The conditioning was there and so was some of the old versatility. But when it came time to stay under control, Chuck Liddell's killer instinct got the best of him. One of the great mixed martial artists of the 2000's was doing major damage late in the first round but he got a little wild trying to land the big shot and got blasted by a short uppercut from Rich Franklin. Liddell went down in a heap. His head bounced off the canvas and he took one more right to the face. He was out cold at 4:55 of the first and now it looks like his career has come to a close in Vancouver at UFC 115.
It was far from a terrible way to go out. No one wants to be the victim of a knockout but Liddell was winning the fight and doing some major damage to Franklin. A kick early in the first round actually broke Franklin's left forearm.
"Ace" blocked a head kick with 3:59 left and immediately shook out the arm. He said he felt it pop. He also checked the arm with a quick glance with 3:01 left. Beyond that, those were the only slight signs something was wrong with it. Franklin didn't hesitate for a second in giving back much of what Liddell was delivering. He didn't cut back on using his left hand either. In fact, he threw 17 more lefts to close the round and also used the arm to push himself up when he was taken down by Liddell.
Franklin laughed when he was asked by UFC analyst Joe Rogan if he thought he was going to be able to come for the second round.
"Are you kidding me? I broke my hand before and continued fighting," said Franklin. "It’s a broken arm! These fans came here to see a fight."
Liddell (21-8, 16-7 UFC) actually looked like he was in position to finish the fight after he delivered a big right elbow with 10 seconds left in the first. Franklin (27-5, 13-4 UFC) lost his balance a bit and Liddell missed with a right. That's when Franklin countered with his own short right that blasted Liddell right in the middle of his face. Franklin caught Liddell with a left on the back of the head as he was falling and one more right for good measure.
Liddell, 40, has now lost five of six fights, four of those by knockout. He last fought in April of 2009 at UFC 97 where he was finished by current UFC light heavyweight champ Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Immediately after UFC 97, UFC president Dana White announced that Liddell was retired. Liddell wouldn't make it official and asked for one more chance. White responded behind the scenes by telling Liddell that he needed to take the sport seriously, make lifestyle changes and cut out all of his legendary partying. The former champ did it, putting down alcohol starting back in November of 2009. He got himself in better shape going from 238 down to 215. Liddell even appeared on "Dancing With the Stars." He also spent the beginning of 2010 training hard while he served as a coach on Season 12 of "The Ultimate Fighter."
In the end, you have to win fights and against Franklin, who has also run into a rough patch recently, Liddell was again finished in devastating fashion.