There was hope that Chuck Liddell was turning back the clock. At age 40 Liddell showed up at UFC 115 quicker and leaner than he’s been in years. He was thrown a monkey wrench when Tito Oritz, a person he hates, backed out of their scheduled bout, replaced by Rich Franklin, a different brand of fighter and a person Liddell respects. For about 4:50 of the first round in the main event of the UFC’s debut in Vancouver, Liddell was looking ready for one last run at glory, attacking “Ace” and pressing the action just like the old Iceman.
All it took was a second for Liddell to leave himself wide open, for Franklin to connect a right hand flush to the face and send Liddell crashing back to reality: He’s an old warrior. The mind was ready and willing, and met the commitment to spend more time in the gym and less on the town. Alas, the body was no longer able. An older fighter’s wits and reaction time are precious seconds slower than in his or her prime. The ability to take a punch is also weathered, as are the bruises on the old, great warrior’s face.
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell was knocked out by Rich “Ace” Franklin 4:55 into their fight at UFC 115. Liddell went down on his shield, knocked out cold and taken straight to an area hospital. He wanted one more chance to avenge Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua each punching him into dreamland, convinced his longtime friend Dana White he wasn’t ready to be put to pasture.
All it took was Liddell telegraphing his offense for one second, for Franklin (26-5 MMA, 13-4 UFC) to capitalize and turn out his lights. This time it’s for good. The Iceman’s career is over after 21 wins in 29 MMA fights (16-7 in the UFC). He’ll be recognized as the greatest light-heavyweight to step inside the Octagon, one of the best ever period. He has a job for life in the UFC: mentor, coach, public relations ambassador, a member of White’s championship and matchmaking committee, whatever he wants. His fighting days are over and there is no longer an argument.
"Yeah, and I hope he agreed," White said at the post-fight press conference when he was asked if Liddell's career is over. "I don't think he won't."
There’s simply no choice. Liddell is done. I can care less how much he hates Ortiz or how much fans want to see him kayo the Huntington Beach Bad Boy for a third time. The Iceman that at one point reeled off seven straight wins and four successful title defenses became null and void the night Rampage clocked him into the middle of the next month. There’s really no shame in it either. Even the greats aren’t immune to the power of Father Time.
"I'll be the first one to say (that) he does not have the chin he used to have," White said. "He had an incredible chin, and listen – we all turn 40. We all get old. Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball (player). It happens to everybody."
It’s time for the Iceman to if not accept then embrace this reality.
Just like that, Franklin is a player in a light-heavyweight division in a holding pattern with Shogun’s injury delaying Evans’ title shot indefinitely. Franklin was able to bypass surgery for the time being and will wear a cast for two months, reports Sherdog.com.
If I were matchmaker, here’s how I’d set the table the rest of the year or into next (certain variables excluded): Rampage vs. Lyoto Machida. Franklin vs. Forrest Griffin. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira-Oritz. And if Franklin and Ortiz are slow to recover from their respective surgeries, Griffin and Little Nog were supposed to meet at UFC 114, so why not make it happen in late fall?
On a side note, I also endorse a rematch between Frank Mir and Minotauro Nogueira. Both come off vicious knockout losses and Minotauro won’t have to deal with the effects of a staph infection. There’s plenty of unfinished business between these two heavyweight veterans.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter @MMAJunkieJon.