By Thomas Gerbasi
VANCOUVER, BC, June 12 – With a broken left arm but an unyielding will to win, Rich Franklin scored perhaps the most important victory since he took the middleweight in 2005, as he knocked out returning Hall of Famer Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell in devastating fashion in the first round of their UFC 115 main event Saturday night at General Motors Place. See post-fight interview at ufc.com
“I broke my hand before and didn’t quit,” said Franklin with a smile after the bout. The injury occurred earlier in the first round due to a Liddell kick, but Franklin not only soldiered on, he knocked out one of the sport’s most feared strikers in a bittersweet night for fans of Liddell, who have seen the 40-year old light heavyweight legend lose his third straight fight by knockout.
Franklin’s gameplan was clear at the outset – quick left hands down the middle with leg kicks to keep Liddell from setting his feet to throw his lethal right hand. Liddell adjusted well to this strategy though, using his own kicks more than we’ve seen recently, and when the two did exchange, Liddell still had some speed on the fastball. Just before the midway point, Liddell was able to get the fight to the mat, another wrinkle in his game that had been missing, but as the two rose, Liddell emerged with a cut between his eyes.
Encouraged, Franklin began to let his hands go a little more, but with 1:10 left, Liddell hit paydirt with the right hand, staggering Franklin briefly. The Ohio native recovered quickly and came firing back, and as Liddell looked to engage, he walked into a flush right hand that dropped him to the mat. Liddell’s head hit the mat hard, and referee Herb Dean halted the bout at the 4:55 mark, giving Franklin new life in the light heavyweight title picture.
“I’m here at 205 and I’m gonna make a run for the title,” said the 34-year old Franklin.
With the win, Franklin improves to 28-5 with 1 NC; Liddell, who has now lost five of his last six bouts, falls to 21-8.