It turns out the UFC knew what they were doing when they tagged their latest show UFC 88: Breakthrough. Rashad Evans dropped a hellacious overhand right that put Chuck Liddell down to the floor, asleep, in the second round of the headline bout.
Evans is an alumnus of the Ultimate Fighter reality show, but the jury was still out on him. He poses too much for some fans’ liking, but on Saturday night at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, that went out the window. The fighter had jaws dropping all over the arena when he dropped the MMA icon Liddell, who has now lost to Rampage Jackson, Keith Jardine (an Evans stablemate) and Evans in the last 16 months.
The Californian Liddell (21-5 entering; age 38) weighed 204 pounds. New Mexico’s Evans (16-0-1 entering; age 28) weighed 205 pounds.
In the first, the former UFC light heavy champion Liddell circled, looking for a home for his ramrod right. Evans posed a bunch, and finally tossed an overhand right after two minutes. Evans has a habit of tossing out the lamest jab of all time. The TUF alum landed a stiff leg kick that sounded mean. Liddell tried to close the distance with a minute left. A cut under Liddell’s right eye appeared towards the end of the round. It didn’t appear all that threatening. In the second, Liddell got closer still. There were exchanges, with Evans finding a home for left hooks. A right hand, though, dropped Liddell like the proverbial ton of bricks. The crowd was stunned, and silent, save for one woman who screamed like she was being attacked by an axe murderer. Announcer Joe Rogan said that was Evans' wife. Liddell was throwing a long right uppercut, a la Douglas vs. Holyfield, and Evan’s shot got there first.
The 33-year-old Rich Franklin (25-3 entering), the former UFC middleweight champion, met relative newbie Matt Hamill (6-1 entering; age 31), an alum from the Ultimate Fighter reality show. Both men are Ohio natives. Franklin is trying out the 205 pound division, because the 185 pound division is ruled by Anderson Silva, who has beaten Franklin twice. Hamill is 100% deaf in both ears, by the way.
I was pumped when I heard Skynrd pumping for Hamill; he went to the Octagon to “Simple Man.”
In the first, Hamill glanced at his corner for guidance. They send him signals on things to look out for and aim for. Franklin worked inside leg kicks from the start. A cut formed under Franklin’s right eye midway through. Hamill took him to the mat, but Franklin slithered out. Hamill was also cut, on the right eye. In round two, Franklin’s quickness stood out early. He fended off a Hamill clinch smartly. The cut on Franklin, though, was worrisome. A slice of skin looked to be torn away. The fight was interrupted when Franklin landed a kick square to Hamill’s package. The newbie didn’t look like he had a real gameplan as he took kick after kick to his front leg. He didn’t check any of the kicks, and looked a little beat at the end of the second.
At 39 seconds of the third, Franklin delivered a kick that exploded Hamill’s innards. The deaf fighter dropped to the floor and the ref saw that he was in no shape to continue. It was a left leg which Hamill thought was headed up toward his head. He covered his noggin and left his gut open for business. Franklin’s 205 visit ended with a TKO win.
38-year-old Californian Dan Henderson (22-7 entering), a former Pride star, took on US unknown Brazilian submission specialist Rousimar Palhares (17-1 coming in; age 28). Henderson went up a notch in my eyes by coming to the ring to “Lunatic Fringe” by Red Rider. Another classic rock gem! Henderson caught Pal with a mean right early on, but the Brazilian shrugged it off after a couple of seconds. Hendo stuffed takedown after takedown attempt in the first. With a right upper, Hendo dropped Pal, who again cleared his head, and tried to lock on a submission. The stocky Pal got side control with 30 seconds to go but the vet defended well to the bell as he fended off a kneebar. In round two, Pal dumped Hendo with a double leg scoop up and slam that had the crowd roaring. Hendo then escaped from a heel hook, and that left him limping a touch. Both men breathed heavy midway through two. Hendo touched Pal with his sharp, straight right once again, maybe taking the round right there. In the third, Hendo stuffed a takedown and connected with a left hook. For 38, he is still quite quick. Pal ate yet another heavy right; his chin is top shelf. He was sucking serious wind at the end. The judges spoke: 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, for Henderson. After the bout, Henderson said, “This opponent was just as tough as any I’ve faced in (UFC). Normally, I’m more aggressive, I apologize for that.”
Joe Rogan chatted with the returning Randy Couture. The Natural said that his next foe, Brock Lesnar, does not have the well rounded MMA skill set that he does. “This is a huge athletic guy, this poses some problems for me, solving those problems is what I love about this sport,” he said. I thought Rogan was going to spit out a lung, he was so pumped talking about the Nov. 15 tussle.
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