Chuck Liddell was the unquestioned star of the show at UFC 71, held on May 26, 2007, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. He was coming off a dramatic victory over Tito Ortiz at UFC 66 that had sold a record 1.05 million on pay-per-view.
The company itself was at its peak of publicity, as, heading into the card, UFC was featured on the covers of both Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine.
UFC 71's main event was designed to give Liddell a chance to avenge a 2003 loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson that occurred during a PRIDE Grand Prix tournament fight in Japan.
Liddell entered the rematch as the UFC's light heavyweight champion, but the colorful Jackson told anyone who would listen that he planned to "whoop Chuck's ass."
Liddell was stalking Jackson in his usual manner when he went to throw a lazy left hand. With his hand low, Jackson seized the opportunity. He came over Liddell's low left with a crunching right that landed on the jaw.
That punch for all intents and purposes ended the fight and made Jackson the new UFC champion. But Jackson managed to get to the ground and land a few shots on Liddell before referee John McCarthy pushed him off at 1:53 of the opening round.
The crowd of 14,728 had been largely for Liddell and was hushed as ring announcer Bruce Buffer read the official decision.
UFC president Dana White announced after the main event that two-division PRIDE champion Dan Henderson would meet Jackson at UFC 85 in a PRIDE vs. UFC title unification bout in London in September.
Kalib Starnes earned a unanimous decision win over Chris Leben in a bout the UFC deemed Fight of the Night. But Starnes wasn't so sure he deserved the win. "I have nothing but respect for Chris because he has a huge heart," Starnes said. "I would have given him the nod in that fight myself." James Irvin suffered a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament to his right knee as Thiago Silva tried to fling him to the mat. Irvin landed on the right leg, injuring it, forcing him to tap at 1:06 of the first round.
Quoteworthy: "I got caught. There's nothing else I can say." – Liddell, on his loss to Jackson. RESULTS
Wilson Gouveia def. Carmelo Marrero, 3:08 R1
Din Thomas def. Jeremy Stephens, submission (armbar), 2;14 R2
Alan Belcher def. Sean Salmon, (guillotine choke), 0:53 R1
Thiago Silva def. James Irvin, TKO, 1:06 R1
Kalib Starnes def. Chris Leben, unanimous decision
Houston Alexander def. Keith Jardine, KO, 0:48 R1
Terry Martin def. Ivan Salaverry, TKO, 2:04 R1
Karo Parisyan def. Josh Burkman, unanimous decision
UFC light heavyweight championship: Quinton Jackson def. Chuck Liddell, TKO, 1:53 R1 (Jackson wins title