by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
Saturday night’s UFC 88 was a
rousing success, at least by live gate standards. Zuffa, LLC brought 14,736
people to the Phillips Arena for $2.6 million in revenue. Only Barbara
Streisand has beaten out the cage. UFC president Dana White requested a rematch
“That sucks,” he said with
his trademark Cheshire grin. “We want a rematch with Barbara.”
UFC 88 might not have been a
success, though, for the company’s long-term future. Zuffa’s marquee man, star,
and cash machine Chuck Liddell was taken out by Rashad Evans in devastating
fashion. There were no conceivable arguments for giving “The Iceman” a shot at
light heavyweight champ Forrest Griffin, no matter how good the storyline.
Despite Evans’ ear-to-ear
smile, you could say a pall hung in the air, particularly over White’s podium.
That, and a noxious stench from fresh paint in the gymnasium where the press
conference was held.
“Go ahead and ask your
questions,” White said, his eyes widening. “How long have you guys been in
here? I’m starting to get dizzy already.”
White confirmed that Evans
was first on the list for a title shot, a point he had to stress several times.
Evans didn’t even commit to the idea until formally asked for his response later
in the meeting.
“It’s exciting, man,” he
said. “I’m still living in the moment. I haven’t really put any thoughts to a
title fight. Whatever, it’s just another fight.”
Concern for Liddell’s safety
was obviously high on reporters’ lists. The former champ’s eye were cast down,
his face sullen and irritated. A huge mouse resided under his right eye. As he
did after being knocked out by Quinton Jackson at UFC 71, Liddell chalked the
loss up to a gamble he lost.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I got
caught. What do you want me to say?”
Former middleweight champ Rich
Franklin regretted having to put a beating on former training partner Matt
Hamill. Chomping loudly on an apple, he also lamented having to take punishment
from “The Ultimate Fighter” season three alumnus; midway through the fight, he
was whipping his head back to keep a dislodged flap of skin from getting in his
“He hit me with a pretty
solid uppercut,” Franklin said. “I was like, how can you do that to a friend?”
For his part, Hamill said the
fight had been a great lesson.
“I learned my mistake,” he
said. “Rich Franklin’s a world class striker, and I know I can’t keep up with
him. But I tried.”
Hamill also revealed the
reasons for his sideways glances in mid-fight. His trainers had devised a nifty
way to cue his attack. When he was to be calm, trainers held a placard cageside
with orange reflective material. When he was to attack, the trainers lowered
the sign. The orange caught his attention – it was the signal to “lock
“It was time to attack, go
for takedowns,” he explained. “It really helped a lot. Hey, it’s better than
listening to your coach in the corner.”
Dan Henderson mused that it
had been ten years since his last Octagon win. More than ten actually – not
since he bested a 27 year old Allan Goes at UFC 17 “Redemption” had he tasted a
“Hopefully I don’t wait that
long again,” he said.
White told reporters he
thought Thiago Tavares had tapped during his fight with Kurt Pellegrino.
“When that happened, I saw
him get the armbar,” he said. “And I went to say something to Lorenzo, and I
looked back and he was out of it. I was like, ‘how the hell did he get out of
that? I want to see the replay.'”
But the main lesson from the
evening was that the fighters coming off of the UFC’s seminal reality series, “The
Ultimate Fighter,” could no longer be denied respect. Two winners of the show,
Evans and Griffin, will now roll the dice for the organization on Dec. 27.
“There was that whole
(expletive) mystique in the beginning, that I think a lot of it stemmed from
the (non-TUF) fighters, not respecting these guys. They’re getting their
UFC 88 PRELIM REVIEW: PELLEGRINO & TAVARES IMPRESS