In a battle of legends at UFC 115, Ultimate Fighting Championship star Rich Franklin landed a right hand for the ages.
Taking on UFC Hall-of-Famer Chuck Liddell in the main event of UFC’s debut in Vancouver, Franklin landed what could be the final blow to Liddell’s career. The former middleweight champion fought through a broken arm suffered when he blocked a Liddell kick, ultimately recovering to knockout Liddell at 4:55 of the first round in front of nearly 20,000 fans at a sold-out GM Place.
The crowd, which roared for both men all night, collectively rose as one to celebrate their performance.
The win makes Franklin an instant player in the light heavyweight division. If UFC wants hiim to keep fighting in the 205-pound class, said Franklin, that’s where he’ll be.
“I’ll make a run for the title,” said Franklin (28-5-1).
Liddell, the former light heavyweight champion who has been dealing with retirement speculation since his April 2009 loss to Mauricio Rua in Montreal, looked spectacular in the first round, throwing kicks to the head and body, and using a double-leg takedown to get Franklin on the mat. Defensively, he appeared quicker than he has in years, bobbing and weaving around several of Franklin’s attacks.
Leading up to the finish, Liddell (21-8) rocked Franklin and followed him against the cage. He swung wildly, though, and Franklin avoided the shot before landing a sharp right hand square to Liddell’s chin. Franklin followed him down to the mat and hit him with one more shot, although The Iceman may have been out by the time he hit the canvas.
Franklin did it all with a broken left arm.
“It took me out of my game a little bit,” said Franklin.
He never thought about throwing in the towel, though.
“I broke my hand before and didn’t quit,” he said with a smile.
In other pay-per-view matches at UFC 115:
- At times, the match between Mirko Cro Cop and Pat Barry looked more like a love affair than a fight. But when it came down to the wire, the legendary Cro Cop knew what he was there to do.
After a first round in which the two fighters exchanged smiles, high-fives and hugs, Cro Cop (27-7-2) turned serious in the third and decisive round. Taking on a fighter in Barry (5-2) who made no secret that Cro Cop is one of his idols, the Croatian veteran rocked him with a flurry of left fists before locking in a rear-naked choke that forced Barry to tap out with just 30 seconds left in the entertaining heavyweight contest.
- Martin Kampmann (17-3) put on the best performance of his career, scoring a unanimous decision over highly-respected Paulo Thiago (13-2) in a welterweight contest.
- In a battle of two veteran heavyweights trying to bounce back after losses, Ben Rothwell (31-7) earned a unanimous decision over Gilbert Yvel (36-15-1, 1 NC).
Both fighters came out swinging in the first round and a knockout appeared imminent. But the tempo gradually slowed down as the match progressed, with Rothwell grinding out the win.
- Canadian Rory MacDonald showed why many consider him the future of MMA. The present, however, belonged to Carlos Condit.
MacDonald, just 20 years old, controlled much of the first two rounds in his UFC pay-per-view debut, but Condit dominated the third. He had MacDonald mounted for much of the last round, turning his face into hamburger with elbows and fists until the bout was stopped with just 10 seconds left in their spectacular welterweight match.
“Too close for comfort,” said Condit (25-5). “Rory’s a great fighter.
“I was dropping big bombs on him right before the stoppage . . . I imagine he could’ve made it through but he’s got a great career ahead of him. He doesn’t need to be taking shots like that.”
Though the crowd vociferously booed the decision, MacDonald — fighting out of Kelowna, B.C. — didn’t protest the stoppage. Instead, he gave all credit to Condit.
“He’s the toughest fighter I’ve ever faced,” said MacDonald (10-1).
“I was confused. I was taking some good shots. I was lost. I just couldn’t find my rhythm.”
In preliminary matches at UFC 115:
- Evan Dunham (11-0) won a split decision over Tyson Griffin (14-3) in a high-energy lightweight contest.
Dunham was awarded scores of 30-27 and 29-28, while Griffin was given one 29-28 score.
- Matt Wiman (12-5) scored a controversial submission win over Mac Danzig (20-8-1) at 1:35 of the first round in their lightweight bout. Canadian referee Yves Lavigne thought Danzig was choked out and called a stoppage to the match, but both fighters immediately stood up and expressed surprise at the decision. Both tried to convince Lavigne to restart the match, but his decision was final.
“I wasn’t out and I wasn’t about to tap,” said Danzig, who laid no blame on Wiman or Lavigne, saying it was just bad circumstance.
“I hope I get a rematch.”
Said Wiman: “I felt a tap on my leg and I told Yves he was out, but I guess he was trying to push off.”
- Canadian veteran David Loiseau (18-10) came up short in his first UFC match since April 2009, getting dominated by Mario Miranda (12-1) in a middleweight match. Miranda scored dozens of unanswered elbows and fists while mounting Loiseau in the second round, at one point looking at the ref to ask when it would be stopped. The answer finally came at 4:07 of the round.
- James Wilks (8-3) earned a unanimous decision over Peter Sobotta (8-3) in a welterweight contest. Two judges scored the match 30-27, while the third had it 30-28.
- Canadian Claude Patrick (12-1) made his UFC debut a successful one, choking out Ricardo Funch (7-2) at 1:48 of the second round in their welterweight match.
“I was happy with my performance,” said Patrick.
“I knew I didn’t have the choke the first time, but I knew it was sunk the second time.”
- Mike Pyle (19-7-1) opened the night with a submission victory, forcing Jesse Lennox (15-3) to tap out to a triangle choke at 4:44 of the third round in a welterweight bout.
[Courtesy Vancouver Sun]
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