Chuck Liddell file photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.
It had been 14 months since Chuck Liddell, arguably the most accomplished light heavyweight in MMA history, suffered his fourth loss in five fights. UFC President Dana White and, for a moment, Liddell himself, who had been knocked out in the first round by Mauricio Rua, conceded it was time to step away.
But coming into UFC 115, Liddell never seemed more content, collected and confident. This was despite a late change in opponent, from sworn enemy Tito Ortiz to one of the sport’s most likeable guys in Rich Franklin. Liddell’s girlfriend was credited with steering his nutrition and lifestyle onto the straight-and-narrow, evidenced by six-pack abs, pictures of which were bandied about the Internet.
Despite it all, Liddell was again left prone on the canvas on June 12 for what White again guaranteed would be the final time.
As the first round was winding down in their UFC 115 main event, and after a kick broke the ulna bone in his left arm, Franklin uncorked a perfectly placed and timed short right as Liddell, believing he had the former middleweight champion hurt, closed in for the kill. The punch landed square on the button, again producing the visual of a glassy-eyed, bloody-lipped Liddell trying to process what had happened. Up to the finish, Liddell had looked quicker to the draw and hit a takedown and several kicks. Franklin, who took the fight when Ortiz fell out due to neck surgery, will wear his broken arm in a cast for at least three weeks to see if surgery can be avoided. Franklin collected an $85,000 bonus for “Knockout of the Night.”
Post-fight, White guaranteed Liddell was done with fighting after the loss, the same promise he made after the Shogun defeat a year ago. Liddell did not publicly comment; his girlfriend Heidi Northcutt’s Twitter said he was “sad” but still game to hit an after party. Liddell was on the last fight of his contract, and an extension was reportedly set to be offered if he were to beat Franklin.
The memorable finish capped the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada -- a city whose officials were slow to accept MMA. The card drew 17,000 fans to General Motors Place for a $4.2 million gate, one of the higher takes of the year for the company.
Local media covered the event from several angles. The Vancouver Sun reported police assigned an Integrated Gang Task Force to the event, as MMA events in Vancouver have reportedly attracted gang members in the past. The article noted that the gang unit is also assigned to NHL hockey games and that T-shirts bearing the Hell’s Angels and other gang-associated logos could be seen in the crowd. A companion article pegged the crowd “well-behaved” and reported there were “definitely more men than women in attendance and most appeared to be under 40 with a large percentage sporting tattoos and Affliction T-shirts.” However, a day-two article attributed the assault of a gay couple outside of its home near GM Place to the crowd drawn by the UFC.
There were plenty of stories inside the arena. Liddell’s loss furthered the narrative of his glory days getting further and further out of reach. However, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic did not cede that ground, despite calls that his best days were behind him after he was painfully shut down by Junior dos Santos at UFC 103.
The Croatian was dropped by two heavy right hooks in the first round by admirer Patrick Barry, but he recovered to activate his punching, clinch and ground game to impressive effect. Cro Cop took Barry’s back and landed stiff uppercuts in offensive flurries that, by the third round, had the New Orleans native on his knees and prone for a rear-naked choke that drew the tapout. Barry broke his hand and foot in the fight and will be wearing casts for the next five weeks.
Cro Cop’s UFC contract expired with the fight. He had said if he came up short, he would not seek an extension and would retire. Even with the win, an interview Cro Cop gave to the Croatian Web site Vecernji.hr indicated he still may not seek an extension, saying he felt too old during training camp and was not up to the grueling regimen. White said Cro Cop assured him he would finish his MMA career in the UFC. The usually stoic striker completely rehabbed his stock at UFC 115, opening up in entertaining fashion during interviews and not turning into his shell when hit with hard shots.
UFC 115 also saw two welterweights establish themselves as contenders. Martin Kampmann worked a solid jab and relentless back control to shut out Paulo Thiago over three rounds. Afterward, as a guest on MMAJunkie Radio, Kampmann expressed interest in fighting Dan Hardy later this year.
Also at 170, Carlos Condit overcame an early deficit against hyped 20-year-old Western Canadian product Rory MacDonald. Despite dropping the first two rounds on most scorecards, Condit, as is his custom, rallied in the third, landing hard punches on a grounded MacDonald that busted up his face and swelled his orbital, prompting referee Kevin Doran to step in with seconds left. MacDonald may well have taken the fight had it gone to the scorecards. MacDonald acknowledged the stoppage as necessary in a post-fight interview. Both fighters collected $85,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses.
Also picking up wins at UFC 115 were Ben Rothwell (unanimous decision over Gilbert Yvel), Evan Dunham (split decision over Tyson Griffin), Matt Wiman (first-round guillotine choke submission over Mac Danzig), Mario Miranda (round-two TKO over David Loiseau), James Wilks (unanimous decision over Peter Sobotta), Claude Patrick (round-two submission over Ricardo Funch) and Mike Pyle (round-three triangle choke submission over Jesse Lennox).
Dunham, Wiman and Patrick’s wins were broadcast on the Spike TV preliminary special, which drew an average of 1.3 million viewers -- toward the lower end of ratings drawn for the pre-fight specials. Anecdotal evidence also suggested the card did not draw well in the 300-plus movie theatres in which it aired across the country, the Wrestling Observer reported. The next UFC pay-per-view in theatres will be UFC 118 on Aug. 28.
The Spike TV broadcast got off to an inauspicious start, as referee Yves Lavigne called off the Danzig-Wiman fight prematurely after he assumed Danzig was out from a guillotine choke. Danzig was using his arms to post and stay out of danger and popped up immediately after the stoppage. The call earned Lavigne boos throughout the evening.
Dunham gave them something about which to cheer, however, as the fledgling Oregon-bred prospect outstruck Griffin 254-100, according to Fight Metric, and kept back mount for extended durations throughout the fight in a standout lightweight performance.