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Liddell not likely to make changes

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

One of the reasons it's so difficult for anyone who knows UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk well to believe he's guilty of using anabolic steroids, as the California Athletic Commission has alleged, is his complete disdain for anything he feels may harm his body.

Sherk is so fanatical about caring for his body and what goes into it that he loathes walking through casinos because he doesn't want to ingest second-hand smoke.

“The Iceman” Chuck Liddell, the former UFC light heavyweight champion, has never had such concerns.

Liddell, who fights “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine on Saturday in the pay-per-view main event of UFC 76 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., puts himself in those types of situations regularly, even days before his biggest fights.

He did it prior to knockout victories over Randy Couture. He was out on the town in the days before his two crushing wins over bitter rival Tito Ortiz.

But when he was spotted on the Las Vegas Strip well after midnight in the days before his title defense last May against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, suddenly it was big news.

And when he was spectacularly knocked out in the first round, his partying suddenly took on a different significance.

It went from "Oh, that's just Chuck," to "He's crazy for extending himself like that so close to an important fight," almost overnight.

But Liddell, as laid-back as ever, takes it in stride. He, perhaps more than any MMA fighter, understands how white-hot the spotlight has become.

"That's how people are," Liddell (20-4) says, bemusedly, of all the talk of his late-night ways since the loss to Jackson. "If I'd have knocked him out, nobody would have asked me about it. I was the one who got knocked out and all of a sudden, that's the issue. Whatever."

It didn't help matters for Liddell that when he walked to the ring to face Jackson, he seemed to have a paunch around the waistline. Certainly, he wasn't chiseled in granite like Jackson.

Even Liddell's close friend, UFC president Dana White, wondered aloud about Liddell's propensity to hit the nightclubs.

White would rather read about Liddell on the sports pages rather than in the gossip columns, which is where Liddell's name appeared regularly before and after his fight with Jackson.

"Not just Chuck, but all fighters, that's not a smart thing to do," White said. "They should be in their rooms and getting rest. Chuck's done that for a long time and he feels like he understands how to deal with it. He doesn't drink and he's not out there burning up all of his energy and so he thinks it's fine.

"And, I have to say, it's worked for him. Look at what he's done. But it's smoky in there and that crap gets in you, people are sick in there and they're breathing on you, there are people coming up to shake hands and get autographs all night and that just has to suck the energy right out of you."

But there's also a guy in every family who can pretty much eat anything he wants and never put on a pound and he doesn't have to go on a diet to get ready for the class reunion.

That's how Liddell is and it's why this is all nonsense. His late nights had nothing to do with his loss to Jackson.

A lazy left hook to the body from the outside and Jackson's power and quickness were what determined it.

Liddell is perhaps the division's most feared striker, but he's not the plow-ahead type of puncher that someone like Mike Tyson had been. Liddell moves sideways as much as he moves forward and likes to lure his opponent to him, where he can then drop his crunching right.

But against Jackson, Liddell never saw an opening. He threw a left hook to the body from well outside and paid the price for it.

Jackson came over it with stunning quickness and power and blasted him with a right. It was Jackson's ability and not Liddell's late nights, which led to the outcome of that fight.

And that brings us to Jardine (12-3-1), who somehow finds himself in a main event despite losing in less than a minute in his last outing and a lack of high-profile wins. Had he beaten Houston Alexander on May 26 instead of being kayoed in 48 seconds, it's unlikely he would have gotten the shot against Liddell.

But White likes the story line of two fighters who were knocked out in the first round trying to brawl their way back to the top.

Publicly, Liddell disputes the notion that Jardine doesn't deserve the fight, but it's also not his style to publicly criticize another fighter. When he's talking about an opponent, he makes vanilla seem fancy.

"I don't pay any attention to the talk or any of that stuff," Liddell said. "Keith's a good fighter. He's a big, strong guy and he can punch. Look at all these fights where you thought one guy was going to win and it went the other way.

"You should know, this is one of those sports where you can't take anyone for granted. Keith's a dangerous guy."

But Liddell, one of the game's fiercest competitors, is plenty dangerous, too. And he knows that he's got a huge fight against Wanderlei Silva ahead of him should, as expected, he get past Jardine.

So expect to see Liddell return to the winner's circle in spectacular fashion, crumpling Jardine with one sort of power shot or another.

And expect to see him in the Anaheim nightclubs – both before and after he steps into the cage to take on Jardine.

More UFC 76: Keith Jardine doesn't care about disrespect.