Rashad Evans was fighting for respect. He earned it and then some with a devastating 2nd round TKO of Chuck Liddell in the main event of UFC 88: Breakthrough.
If Evans needed any more validation of how little respect he was getting, he could have taken a look at the UFCs text message prediction poll of the main event which favored The Iceman by a whopping 81% to 19% margin. Or he could have listened to the UFC announcers, who had all but penciled Liddell in for a return to light heavyweight title contention after his inevitable victory. Instead of complain, Evans let his fists do the talking and with a perfectly placed overhand right will likely never have to worry about a lack of respect again.
From the opening horn, Evans showed no fear of Liddell’s once legendary power. Instead, he danced and moved (which was dumbly criticized as showboating by the UFC announce team), using his slick footwork and speed to dart in and out of range of Liddell’s punches. In the process, he was able to use his superior handspeed to get off first. His punches weren’t exactly highlight reel power shots at this point, but were nonetheless effective as evidenced by a cut opened under Liddell’s eye. For his part, Liddell scored with a few shots of his own, but was clearly frustrated by the evasiveness of his opponent.
The end was to come in the 2nd round. Liddell backed Evans up near the cage wall and went to throw an uppercut. Simultaneously, Evans responded with an overhand right that landed quicker, harder and more accurately. The perfectly placed punch knocked Liddell out cold and referee Herb Dean jumped in to cover him up and wave off the fight without taking a second look.
Rashad Evans raised his record to 17-0-1 with the TKO victory. Liddell, meanwhile, saw his record drop to 21-6″with three of those six losses coming in his last 4 fights.
Liddells loss notwithstanding, it was a good night for UFC veterans as Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson won their fights in impressive fashion. Franklin looked particularly sharp in dismantling tough Matt Hamill, eventually prevailing by 3rd round TKO.
This was the UFC’s first trip to Atlanta and despite a good attendance the crowd itself was somewhat disappointing. In a marked contrast to the knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans at the Target Center in Minneapolis for UFC 87–arguably the best MMA crowd ever at a US venue–the live crowd at Phillips Arena often acted as if they were at a taping of Georgia Championship Wrestling. Every foreign fighter was booed mercilessly–including South Korean Kim. Kim was treated like legendary Gary Hart managed pro wrestling heel Pak Song as he had to endure a USA chant during his fight. Perhaps the audience didn’t realize that South Korea has been a US ally since its establishment after WW II. The fighters from other “longtime adversaries” of the United States–Brazil and Holland–fared somewhat better.
More problematic was the crowds utter lack of respect for the fighters postfight. Poor Dong Hyun Kim was booed during his postfight interview–not quite the respect that a 4th degree judo black belt whod just won a very tough fight deserves. Kims treatment by the fans cant be written off as a reaction to a close split decision victory; Rashad Evans was booed after his victory over Liddell, and short of decapitating The Iceman there was no way his win could have been more decisive.
Ross Everett is a widely published freelance sports writer and respected authority on baseball betting. His writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sportsbooks and sportsbook directory sites. He lives in Las Vegas with three Jack Russell Terriers and an emu. He is currently working on an autobiography of former interior secretary James Watt.