Henderson), the future is bright.

In the next six weeks alone, there's Sam Stout vs. Spencer Fisher at UFC Fight Night (June 12 on Spike). There's Franklin vs. Yushin Okami at UFC 72 on June 16 (with Griffin and Jason MacDonald also on the card). There's the B.J. Penn/Jens Pulver fight on The Ultimate Fighter 5 finale (June 23) and Rashad Evans/Ortiz at UFC 73 (July 7), a card that also features Silva and what should be a hell of a battle at 155 lbs. in Hermes Franca vs. Sean Sherk.

And, unlike boxing, you never know what's going to happen. Perhaps it's not the "sweet science," but it's entertaining as hell.

And that's good enough for me.

Seth Doria is a freelance writer, poet and blogger in St. Louis. For more, visit The Left Calf.

Comments and Conversation

May 31, 2007

Anthony Brancato:

Rashad Evans will make everyone forget about Chuck Liddell.

Rashad is the man!

May 31, 2007

curtis:

What a ridiculous article. To assume the UFC is going to falter due to “upsets” is laughable. The excitement of MMA is the constant threat of the underdog. Nothing is definite. There is no one dominant fighter. The competition is so extremely tight in the UFC right now, the title of “underdog” is given and removed from fighters at an alarming pace.

And the fact that you feel you have to defend yourself from lame-brained trolls in your article take away from your credibility as a writer. If someone is going to respond with “they could kick your ass” are not worthy of a response, much less a mention in your article…

May 31, 2007

Mike:

Dumb column. First of all, the KO punch didn’t look all that bad live, but the replay from a different angle showed the punch was nasty. Secondly, Jackson is the most charismatic guy they have, and this was his “a star is born” moment. The rematch will be twice as big as this was.

May 31, 2007

tholland:

chuck is a great fighter the list goes on and on but everyone will be beat on any certain night even jackson it happens no secrets people get lucky

May 31, 2007

Stuart Armstrong:

I hate it when people call Rampage’s victory an “upset”. Months before the fight, he was the favourite in my eyes.

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