by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
With UFC 71 hours away, fighters weigh in with their picks on the highly anticipated rematch between Chuck ‘Iceman’ Liddell and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson for the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title.
Chris Leben, who takes on Kalib Starnes Saturday night, weighed in on the UFC 71 main event. “The problem is I like both of the guys so much. I want them both to win, but Rampage did beat him last time. I think the bottom line is it’s going to be a sweet fight. It’s going to be an awesome fight to watch. I haven’t been this excited for a fight in quite a while.”
Leben was unable to make a pick, but UFC Welterweight Champ Matt Serra chose a side. Serra said, “Chuck is just on such a freakin’ roll. I just think that if Rampage had one or two more fights in there it would be a better forum only because fighting here is way different than Japan. In Japan you can hear a pin drop. Rampage even made some comments about that. It’s a different animal altogether. It’s a different atmosphere, definitely a different crowd. If he had a couple of more tune up fights maybe it would be more in his favor. Right now I’m going to have to go with Chuck.”
Karo ‘The Heat’ Parisyan will step in the octagon at UFC 71 against ‘The People’s Warrior’ Josh Burkman. For the main event, Karo commented, “I don’t want to answer that question bro. I’m buddies with both, a little more so with Quinton. I’ve trained with Quinton a bunch. Quinton can take shots and he can also deliver them, the same with Chuck. He can obviously deliver, and at the same time he can take shots, so I don’t know. But again, anybody can fall. It’s just that Chuck has been on a pretty good roll lately. He’s been knocking people out left and right. Quinton is coming off two or three big wins. I don’t know bro, 50/50. I’m going to call it that. I don’t want to want to call it. Just make the better man win. I might be leaning a little bit more towards Quinton because I’m good buddies with him, but at the same time I like Chuck too man. Where ever it goes, it goes.”
Burkman’s prediction for Liddell vs. Jackson II was, “I don’t even know who to say. Anytime you pick someone nowadays there’s an upset, but until somebody beats Liddell I wouldn’t bet against him. He’s on top of his game, and he’s got his range dialed in. He’s knocking people out, and until somebody proves different I won’t bet against Liddell.”
Pride Grand Prix finalist Denis Kang broke down the match up, giving his unbiased opinion. Kang said, “I think Chuck is going to come in doing his usual thing. He’s a kind of fighter who doesn’t really change up his style that much. He’s going to be trying to throw big shots right off the bat. I think Quinton’s style, the way his defense is, he doesn’t really get out of the way. He puts his hands up and tries to block them with his forearms. I think that’s good, but if he does that too much Chuck’s going to catch him. For Rampage, I think it’s to try to take Chuck down. There’s not too many people who have been able to do that, but Rampage doesn’t have usual takedowns. He’s got those big slams. If he does something like that he can win, pin him against the fence and use the elbows. In my opinion, I think he’s going to try to trade with him, and I he’s going to use that defense which works good against other guys, but I don’t think it’s going to work good on Chuck. Chuck’s punches will get through the defense, and Chuck will probably get a TKO or KO.”
Din Thomas faces off against Jeremy Stephens at UFC 71. “There’s something about the UFC. It’s a whole different animal as opposed to other shows. I’ve fought on three continents, and I’ve been under many different lights, and the UFC is very different than any other place to fight in. If you’re not ready for it, it could be disastrous. I think with Quinton only getting that taste the first time he may not be up to the challenge, I don’t think. With the upsets anything can happen, and Quinton certainly has the skills to do it, but I just think that Chuck has been in so many times. He’s so at home inside that octagon with the doors shut. It’s his living room. You don’t lose in your own living room. I think that he’s going to be a little bit too much for Rampage.” Thomas said of the main event bout.
UFC lightweight contender and MMAWeekly Radio correspondent Kenny Florian gave his insight on the match up, saying, “This is going to be an exciting fight. Obviously this is the lock for the trilogy for Chuck to beat the last guy he needs to get revenge on. I think Chuck’s got so much momentum heading his way. Rampage, he’s got a lot of experience. He’s fought some of the toughest guys out there. I just think Chuck’s improving with every fight. He keeps getting better. I just personally think that his game is so well suited to guys trying to take him down. I think Rampage is going to have a lot of problems in this fight. Chuck really needs to use his reach to keep him on the outside which he’s so good at. I think this fight is going to end up with a knockout in Chuck’s favor. Rampage needs to use his quickness, needs to use his hands and dirty boxing to get on the inside, but he can’t sit there and trade with Chuck. I just don’t think he’s going to have that power and that ability. Chuck’s footwork has improved ten fold since they last fought. I think that his ability to circle, his ability to keep them on the outside is going to be the difference. If you look at his last few opponents, guys like Babalu [Renato Sobral], Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, guys who tried to use that same game plan have fallen to Chuck. I think his confidence is riding way too high. Rampage’s footwork is going to be crucial, his ability to be able to cut off the octagon and get him up against the fence. If he can do that we have a fight on our hands. We’re going to see a great fight. It’s going to be interesting to see if Rampage can really cut off that ring and slow Chuck down, get him up against the fence. I mean there’s not many people going to stop a Rampage takedown up against the fence. It’s going to be interesting to see how the footwork comes out in this fight. I think that’s going to be everything, the angles and the force is going to be huge in this fight.”