September 26, 2006

Editorial by Matt Hill for MMAWeekly.com
Evans Gets the Win: Fans Anticipate the Future of Liddell and ‘His’ Division

With athleticism, power, and explosiveness, Rashad Evans dismantled Jason Lambert Saturday night, and in the process climbed one rung higher on the 205-pound division’s proverbial ladder. Evans pressured Lambert from the opening bell with takedowns and ground control, before ultimately defeating him by TKO at 2:22 of Round 2.

With this win, Rashad (9-0) unquestionably solidified himself as a top contender for the UFC Light-Heavyweight championship belt, and will hopefully get the chance to fight fellow TUF alumnus Forrest Griffin next, perhaps with the winner of that fight receiving a title shot early next year.

A Griffin/Evans fight would seem to be the likely candidate for #1 contender status in the Light-Heavyweight division, since Liddell recently blew through highly ranked ‘Babalu,’ and Ortiz signed to rematch ‘The Iceman’ for the title in December.

Any fighter that gets the #1 contender status and a chance to fight the winner of Liddell/Ortiz II will have his hands full, though, and better come mentally prepared to be on the receiving end of a thrashing, if that be the case. No one in the light heavyweight division has found an answer to Liddell’s powerful striking and takedown defense since Randy Couture beat Chuck at UFC 43, and a fully confident Ortiz can demoralize and batter nearly any fighter in the world into a bloody, messy pulp (see Ortiz/Shamrock I, among other Ortiz victories).

The winner of Ortiz/Liddell II needs to take his next fight seriously as well, though. Some of these up-and-comers may be relatively new to the UFC, but they might also possess that gripping hunger that sometimes fades in grizzled veterans. As many saw with the Pulver/Lauzon fight Saturday night, upsets are part of the game, and a fresh, young, and hungry fighter brings a fabulous recipe to burn through a complacent veteran.

One also has to keep in mind that if Liddell wins his rematch with Ortiz, he may have a desire to move to an organization that has well-established top-ranked fighters, so he can try and cement his position at the top of the 205-pound food chain before retirement. With highly ranked fighters in the Pride organization like Wanderlei Silva and Ricardo Arona, one has to wonder if Chuck will want to hang around and fight the ‘fresh meat’ in the UFC. Liddell is approaching 37-years-old and he has to know that his chances of performing at his peak are slowly but surely dwindling away.

No one knows if Chuck’s best fight was his last one, or if ‘The Iceman’ has 10 more good fights in him, but since there are no sure things in fighting, one would think that if Liddell wants to challenge the best, he needs to do it soon. If the UFC can’t work out that coveted deal with Pride, Liddell may be forced to cut his ties with the UFC in an effort to fight people who are commonly considered to be his toughest competition.

As with anything that involves fighting, though, there are a lot of events that could transpire and cause change between now and February, so it would be unwise to hypothesize too many things, but one thing is for sure, with hungry fighters like Evans, Griffin, and Bisping, the UFC’s Light-Heavyweight division is unquestionably and progressively evolving.