Don't call it a comeback ... at least for one mixed martial arts legend.
UFC 115: "Liddell vs. Franklin" tonight (June 12) blew the roof off the GM Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Recent UFC Hall of Fame inductee and former light heavyweight champion, Chuck Liddell, was out to prove that he still has what it takes to make one final run at the 205-pound belt after more than a year-long layoff.
His opponent in the main event of the evening, Rich Franklin, pretty much through a bucket of cold water on the "Iceman" with one well-timed right hand.
Liddell came out aggressive, mixing up his strikes and landing several solid kicks. In fact, one of them even broke the left forearm of the former middleweight champion. Liddell also scored a nice takedown of "Ace" and appeared to be in the driver's seat.
Then it was all gone, and so was Chuck, just like that.
Franklin clipped Liddell with a short right hand with literally seconds to go in the opening frame as he recklessly attempted to pour it on before heading for his corner. He dropped like a ton of bricks, unconscious, and Franklin finished him off with two grazing strikes.
Liddell really did look new and improved, hurting Franklin early and often and putting him on the run. But Franklin -- like Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua before him -- found the button that turned his lights off.
And, in the process, more than likely turned the lights off on his illustrious career.
Pat Barry said a lot of (good) stuff before his fight with Mirko Cro Cop, remarking (among other things) that you have to beat a legend to become a legend. Sounds about right, but he'll have to find a different legend to beat up on for that to happen.
But it certainly wasn't for lack of effort.
"Get Hype" dropped the 2006 Pride FC Open Weight Grand Prix champion twice in the first round with two stiff right hands. And it appeared that he was on his way toward defeating his idol, but the Croatian had different plans.
Cro Cop came out in the second round and actually more than likely won it because of his work on the ground -- he had Barry's back for quite a bit of time. Then in the third, he hit his stride, strafing Barry with a flurry of powerful punches that sent him crashing to the canvas.
He followed Barry to the ground, landed about 20 unanswered head bouncers against the fence, and then sunk in a rear naked choke on his dazed and confused protege.
Yes, Cro Cop won via submission in a fight that was billed as a bout between bruising kickboxers. It certainly wasn't the "autograph" that he promised before the fight, but it was entertaining nonetheless.
Welterweights Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann were also in action, looking for a little separation in a crowded division.
"Hitman" -- who was on the verge of a title shot before getting erased by the now-exiled Paul Daley just a few fights ago -- did just that with a dominating performance this evening. Whether it was on the ground, where the Brazilian was supposed to (but didn't) have the advantage, or on their feet, the Dane was superior in every aspect.
Thiago was simply outclassed and nearly finished on numerous occasions. In fact, Kampmann nearly had a fight-ending choke sunk in before the final horn blared to end the fight.
He did more than enough to earn the nod from all three judges sitting ringside, as well as from those sitting in the crowd and watching at home. Kampmann said it best, "I'm back."
Heavy-hitters Gilbert Yvel and Ben Rothwell hooked 'em up in a big time heavyweight attraction.
Rothwell came out of the gate like a raging bull. And from the point forward it was on like Donkey Kong. Both fighters traded heavy shots, as well as did a little work on the ground, throughout round one.
That break-neck pace appeared to take its toll heading into the second round, until "The Hurricane" found his second wind and began to batter Rothwell nearly into oblivion. To his credit, Rothwell somehow hung in there and was able to make it to the final round ... even though the referee was inches from stopping the contest.
Yvel started out the third with a takedown attempt, which ultimately proved to be his undoing. Rothwell stuffed it and then smothered the Dutchman for essentially five fill minutes en route to a unanimous decision victory.
It was nowhere near pretty, but Rothwell did what he had to do to get his arm hoisted into the rafters in the end. He'll have to do a lot more his next time out to prove that he has what it takes to hang with the bigger boys in the Land of Heavies moving forward.
Canada's undefeated Golden Boy, Rory MacDonald, kicked off the PPV action against former WEC 170-pound champion, Carlos Condit. MacDonald, just 20 young, had a lot of pressure to live up to the hype against perhaps his stiffest test to date against "The Natural Born Killer."
He delivered ... almost.
MacDonald set a furious pace from the opening bell and kept it the entire fight. That is, of course, until midway through the third and final round.
Condit connected on a combination of punches that took the wind right out of his sails. From the point forward, Condit dished out some of the most brutal ground and pound imaginable.
He got full mount numerous times, landed vicious elbows and major blows from the top position. MacDonald was hurt bad -- his face was a bloody mess. And he seemed to have no answers after finding so many in the early going.
The referee stepped in, unfortunately, with just eight seconds to go in the fight ... much to the chagrin of the boisterous hometown crowd. MacDonald, if the fight went the distance, might have gone on to earn a close decision. However, it just wasn't in the cards.
In his post-fight interview, MacDonald gave Condit props, saying he was "kicking my ass." He didn't protest the stoppage whatsoever.
This kid appears to have what it takes inside the cage and out. It was a tough break tonight, but he'll deservedly be back sooner rather than later. That’s enough from us — now it’s your turn to discuss "Liddell vs. Franklin" in the comments section below.
Sound off, Maniacs.
Let’s hear what you have to say: Is Chuck Liddell finally done? Is Mirko Cro Cop ready for the big cats? Can Martin Kampmann make another run at the 170-pound title?
For complete UFC 115 results and detailed blow-by-blow commentary of the televised main card fights click here.