It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world -- especially for fans of mixed martial arts.
Who could have ever predicted the career of Chuck Liddell would be sandwiched between two contestants from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF)?
Yet that's exactly what's happened to the former light heavyweight champion, who's had an interesting 2008.
Liddell was originally scheduled to face PRIDE assassin Mauricio Rua at UFC 85 until "Shogun" re-injured his ailing knee and was forced to withdraw.
TUF Season 2 winner and undefeated light heavyweight Rashad Evans answered the call to replace Rua, but this time it was Liddell who canceled after a devastating hamstring injury.
Now fully healed, Chuck is set to honor his commitment by battling Rashad Evans at UFC 88 at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday, September 6.
At that time of the announcement (June), it was sort of anti-climatic. After all, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was still the 205-pound champion. Defeating Evans meant a possible autumn superfight against Shogun Rua and not the title shot for which he was hoping.
But boy have things changed since then.
Jackson was narrowly defeated by TUF Season 1 winner Forrest Griffin at UFC 86 and spent some time after the fight ranting and raving on the highway like Dr. Miles Bennell.
And Shogun somehow ended up bypassing Liddell altogether and could go straight to a Jackson rematch (from their PRIDE days) in November/December. That's assuming he can make it that long without his knee folding up like George Jetson's car.
So where does that leave the Iceman? In line for a title shot against Forrest Griffin at UFC 92, according to inside sources.
Unless of course "Sugar" Rashad Evans has anything to say about it.
Liddell will likely fight at UFC 92, but whether or not its for the gold all depends on his performance at UFC 88. At 11-0-1, Evans is no pushover and does happen to train with Keith Jardine -- one of the few men to have a victory over the Icy one.
There was a time when Chuck Liddell dismissed Griffin as a viable opponent. But that opinion has changed after the maturation of Griffin as both a fighter and a UFC ambassador. From the Man of Ice in his chat with UK's The Sun:
"So after [Evans] I want the title shot, yeah. I was asked about fighting Forrest when he won the Ultimate Fighter three years ago, and I said he’s not ready and I’d beat him up. But he’s ready now and it would be a great fight."
Chuck has to beat Rashad Evans to get to Forrest Griffin. I almost can't believe the words even as I type them. But that's an indication of how far the sport has come and also how successful the TUF product has become.
Successful enough to drive out established stars like Chuck Liddell?
We'll find out at UFC 88 in little more than one week ... or possibly beyond on New Year's Eve weekend.