UFC 54: Chuck takes rematch
UFC 54, held on August 20, 2005, was the card that established SpikeTV’s “UFC Countdown” show as an effective propaganda vehicle.
The card was built around Chuck Liddell defending the light heavyweight championship against Jeremy Horn. Horn hadn’t appeared in a UFC event in four-and-a-half years, since losing to Elvis Sinosic via an armbar.
The match was marketed around two things: The first was that Horn had never been knocked out in 103 prior MMA fights, and thus had the defense to negate Liddell’s punching strength. The other is that Horn had a prior win over Liddell, by submission at UFC 19. But that win was six-and-a-half-years earlier, and both men were completely different fighters.
UFC’s goal with the then-new Countdown show was to make the audience believe there was a 51 percent chance that Horn would win, even though the reality was very different. It was effective, as it made Horn, essentially a sacrificial lamb on this night, into someone who the people saw as a viable challenger.
Horn’s defense couldn’t stop Liddell’s power punches, and he never came close to taking Liddell down. Liddell knocked Horn down three times, before cracking Horn’s left eye with a punch that caused Horn to let the referee know that he couldn’t see. The fight was stopped at 2:46 of round four.
Surprisingly, Liddell was not the most popular fighter on the show. After losing the title to Liddell, Randy Couture, at 42, became an even more sympathetic figure as the crowd wanted to see him get a rematch. Couture showed up in far better condition than he had for his loss to Liddell in April. He outwrestled former national wrestling champion Mike Van Arsdale, finishing him with an Anaconda choke at 0:46 of the third round.
One of the scariest moments in company history came when Tim Sylvia knocked out Tra Telligman with a high kick in the last second of the first round. Telligman appeared lifeless as he was carried out of the cage in the background while Sylvia was doing an interview, but he was released from the hospital the next morning.
Georges St. Pierre earned his second fight with welterweight champ Matt Hughes by dominating former top contender Frank Trigg. St. Pierre overpowered Trigg, who was just trying to survive, before choking him out at 4:09 of round one. After the match, in a memorable moment in his post-fight interview, St. Pierre literally got on his knees and begged Dana White for another shot at the title.
In his first match since winning season one of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Diego Sanchez stopped veteran Brian Gassaway in the second round with punches and elbows on the ground.
The funniest line of the night was when Joe Rogan was interviewing Rich Franklin, talking about how big UFC had become, and asked Franklin after his win over Frank Shamrock (Rogan misspoke, meaning Ken), “Are you getting recognized everywhere?” Franklin responded, “No, there aren’t many fight fans in Cincinnati.” Over the next two years, that would change, as UFC 77 sold out U.S. Bank Arena in Franklin’s home town.
James Irvin def. Terry Martin, KO, 0:09 R2
Trevor Prangley def. Travis Lutter, unanimous decision
Matt Lindland def. Joe Doerksen, unanimous decision
Georges St. Pierre def. Frank Trigg, submission (rear naked choke), 4:09 R1
Diego Sanchez def. Brian Gassaway, submission (strikes), 1:56 R2
Randy Couture def. Mike Van Arsdale, submission (anaconda choke), 0:52 R3
Tim Sylvia def. Tra Telligman, KO, 4:59 R1
UFC light heavyweight championship: Chuck Liddell def. Jeremy Horn, TKO, 2:46 R4 (Liddell retains title).
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