With a champion’s heart and a thunderous right hand, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell once again proved why he is truly the top 205-pound fighter in the UFC, if not the world. In their rematch at UFC 62 on Saturday night, Liddell defeated Renato “Babalu” Sobral in just 95 seconds.
Much was said prior to this bout as to whether or not Chuck Liddell was looking past Babalu for a potential match-up with Pride Champion Wanderlei Silva or a rematch with rival Tito Ortiz, but in typical Liddell fashion, he was a force to be reckoned with and he stopped Babalu with strikes early in the first round.
Within seconds of the opening of the fight, Babalu looked determined to press the pace and try to put Chuck on the defensive, which is something very few fighters have ever been able to do. Unfortunately for Babalu, pressing the fight and throwing heavy hands is exactly what Chuck Liddell is all about. The champion caught the challenger with a right uppercut that sent Sobral to the canvas. Within seconds, Liddell was on top, reigning down punches. While Sobral put up a noble effort to try and recover, it was not meant to be, and after a few more strikes, referee John McCarthy stepped in and called a stop to the fight at 1:35 of the first round.
Chuck Liddell celebrated, but with true class, went over to check on his downed opponent to make sure he was okay. The scary thing about the fight is not only that Liddell won, but also the fact that he made it look so effortless against a top fighter like Babalu.
After the bout ended, Tito Ortiz, who is likely to be Liddell’s next opponent, stepped into the Octagon to congratulate Chuck and hype their upcoming showdown. As usual, Liddell looked unfazed and celebrated a big win over a top opponent, while defending his title successfully for the third time.
In a fight that UFC president Dana White called the most anticipated rematch in UFC history, Forrest Griffin stepped back into the Octagon to take on his former housemate from Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter, Stephan Bonnar. With both fighters coming off of losses, this was the perfect time to match them up and build on their potential. No one believed that these two could put on a war like they did in their first fight, and everybody was right, as this ended up being lackluster bout between the 205-pound competitors.
From the very beginning, it looked like both fighters were being far too tentative with their striking, as they never opened up and went for any heavy strikes. There was exactly one takedown attempt in the entire fight, and it came with five seconds remaining in the third round. Griffin was definitely the more accurate of the two fighters when the punches were thrown, but the action was fairly poor throughout. The damage done was minimal and until the third round when the two finally became a little bit more aggressive, the bout was lackluster on all accounts.
Whether it was because of both fighters knowing the other’s style so well, or the fact that back-to-back losses could be devastating, or a combination of both, neither fighter ever seemed to really go for the win. After three pretty uneventful rounds, Forrest Griffin won a unanimous decision and can now start preparing for bigger and better fights. Stephan Bonnar will go back to the drawing board and perhaps the prelims after two straight losses.
The UFC is always looking for new talent in its struggling heavyweight division, and they may have found a new contender in Cheick Kongo, who looked impressive in his victory over American Kickboxing Academy team member Christian Wellisch. Kongo was able to withstand some solid groundwork from Wellisch at the beginning of the fight, and was able to bring the fight back to the stand-up position. Kongo landed some stiff shots and then threw a big knee that hobbled Wellisch and sent him crashing to the canvas. Kongo gets his second win in as many tries and will likely get a quick push to top competition in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
With the lightweight division back in full swing, the UFC is starting to show off more and more fighters at 155 pounds. One of those emerging stars is Hermes Franca. After a tough run of fights in the last year that saw him look as good as anyone in the world, Franca was invited back to the UFC with the reintroduction of the lightweight division. His opponent, Jamie Varner, was making his UFC debut and did quite well for himself early in the fight.
Varner was solid with takedown after takedown. While Varner’s ground and pound offense was not very damaging, which was likely due to Varner trying to avoid Franca’s extremely aggressive submission game, he controlled the first two rounds with relative ease and it seemed as though he might pull off the upset win. The third round was the turning point, as Franca finally woke up and caught Varner with big knee to the face, which caused his opponent to literally turn and run away from him. Instead of letting the action continue and allowing Franca to pursue his opponent and go for the finish, referee John McCarthy made a rather strange move when he stepped in and called for a timeout to deduct one point from Varner’s score.
The stoppage gave Varner time to recover, which is exactly what he needed. If this fight had gone to a decision, there surely would have been an appeal from Franca’s camp. After one last takedown from Varner, the submission game of Hermes Franca shone through. He locked on an armbar and twisted the lock tighter until Varner was forced to tap out.
Franca gets another big win, which catapults him into being one of the top two or three contenders in the UFC’s lightweight division. Varner, who looked solid outside of the third round, should get an invite back to the Octagon.
Nick Diaz has to be considered one of the most interesting and controversial fighters to ever step foot in the UFC, but after three straight losses, he was sent packing out of the company. After an injury forced Thiago Alves out of UFC 62 and his scheduled match against Josh Neer, Diaz was asked to step in on short notice for a welterweight bout against Neer at UFC 62.
The old Nick Diaz, the one who knocked out Robbie Lawler in the UFC back in 2004, appeared to be back as he took his time to pick Neer apart with pinpoint accurate strikes in the first two rounds. While Diaz’s heart has never been questioned, his game planning has come under fire occasionally. Some fans have questioned why Diaz hasn’t gone for submission attacks in his recent fight, given how good the Cesar Gracie-trained student is on the ground. When the fight with Neer finally made it to the ground, Nick Diaz took full advantage and locked on a tight kimura that caused Neer to tap out, giving Diaz a much needed victory and likely a return invite to the Octagon.
Overall, for a show that was perceived to be weak before it took place, all of the fights except for one (Griffin vs. Bonnar) went to finishes and looked pretty good at that. Liddell made short work of a legitimate top-level light heavyweight and seemed absolutely dominant in his victory. Forrest Griffin got back to his winning ways, but not without a boring fight that fans jeered when it was all over. Cheick Kongo and Hermes Franca both took another step towards contender status in their respective divisions, and Nick Diaz returned with a shot of adrenaline and a big win in the welterweight division. Other than the Griffin-Bonnar fight, this was a solid night of fights from start to finish.
-Chuck Liddell def. Renato “Babalu” Sobral by KO at 1:35 of Round 1
-Forrest Griffin def. Stephan Bonnar by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
-Nick Diaz def. Josh Neer by submission (Kimura) at 1:42 of Round 3
-Cheick Kongo def. Christian Wellisch by KO at 2:51 of Round 1
-Hermes Franca def. Jamie Varner by submission (armbar) at 3:31 of Round 3
-Eric Schafer def. Rob MacDonald by submission (arm triangle choke) at 2:26 of Round 1
-Wilson Gouveia def. Wes Combs by submission (rear naked choke) at 3:23 of Round 1
-David Heath def. Cory Walmsley by submission (rear naked choke) at 2:32 of Round 1
-Yushin Okami def. Alan Belcher by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)