Chuck Liddell vs. Rashad Evans
There will always be chants of old, over the hill, and past his prime
when a fighter approaches 40 in any sport. Chuck Liddell, at the age of
38, is certainly getting into the latter stages of his career, but one
important factor differentiates him from most fighters in his position. The Iceman is not in it for the money or the fame.
The fact is, he almost seems uncomfortable with the countless interview requests, and public appearances that he wrestles with on a day-to-day basis. For Liddell, getting from one end of the fight venue to the other on fight night, takes longer than an Olympic Marathon because of the plethora of autograph and picture requests he receives on a geographically short, but time-consuming walk. I have seen it first hand, and while he accepts it with courtesy, it is apparent he is not in it for the fame.
The opposite is true of a fighter such as Tito Ortiz, who enjoys the limelight more than he loves to fight and has said that his goal is to break into Hollywood. Many feel that has worked against Ortiz, Liddell has no such aspirations, there is a title shot on the line, Liddell wants his title back.
Rashad Evans is riding a seven fight unbeaten streak, including a draw with the aforementioned Ortiz, and deserves a title shot if he wins this fight. If he gets past Liddell (which is a big if) he will have had seven wins and a draw and should be next in line for a title shot right along with the winner of Thiago Alves vs. Lyoto Machida.
Evans is a good fighter but if his bout with Ortiz was telling of anything, it may have been that Evans appears to be on the smaller end of the light heavyweight scale. With fighters cutting more and more weight and doing it with scientific precision his 205 lbs path will not get any easier. Liddell is a big 205 pounder and it will show in this fight.
Liddells desire to win and regain the belt will be a huge factor here and has pushed him to train harder than he has in the past to win this fight. I dont think that Evans will be an easy task for anyone, but "Sugar" appears to be on the smaller side of the division with the opposite being true for Liddell. The takedown defense of Liddell is superior to that of Ortiz and I feel like Evans will have a lot of trouble taking the fight to the mat and keeping it there. At this point in his career the talented but unpolished Evans doesnt appear to be a threat to Liddell on his feet, if he has no choice but to stay there for any period of time, it could spell disaster. In a three round fight Liddell is still dangerous despite recent setbacks against Jackson and Jardine. He has proven it time and time again, if his hands catch up with you, it is lights out.
Here is the breakdown on the major MMA skillsets as I see it.
Striking: Advantage Liddell
While Evans has seen a vast improvement in his hands as his UFC career has progressed, even with a highlight reel head kick knockout to his name, few believe he would have any interest in standing and exchanging with the hard-hitting Liddell.
Wrestling: Close but Advantage Liddell
Evans is a very good wrestler but I dont think he has what it takes to take Liddell down and keep him there, very few people do. I think he is undersized and strength will be a factor when they engage so I give the edge to Liddell based on takedown defense and the ability to scramble off his back if he does get taken down. Couture had trouble taking the fight to the mat in two of three fights, I would take Coutures takedowns over Evans in an MMA bout.
Jiu-Jitsu: Advantage Liddell (Probably not a huge factor)
Contrary to what many people believe, Liddell has a solid ground game. He just doesnt use it in the ring because he doesnt have to. I dont feel that jiu jitsu will be a huge factor in this fight but I give the edge to Liddell.
Conditioning: Advantage Evans.
This really depends on which Liddell shows up, the one that fought Bustamante or the one who fought Couture. I give the edge to Evans based on more consistent cardiovascular performances, this is a three-round fight however so it will be less of a factor than it might had it been a five-round fight.
X-Factor: Advantage Liddell
I think that Liddell wants to get his belt back and then retire. I think he feels he will be in line for a title shot if he beats Evans and a fight between him and Forrest Griffin, his student on the Ultimate Fighter 1 TV show could be the mega fight prize at the end of the tunnell. On the other hand, Evans teammate Keith Jardine fought and beat Liddell so there may be some key information that Jardine can share with Evans. While it may not be a huge factor having a guy that beat Liddell on your team, it certainly doesnt hurt.
I think that Evans will have trouble taking the fight to the mat and keeping it there. On the feet the hard-hitting Liddell will have the advantage and eventually catch up to him possibly in the third round. Evans, the TUF 2 winner at Heavyweight may want to drop another weight class down to 185, I feel like he has the wrestling to take down Anderson Silva and give him a run for his money. This may be the fight that makes him think of a weight class change.
Rich Franklin vs. Matt Hamill Quick Looks
Striking: Advantage Franklin
This one is not even close, Franklin is by far the superior striker.
Wrestling: Advantage Hamill
This one is not even close, Hamill is by far the superior wrestler.
Jiu Jitsu: Advantage Franklin
Hamill is still a very raw fighter and despite his improvement outside the realm of wrestling, still needs a lot of polish on non-wrestling skillsets.
Conditioning: Advantage Franklin
He has great conditioning and has used it to good effect in the octagon many times. Staying at a heavier weight may affect that however. Hamill hasnt shown stand out conditioning in fights but it is satisfactory.
X-Factor: Advantage Hamill
Franklin is moving up a weight division here, how will that affect him? He was once a light heavyweight in the past so he knows what it will feel like at that weight. Not having been there for a while may throw him off.
I am going with Hamill, I dont think that Hamill has the tools to finish someone like Franklin, but I think he can take him down and hold him down, and I think he will. Hamill via decision after three rounds.
Dan Henderson vs. Rousimar Palhares a Quick Look
Striking: Advantage Henderson
Hendersons right hand has been a known commodity in MMA since long before Palhares started fighting MMA.
Wrestling: Advantage Henderson
His Greco-Roman wrestling is awesome but Palhares is actually a very strong takedown artist. Overall Hendersons experience trumps Palharess youthful exuberance but I would not discount a takedown by Palhares sometime in this fight.
Jiu Jitsu: Advantage Palhares by a landslide
It will only take one takedown for Palhares to capitalize with his superior jiu jitsu game. He is a natural jiu jitsu ace with the skills to submit anyone in this division on any given day, including Anderson Silva.
Hendersons conditioning has always been a question mark, but he has gone five rounds in championship fights. Palhares has not gone five rounds, and his conditioning remains to be seen.
X-Factor: Advantage Palhares
Henderson has always been considered a fighter that fights up to the level of competition. If he takes Palhares lightly he will be in trouble.
I am going to go out on a limb here and predict the upset. Palhares by submission round 1.
Martin Kampmann vs. Nate Marquardt: Marquardt
Thiago Tavares vs. Kurt Pellegrino: Pellegrino
Tim Boetsch vs. Michael Patt: Boetsch
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Matt Brown: Dong Hyun Kim
Roan Carneiro vs. Ryo Chonan: Carneiro
Jason Lambert vs. Jason MacDonald: MacDonald