The big story before UFC 115 was about Chuck Liddell and whether his renewed dedication would allow him to make a successful comeback.
After UFC 115, the biggest headline will probably be about whether Chuck Liddell should retire now, or if he should get one last chance to go out on a "high note" opposite Tito Ortiz.
My take on the Chuck Liddell legacy is that in his prime he took on all comers, coming up victorious against most, but almost always fighting relevant fights.
Even in the twilight of his career, Liddell still fought the best guys in the division.
At UFC 115 Chuck Liddell went out fighting the same way he fought his whole career, which is only as it should be.
All that said, here's what you need to know about UFC 115.
Chuck Liddell vs. Rich Franklin
What will be lost in the talk over Chuck Liddell is the great fight Rich Franklin fought against Chuck Liddell.
If it weren't for catering to popular demand, all UFC 115 recap headlines should read something like "Rich Franklin Suffers Broken Arm, Still Wins Fight."
Franklin's left arm was broken early in the fight by a Liddell high kick, but he held on and capitalized with a right hand when Liddell got overzealous in trying for the knockout.
Liddell was out cold.
This should be one of the career-defining performances for Rich Franklin, a fighter I feel is routinely underrated simply because he's had the misfortune of having fought Anderson Silva twice.
Throughout the fight I felt like Franklin was the quicker fighter, and that he landed the cleaner strikes, especially when Liddell charged forward.
Two of the best things Franklin did were his use of inside leg kicks, and catching Liddell with punches when Liddell over-committed to the attack. These two tactics both have been successful historically against Liddell and were employed very effectively by Franklin.
Although I felt Franklin was winning the round before the knockout, to Liddell's credit, he fought a good fight for the most part.
Liddell did a good job of mixing kicks into his usual arsenal of punches, and caught Franklin with some solid punches.
In short, the Liddell that lost at UFC 115 would probably still have beaten Tito Ortiz.
Mirko Cro Cop vs. Patrick Barry
Cro Cop came back with a third round submission after getting dropped by punches twice in the first round.
The first round was all Barry, as Barry was the aggressor, and was really having a lot of success on the feet.
By the end of the first round, Cro Cop had some bad swelling building up around his left eye, which looks as if it may be an orbital bone fracture.
Yet Cro Cop used his veteran savvy to stay the course.
After the first round, everything seemed to change, and Cro Cop started landing hand combinations of his own.
Halfway through the third round, it was clear that Cro Cop was getting stronger, while Barry seemed to have lost his way.
In the win, Cro Cop showed some will power in a performance where he looked generally better than he has in his previous UFC outings.
After a performance like this, it appears Cro Cop may still have some left in the tank.
At the same time, I do feel that part of the reason Cro Cop was able to come back was because Barry let him off the hook after a great first round.
My feeling while watching was that something happened to him mentally during the fight, as if he couldn't imagine knocking out his idol. Since then, word has come out that Barry may have broken his right hand early in the fight, which now appears to have been a factor in his performance over the last two rounds.
Still, hand issues or mental issues aside, Barry needs to improve his grappling skills drastically if he is to remain in the UFC.
Paulo Thiago vs. Martin Kampmann
We knew that Kampmann was the more technical striker than Thiago, but somehow I still didn't think that he was going to be able to avoid power shots from Thiago.
In this fight, Kampmann showed some improved defense on the feet that really allowed him to stay in control of the standup.
Kampmann also dominated in the grappling department, repeatedly threatening with chokes, and dominating positionally.
The win is probably the best win of Kampmann's career.
As for Thiago, hopefully this loss gives him an opportunity to learn and improve upon his weaknesses.
We knew that his striking wasn't as technical as Kampmann's but in this fight he almost seemed timid about engaging at all.
As for the grappling, Thiago has good defensive abilities, but he needs to improve his wrestling and positional game so that when he's on the ground he's not always playing defense.
Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald
Condit came back from a probable two round deficit to score a TKO win late in the third round.
After two close rounds that probably went to MacDonald, Condit got a takedown in the third, and really went to work on the young Canadian prospect by dominating from top position and landing a ton of strikes.
The referee stoppage was probably unwarranted because MacDonald was still defending himself and only nine seconds remained in the bout, but I do think cosmic justice prevailed despite the stoppage.
Had the fight lasted nine more seconds, I would probably have scored it a 28-28 draw, and I thought the the case could have been made for a 10-10 first round, giving the decision to Condit. Had the fight gone the distance, I can easily imagine the judges putting out some wacky scorecards giving MacDonald the nod.
Because the fight was stopped, we were at least saved from some injustice going the other way.
The way things ended up, Condit will move up the ladder towards contention, which is good, because presently Condit is the more matured fighter.
MacDonald, who is only 20 years old, will actually benefit from this loss. The loss will send him a few rungs back down the contention ladder which will give him a chance to shore up some of his weaknesses.
Despite fighting evenly with Condit for two rounds, MacDonald is still pretty raw, especially when it comes to submission grappling.
He got reversed badly by Condit's kimura switch on two occasions, struggled to be offensive from inside Condit's guard, and was effectively neutralized once Condit got on top of him in the third round.
There are a lot of improvements that need to be made, but after this loss, I think he'll be afforded the proper time as a prospect.
Tyson Griffin vs. Evan Dunham
Dunham surprised most observers by pulling off an upset win over Tyson Griffin. Dunham and Griffin fought fairly evenly on the feet, but Dunham was able to take advantage of scambles, and secure back control in every single round.
Dunham is a BJJ black belt, and it showed from the way he remained glued to the back of Griffin, who is a notoriously good scrambler.
Simply a great performance for the prospect who must now be considered a contender in the lightweight division.
The only thing negative I have to say about this fight is concerns the judge who scored this fight for Griffin, which is pretty much inexcusable.
Mac Danzig vs. Matt Wiman
A fun fight was stopped prematurely by Yves Lavigne who thought Danzig was out due to a guillotine choke from the mount.
It was a bad stoppage, and because of it, Danzig will probably get another shot in the UFC despite a 3-4 UFC record.
Ben Rothwell vs. Gilbert Yvel
Yves Lavigne redeemed himself somewhat in this fight when he allowed it to continue in a situation where other refs might have awarded a TKO victory for Yvel.
Rothwell recovered, and won the decision.
It was a slop-fest.
If you haven't watched Rothwell vs. Yvel, don't bother.
But watch the rest of the fights, because it was a great card overall.
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