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Liddell vs. Jackson: Keys to victory

LAS VEGAS – Quinton "Rampage" Jackson already owns a victory over Chuck Liddell. Here are the things he'll have to do Saturday to unseat Liddell as UFC light heavyweight champion, as well as what Liddell must do to retain his title.

LIDDELL'S KEYS

1. Control the distance. It's no secret that Liddell's best weapon is the power in his right hand. In order for him to use it, he has to find Jackson at the end of his punches. That means controlling the distance and not allowing Jackson to get inside on him.

2. Use his kicks. Liddell started as a kickboxer and he's a superb kicker, though he's become so proficient at striking that he hasn't kicked as much recently. By using his kicks, Liddell will force Jackson to worry about something other than his hands. That will then create an opening for Liddell to land his signature overhand right.

3. Defend the takedown. Liddell is a former college wrestler and has a purple belt in jiu-jitsu, but Jackson would love the fight to be on the ground. Liddell needs to frustrate Jackson and keep the fight standing.

4. Use the knees. Jackson will get inside at some point in the fight and try to get his hands on Liddell. Liddell needs to use his knees to keep Jackson from rushing inside recklessly.

JACKSON'S KEYS

1. Counter Liddell's right. Jackson was successful in their first fight by keeping his hands high and countering Liddell's right hand. He needs to do more of the same. Liddell tends to loop the right. If Jackson can counter it with a short, straight right, he could ice the Iceman.

2. Give Liddell angles. Jackson should minimize his target area by remembering to fight at angles and to refrain from squaring his body directly in front of Liddell.

3. Punish him on the ground. Liddell has a great scramble when the fight hits the mat. Jackson has to take advantage every time he gets Liddell down, even if briefly, by using his forearms and elbows.

4. Rough him up inside. Jackson is physically stronger and should try to manhandle Liddell whenever they're in the clinch. Liddell has a reputation for fading in long fights. Being manhandled physically could accelerate that process.

PREDICTION

Jackson is one of the few fighters in the world who is capable of beating Liddell. But Liddell has improved dramatically since that fight and he's eager to avenge his last defeat. If it goes into the championship rounds, that will favor Jackson, but I don't think it gets there. Let's say Liddell by second-round knockout.

KEVIN IOLE RATES THE FIGHTERS
Category Liddell Jackson Iole's Skinny
Punching power 10 8 Liddell has the most lethal hands in the business.
Wrestling 9 9 Jackson would love to make it a wrestling match.
Kicks 8 6 Liddell is a one-time kickboxer.
Ground and pound 8 10 Jackson is relentless if he has a fighter hurt and on the ground.
Takedown defense 10 7 No one takes Liddell down these days.
Chin 8 9 Both men have shown they can take it.
Submissions 6 5 Liddell laughed when asked if he’d go for a submission.
Stamina 7 8 The one knock on Liddell has been he tires as fights go on.
Strength 8 10 Jackson is freakishly strong.
Intangibles 10 9 Liddell wants revenge; Jackson has confidence of win already.
Total 84 81 Evenly matched, either could win, but figure Liddell evens score.