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Mailbag: Liddell vs. Franklin

You can follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI

It's a busy mixed martial arts mailbag once again. I respond to questions about the main event at UFC 115, a number of readers ride to my defense on my take on the Rashad Evans-Quinton "Rampage" Jackson fight and one reader questions Diego Sanchez' future in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Stay tuned for all of that, and more, in this week's edition of the MMA mailbag.

Franklin about done

Hi Kevin, I wanted to ask if you agree with my opinion that this could be the final time we see Rich Franklin fight in the UFC. I don't think they'll cut him, but if he loses to Chuck Liddell in the main event of UFC 115 in Vancouver on Saturday, as I believe he will, I think he'll retire. I have heard he's made a lot of money and is in good shape there and has a good education, obviously, as a former school teacher. Do you think he'll walk away from the sport or do you think he'll keep hanging around? He can't honestly be considered a title contender any more, can he?
Keith G.
Portland, Ore.

Keith, if he loses to Liddell – a 41-year-old Liddell, I might add – he couldn't remotely be considered a title contender in a division that also includes Mauricio "Shogun" Rua as the champion and the likes of Rashad Evans, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Lyoto Machida, among many others. Not all fighters are title contenders, though. Franklin seems to me at this stage to fall into a space similar to Wanderlei Silva. 'The Axe Murderer' is 2-5 in his last seven fights, but he's so entertaining and beloved that fans remain eager to see him fight. I don't think Franklin is as entertaining as Silva, but you can consider him Silva Lite. Franklin's fights generally are fun, he fights anyone and everyone and he's very popular. Ergo, I think he'll have a job in the UFC as long as he wants it.

Will Liddell be kayoed again?

I feel the upcoming Liddell-Franklin fight is similar to the Randy Couture-Mark Coleman fight at UFC 109. Liddell is beyond past his prime and Franklin hasn't been in the cage for quite some time. Do you think UFC president Dana White made a mistake in letting Chuck come back given that he has lost his last three fights via brutal knockout? Do you think Franklin will be affected by ring rust as Rampage was? What do you predict the outcome of the fight to be? I think it will end in either another KO of Liddell or a decision in favor of Franklin.
Dylan Horner
Las Vegas

White had no easy choice when it came to Liddell, who has been knocked out in his last two fights, not three, Dylan. White and Liddell are close friends and White strongly believes Liddell should have retired after getting stopped by Rua at UFC 97. And as the promoter, he didn't have to put Liddell on one of his shows. But if he had been adamant and wouldn't have allowed Liddell to fight, he was looking at the very real possibility of Liddell going to fight elsewhere. Ultimately, White didn't want to see his close friend fighting for, say, Strikeforce and gave him the fight he wanted. This is a very tough fight to call because I have no idea what to expect from Liddell. I would favor any close semblance of the old Liddell, but Liddell's chin is very questionable now. Given that, I'll go with Franklin, as well.

Iole supporters rise up

I totally agreed with your take on Evans and Rampage. We were all on the edge of our seat expecting greatness, but all we got was more of Evans' lame lay and pray tactics designed to get points and not finishes. Until a rule change that values finishes over points occur, I don't see many exciting top-level fights in the future. The last 10 UFC headlining events have pretty much been overshadowed by the young, hungry fighters on the undercard. The guys that have the most to lose are just playing it safe, trading a few jabs, rolling around for 15 minutes and hoping for a favorable, or bizarre, judges' ruling. I vote we go back to the days of winning by submission or knockout.
Randy
Reidsville, N.C.

I think the majority of the last 10 UFC main events were fine, Randy. They were, in inverse order, Evans-Jackson at 114; Rua-Machida at 113; Anderson Silva-Demian Maia at 112; Georges St. Pierre-Dan Hardy at 111; Cain Velasquez-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at 110; Couture-Coleman at 109; Evans-Thiago Silva at 108; B.J. Penn-Diego Sanchez at 107; Forrest Griffin-Tito Ortiz at 106; and Couture-Brandon Vera at 105. Of those, six went to decision. Rua-Machida, Velasquez-Nogueira, Couture-Coleman and Penn-Sanchez all were finishes. Of the fights that went to decision, I had no problem with Evans-Silva and St. Pierre-Hardy and thought they were fine fights. I would include Evans-Jackson in that group were it not for the crazy 15-month war of words and threats they waged. Couture-Vera wasn't great, but there was some drama and it wasn't dreadful by any means. Silva-Maia and Griffin-Ortiz were letdowns. That said, give credit to the UFC for making strong enough undercards that you still get to see good fights even if the main event fails to come through.

I bought this fight and the undercard beat the main event! That punk Rashad did not want to fight and just laid on top of Rampage all night! I will never buy another UFC with Rashad on it. If it were not for the undercard, I would have been highly angry. The UFC is signing too many wrestlers and not enough fighters. We want to see a fight and not one guy laying on top of another just holding him down.
Shannon
Houston

A lot of the wrestlers who fight that style evolve into entertaining strikers, Shannon. You certainly have the right to buy the fights you choose and if you want to avoid Evans, it's your money. One of the things I like about MMA better than boxing, though, is that MMA stacks its undercards and it's rare that that happens in boxing.

By the third round, Jackson was clearly losing, so at that point tactical fighting was no longer an option for "Lame-page." This was the supposedly the biggest grudge match in UFC history, so by the third round "Lame-page" needed to "fight like they were holding his family hostage." In other words, he needed to fight like a vicious Brock Lesnar, and he did not. This fight was based on fake hype so it's a qualified disappoint.
Rich Try
New York

I agree that Jackson rarely showed a sense of urgency in the fight.

What all these people defending Evans refuse to acknowledge is that he's never aggressive. Ever. I am laughing at the guy who implied he threw caution to the wind versus Machida. That simply didn't occur. It would be fine if Evans was overly defensive in one fight but he's overly defensive in every fight. The bottom line is that he outscored Rampage, but he didn't really beat him. That fight doesn't change either fighter's standing in my eyes. Rampage is still Rampage and Evans is still a defensive fighter. The only thing that fight proved is all main events need to be five rounds.
Brandon
Fontana, Calif.

Honestly, Brandon, I don't think an extra two rounds would have improved Rampage's chances. Evans was clearly – unquestionably, in my opinion – in better cardiovascular condition and was far more prepared to go two more rounds than Jackson.

Can Roach help GSP?

I just need to say, I can't understand how you take it, Kevin. It bugs the hell out of me when some of these clowns send you mail about how you don't know anything. About 19 times out of 20, I agree with what you say and the only comments I want to make are about the short-sighted idiots who complain all day just to get their name in your mailbag. My question is, how good with his hands do you think Georges St. Pierre can get under the tutelage of Freddie Roach? Based on his humility, intelligence, work ethic, and desire for perfection, I think he could get as far as the Canadian Olympic level.
Wally
Hillsboro, Ore.

Thanks for the kind words, Wally. I never mind being criticized, and a lot of times readers make good points. I don't like it when they get personal, but it's part of working for the world's largest sports site. As for St. Pierre, I think Roach can make a lot of improvements, but I don't think he'll be able to get to the level you suggest. The biggest thing I think Roach can do for him is to improve his confidence. I'm not convinced St. Pierre is 100 percent confident on his feet. I think he has good hands, but doesn't believe it them as much as he believes in his wrestling.

Diego's future

Where does Diego Sanchez go after losing to John Hathaway at UFC 114? While tough as nails, from Day One of the original "The Ultimate Fighter" broadcast, I was never all the impressed with Diego. I think 155 pounds is too small for him. He looks sickly and drained at that weight. Despite losing badly at UFC 114, I think he belongs at 170. Diego has the body and bone mass of a 170-pounder. Diego is a good fighter, but not a smart fighter and I doubt he has a chance at any titles at any weight. He's still fairly young so maybe down the road a bit, but he's got to stop banging with people, because he's not good at it. Diego needs to concentrate more on his wrestling and ground game to be competitive with the best.
Ed
Pennsylvania

I agree that Diego should stay at 170, Ed. He's still an above average fighter in that weight class and there are still a lot of quality fighters he can beat. I do think he needs to improve much in his standup to beat the top guys, but he's only 28 and has plenty of time to get better. To me, the best thing for him would be to take a long time off to allow him to refresh mentally and work on some of his weaknesses.