I just watched the Chuck Liddell/ Rich Franklin fight in UFC 115.
I remember when I first saw Chuck Liddell fight in the UFC. I thought: “Who’s this tool with the world’s worst haircut?”
Liddell proceeded to destroy his opponents for the next 8 years and was the dominant force in mixed martial arts. He won an incredible 16 out of 17 fights in the UFC between 1999 and 2006. Things began going down hill after he fought a series of absolute wars, beginning with his loss to Quentin Jackson. From there, Liddell lost to Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua and last night, Rich Franklin. In the mix, he claimed victory against Wanderlai Silva, but as with most Silva fights, both fighters left the ring as bloody messes.
In the fight against Franklin, Liddell looked in the best shape of his career. His trademark power was evident in several kicks and punches. One of his kicks actually broke Franklin’s left arm, but Franklin fought on. On one occasion, Franklin looked at the arm, sensing something wasn’t right. As the first round closed, Liddell, always the aggressor in every one of his fights, closed on Franklin, pummeling him into the octagon’s fence. Franklin though is an incredible warrior. He never loses his cool always seems to have a plan. His left arm hung limply at his side, and as Liddell charged his right fist with enough power to blow a hole through a steel wall, Franklin caught the Iceman with a short right hook on the chin. It barely looked powerful enough to knock a squirrel off a branch.
The Iceman went down, ice cold.
One couldn’t help but feel sorrow for Liddell. It was most probably his last fight. Too much punishment, too many hits. Anything but the brain. An old soldier cannot just fade away, regardless of MacArther’s estimation. He must do battle with the demons that brought him to the ring in the first place. His war is first with his own psyche, then with the flesh within the ring, then again with the demons, once his own flesh cannot stand the damage any longer. So many boxers, once forced from the ring, turn to self-destruction when their fists cannot destroy others.
Chuck Liddell awoke to the coalescing roar of the crowd. Franklin humbly marched around the ring.
So the Iceman is done, it seems. The man who made the UFC what it is today, who brought mixed martial arts to the cover of ESPN magazine, must leave the game and leave fans with a slightly tarnished memory of someone who was once the most terrifying knockout artist in the world.