Heading into the light heavyweight showdown between former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuk Liddell and undefeated Rashad Evans, all people could talk about was the knockout power that Liddell had, and Evans lacked. After UFC 88: Breakthrough, Evans showed he was the one who had the fireworks in his right hand. After suffering the worst knockout of his career, Liddell was laying on the canvas for minutes before being helped out of the Octagon by his longtime trainer, John Hackleman. Evans not only earned himself another victory, but a title shot as well.
Prior to the devastating knockout, Liddell couldn’t find his range as Evans was very quick and elusive. It was Evans who was the quicker counter-puncher as well, out striking Liddell up until the final moments of the fight. Not once did the former All-American wrestler try to shoot on Liddell, instead opting to beat Liddell at his own game.
“My strategy was just to open up and to feel comfortable,” Evans stated at the UFC 88 post-right press conference. “You know, a lot of fights were going there and I’m kinda standing, waiting for the fight to happen. This fight I just kinda wanted to relax the whole time through, and enjoy myself every second I’m out there.”
Clearly, Liddell’s best years are behind him, as Evens made the 38-year old look his age. He was sharper and quicker in all the stand up exchanges, constantly beating Liddell to the punch. When he finally landed the strike of the night, knocking “The Iceman” out cold, he still wasn’t certain that it was enough.
“See if he was finished off. Wait for the referee to break it up,” Evans said as he stormed the fallen Liddell. “I was trying to catch him. I was trying to get him to come out of his comfort zone, cause usually he likes you to chase him so I figured I had him frustrated by the end of the first round. And then he started trying to stop me. And trying to catch me on the fence and that’s when I knew I’ll be able to catch him.”
After the bout, UFC President Dana White confirmed that with the win, Evans has earned himself a shot at current 205-pound champion Forrest Griffin. The date as yet to be set, however it is as certain as Evans’ arrival as a legitimate contender in the division.
“I’m very happy…I’m happy this moment is here,” the new top contender stated. “It’s so excited. I’m still living in the moment as of right now. I haven’t really put any thoughts to that (title shot) right now. Title fight, whatever, it’s just another fight.”