Rampage Ices Liddell, Captures UFC Title
LAS VEGAS, May 26 -- World, meet Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
The magnetic light heavyweight from Memphis, Tenn. put his mark on
mixed martial arts Saturday evening by stopping hard-hitting UFC
light heavyweight champion Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell early in the
first period of their scheduled 25-minute title fight.
Tonight's UFC main event inside a sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena
boiled down to two very separate yet intertwined questions:
Would Liddell, who found redemption versus Randy Couture (Pictures) and Jeremy Horn (Pictures), fulfill his quest for a clean
slate by taking out the last man to defeat him? Could the
challenger, who was hounded by questions surrounding his mental
strength heading into the 205-pound showdown, perform at a high
enough level to thwart Liddell's mission?
Clearly both answers were going to be known at the same time, but
no one expected to find out so soon.
Less than two minutes into the opening period of the five-round
clash, referee John McCarthy dove in to save Liddell from serious
punishment after Jackson countered a risky hook to the midsection
with a fully-extended overhand right that met the champion's
"Ya know, I got caught," said the 37-year-old Liddell, who absorbed
a handful of strikes while he remained dazed on the canvas. "What
are you gonna say man? I made a mistake, got caught. Nothing else
you can say."
Each considered among the top five in their weight in the world,
Liddell and Jackson circled inside the spacious 30-foot Octagon to
start. The 28-year-old challenger displayed none of the jitters
that he so candidly revealed following his UFC debut victory
against Marvin Eastman
(Pictures) in February.
Always a tad paunchy, the champion stayed on the outside, even when
Jackson egged him on to scrap. Using footwork that was a major
focus of the Juanito Ibarra-led training camp, Jackson cut off the
cage and refused to provide Liddell any comfort in the first minute
of the expected war.
Much of the announced crowd of 14,728, which stood from the moment
Jackson walked to the cage a challenger until he left a champion,
showered Rampage with boos. Yet the challenger remained focused and
as action picked up remembered to press forward, not with the rabid
intensity he displayed while pummeling The Iceman in 2003, but with
the discipline of a fighter who learned important lessons after
falling short in previous major championship challenges.
"He didn't have high emotions, he was very calm," Ibarra said about
his charge, who makes his home in Irvine, Calif. "And it
"We were willing to take [Liddell] five rounds," the veteran
trainer said. "We were willing to kick with him, punch with him.
Fight in a straight line. Angles. We were ready for anything."
Jackson didn't have time to establish the jab that played out so
effectively for him in the light heavyweights' first clash in
Tokyo. But the new champion didn't need a stiff lead hand when
Liddell hastily went to the body.
"He saw an opening and he took it," said Liddell's chief trainer
John Hackleman, who four years ago ended The Iceman's night against
Jackson when he threw in the towel 13 minutes into the brawl. "The
risk highly outweighed the benefit of that technique and he paid
Going to the body without a combination in front of it opened the
Iceman to a counter attack from his younger, faster opponent, said
"I was doing my thing," said Jackson, who with the technical
knockout at 1:53 of the first round raised his record to 27-6-0.
"The right hand landed right on the jaw, right where I planned for
it to go, and it was des-ti-ny."
"I expected Chuck to come out fast, I really did," Ibarra said. "I
expected him to pressure us fast, but I had Rampage's movement
stepping, stepping so he couldn't come in a straight line and trade
with him if he wanted to trade."
Liddell (20-4-0) never looked comfortable, even
uncharacteristically scowling during the pre-fight instructions in
the center of the cage.
"Rampage had the answer tonight," said Hackleman. "[He] did
Saturday's bout marked the first time in seven fights -- and the
first time since Liddell met Jackson in 2003 -- that the San Luis
Obispo-based striker fell on the wrong side of the ledger,
preventing what would have been his fifth UFC title defense.
In that span he finished Randy
Couture (Pictures) and Tito Ortiz (Pictures) twice, avenged a submission
defeat to Horn, which occurred early in his career, and also
toppled Renato "Babalu" Sobral and journeyman Vernon White.
Outside of Matt Hughes
(Pictures)' tremendous run in the
welterweight division, Liddell's run of seven stoppages in seven
UFC bouts was one of the more remarkable stretches from any fighter
to grace the Octagon.
Considering his age and the talent the UFC has accrued with the
acquisition of the PRIDE Fighting Championships, which the
company's president Dana White made official at Saturday's
post-fight press conference, it's possible we've seen the best of
Liddell in the Octagon.
Current PRIDE two-division champion Dan Henderson (Pictures) was introduced as Jackson's first
challenger, marking the first title fight between current UFC and
"It only makes sense, finally getting the two champions together,"
said Henderson, 35. "That was [the Fertittas, owners of the UFC]
idea when they bought PRIDE. I'm honored to be the first one of
Jackson will be required to avoid the trappings of a title-holding
fighter, particularly as the sport -- and specifically the UFC --
blows up to heights even MMA's most wishful supporters didn't dare
Will he be like Hughes and put a virtual lockdown on the division?
Or will Jackson follow the path of Georges St. Pierre
(Pictures), win a title and lose in his
"It never was about the belt," said Ibarra. "It was always for the
win. The belt is a bonus. Like I've always said -- I was taught
this by Eddie Futch, the great boxing trainer -- it's easy to climb
the mountain, but it's hard to stay on top."
A competitive welterweight clash saw Armenian Karo Parisyan (Pictures) outpoint Salt Lake City, Utah's
winded but game Josh
Burkman (Pictures) (8-4-0).
Following a competitive opening round in which both fighters showed
their capabilities, the 24-year-old Parisyan (17-4-0), best known
for his high-elevation judo throws, took over with solid right hand
leads and the threat of vicious head-over-heels takedowns.
Rarely setting up strikes behind a jab, Burkman, 27, looked
primarily for power shots. His failure to do more than wing wild
punches cost him, and as a result the judges -- Tony Weeks 30-27,
Jeff Mullen 30-27, Lester Griffin 29-28 -- all had it in favor of
Parisyan, who afterwards pleaded for a UFC 170-pound title
"I own a dominating victory over Matt Serra (Pictures), and he's the champion today,"
said Parisyan, who fights out of North Hollywood, Calif. "I want to
come back and fight Serra or Hughes. Whoever wins that fight. I
want my title shot."
Chicago middleweight Terry
Martin (Pictures) made it two in a row at 185
pounds with a victory over veteran Ivan Salaverry (Pictures) at 2:04 of the first. Fighting
out of Seattle, Wash., Salaverry (12-5-0) offered the odd inside
leg kick, but little else.
Shorter but more powerful, Martin, 26, tried and failed to slam
Salaverry to the mat several times before finally succeeding. When
action went to the floor, the 36-year-old Salaverry was slow to
react as Martin (16-2-0) rained down sloppy strikes that forced
referee Mario Yamasaki to call a halt to the contest. After the
fight, Salaverry had a brace around his left shoulder and
noticeable swelling about his face.
"My father told me right before he passed away that I was going to
dominate the 185-pound division," Martin shared with the crowd. "I
want to tell Anderson
Silva that I'm willing to stand with him. The question is, is
he willing to stand with me?"
The upset of the night belonged to 35-year-old East St. Louis
Alexander (Pictures), who upended light heavyweight
contender Keith Jardine
(Pictures) in just 48 seconds.
Making a splash in his UFC debut, Alexander (7-1-0, 1 NC)
straightened Jardine, 31, with vicious uppercuts, putting his
Albuquerque, New Mexico-based foe on the ropes seconds into the
fight. Jardine's mouthpiece fell out as he took one final blow, and
Steve Mazzagatti jumped in to protect "The Dean of Mean," who fell
"That's punching power right there baby," said Alexander, watching
himself on one of the big screens inside the MGM Grand Garden
Arena. "That's real punching power right there."
Televised action began with a pair of reality TV stars. In what
some would call a substantial upset, Canadian Kalib Starnes (Pictures) defeated fellow The Ultimate
Fighter veteran Chris
Leben (Pictures) by unanimous decision.
Leben, 26, appeared sluggish off the opening bell, and though he
tried to rally with power punches, the more dynamic Starnes (8-1-1)
connected at a much better percentage. In the third, Leben landed
his best blow of the fight when he planted a kick to the liver that
sent Starnes reeling.
The Oregonian tried to capitalize, but to the 32-year-old Starnes'
credit he pulled off a beautiful jiu-jitsu sweep from the bottom
and wore out "The Crippler" (16-4-0) with a steady diet of punches
from inside the guard. Judges at ringside saw it in Starnes' favor
(Patricia Morse Jarman 29-28, Chris Lee 30-27, Jeff Collins
"Screw the judges, screw the scoring," said Leben, who walked out
to the cage to 2Pac's Picture Me Rolling, perhaps a warning to UFC
brass as his contract is near an end. "I judge my fights by what
the fans think. I think that was probably one of the most exciting
fights of the night."
Curitiba, Brazil's Chute Boxe academy, which has produced greats
like Wanderlei Silva
(Pictures) and Mauricio Rua (Pictures), returned to the UFC for the
first time in several years as young Thiago Silva (Pictures) made his Octagon debut against
Californian James Irvin
Following an early scramble, Irvin, 28, planted his leg as Silva,
now 10-0-0, maneuvered for a takedown. The intense stress forced
Irvin's right knee to give way, and the light heavyweight screamed
as he fell to the canvas. Despite scoring a win, it was an
unfortunate evening for the 24-year-old Silva, who hoped to show
American fans his dynamic skills.
After the fight, members of Irvin's camp indicated that "The
Sandman" (12-4-0, 1 NC) suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament,
which will likely keep him out of action for several months.
Despite stepping up on short notice and fighting 20 pounds above
his normal weight limit, Alan
Belcher (Pictures) looked surprisingly good against
light heavyweight Sean
Salmon (Pictures) (9-3-0), who has become somewhat
of a punchline after Rashad
Evans (Pictures) knocked out the Columbus, Ohio
native with a high kick earlier this year.
Salmon, 29, and Belcher, 27, danced in the clinch before an
opportunity presented itself. Belcher locked up Salmon's head and
jumped up so he could wrap his legs around the wrestler's waist.
Threatened by a guillotine choke, Salmon slammed Belcher (10-3-0)
to the canvas but that did little more than secure the submission,
which came by tapout 53 seconds after the opening bell.
Thirty-year-old Din Thomas
(Pictures) welcomed fellow lightweight
(Pictures) to the UFC with a
beautifully executed armbar finish, 2:44 of the second round.
Stephens, a young kid at 21, held his own through the round and a
half of action, defending Thomas's varied attack, especially
The end came as Thomas worked from the bottom of the guard. He
moved for an armbar, secured it and finalized the fight after being
slammed onto the canvas. Though Stephens (8-2-0) didn't protest
hard, his first reaction to the stoppage was one of disbelief.
Replays were inconclusive regarding whether or not he tapped out to
the hold, but Thomas, now 20-6-0, was happy to take credit for the
Action on the UFC 71 card began with Wilson Gouveia (Pictures)'s dominating submission win over
(Pictures), who moved down for the
first time from heavyweight to fight at 205 pounds.
Gouveia, 9-4-0, had his way with Marrero due in large part to leg
kicks. The 28-year-old Brazilian delivered stinging Thai kicks that
had Marrero, 26, ailing not long after the fight began.
Following yet another low kick, Marrero (6-2-0) fell to the canvas,
where Gouveia moved and locked up a guillotine choke at 3:06 of the
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