Sorry for missing last month’s predictions. I actually wrote up about half of the preview, and then work issues kicked in and I never got a chance to finish it up. I made the decision to try and keep this preview under 1,000 words, as the half I’d written last month was over 3,000 words and counting. Which, if you think about it, is ridiculous.
UFC 71 is built around one fight; the company has even decided to skip the whole “let’s give this show a cheesy nickname” spiel, instead simply calling it Liddell vs. Jackson. To me, this fight is the most anticipated one since Randy Couture chased down Tim Sylvia for his heavyweight strap, and I’m actually rooting for an upset. While I don’t think it’ll happen, I do think it could mean a bigger money rematch down the line with Liddell taking an uncharacteristic underdog role.
Let’s get right to it.
UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Chuck “Iceman” Liddell vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Sporting a 20-3 record in mixed martial arts, Chuck Liddell is almost assuredly the most popular fighter on the planet, and for good reason. His ability to knock opponents out in convincing fashion has brought legions of new fans to the sport, and he’s become one of the few mainstream crossover stars for the company during the recent explosion of UFC in popularity.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is one of the most entertaining fighters in the world. In a sense, he’s very much like a pro-wrestling character in that he can conduct entertaining interviews and back up those actions in the ring. He can also say something that the majority of Liddell’s opponents can’t — he’s beaten Liddell in a fight. In November of 2005, Jackson dominated Liddell from start to finish as part of PRIDE’s 205 pound tournament, beating him so badly that Liddell’s corner was forced to throw in the towel in order to spare the Iceman from any more harm.
The story of this fight is very much like a pro-wrestling storyline: one guy is on top of the world, but he’s seeking to avenge all his major losses, and the other guy is standing in the way of that. One guy is calm, confident and collected, and the other guy is charismatic, overbearing and wildly entertaining. There’s a reason why this stuff works; it’s simple, highly effective and always ends with a winner, which is why this fight is probably the most anticipated one since Randy Couture went after Tim Sylvia’s heavyweight title a few months back.
MY PICK: The story of MMA in 2007 is that anyone, no matter how high on the food chain they are, can be beaten at any given time, and Chuck Liddell is most certainly no exception. Quinton Jackson is a hard puncher who has trained incredibly hard for this fight, and he’ll be ready to take Chuck’s best punches and give some of his own right back. He won’t win the fight, though; while I would love to see Rampage beat Chuck and set up a third fight between the two, I don’t see it happening. Chuck Liddell by KO in round two.
JOSH BURKMANN VS. KARO PARISYAN
MY PICK: All three of Burkmann’s losses have come via submission, and I see more of the same happening here. Parisyan is an exciting fighter and this has the potential to be fight of the night, but Burkmann is going to have to step it up as I feel he’s severely overmatched here. Parisyan by submission in round two.
TERRY MARTIN VS. IVAN SALAVERRY
MY PICK: Salaverry is 36 years old, and even though he’s the favorite in this fight, I see Martin scoring the upset. Martin by KO in round one.
HOUSTON ALEXANDER VS. KEITH JARDINE
MY PICK: Jardine was originally scheduled to face David Heath, but Heath backed out of the fight in order to take Forrest Griffin’s place at UFC 70 against Lyoto Machida, where he lost. Houston Alexander stepped up to the plate, and even though he’s obviously excited to be fighting on a main UFC card, he’s a huge underdog in this fight. Jardine is a rising superstar in UFC and a solid knockout victory here will help him earn a title shot, while anything less than an exciting fight will probably keep him right where he is. As as result, I think Jardine will press the fight early and often, and will knock Alexander out quickly. Jardine by KO in round one.