In UFC 115 on June 12, 2010, two important things happened: Rich Franklin proved he has what it takes to make a comeback at the age of 35, and Chuck Liddell confirmed to the world that his time in The Octagon is over – or at least should be.
The much anticipated fight between these two former UFC champions has been seen as more than just a bout between two of the sport’s most beloved fighters; for months now, fans and UFC execs like Dana White have looked to this fight as a potential determining factor for the future of both these gladiators in The Octagon. Both are up there in age in the world of MMA – Franklin is 35, Liddell is 40 – and both came into the fight with a string of ups and downs in their recent past.
For the past year, Liddell has really transitioned from MMA legend to full blown celebrity. His appearance in several films and on the hit TV show “Dancing with the Stars” has led some critics to wonder if his heart – and training – is still in the MMA game. His last two appearances in The Octagon were less than impressive and all earned him losses. The last fight at UFC 97 against Mauricio Rua on April 18, 2009, was such a disaster for “The Ice Man” that in the interviews immediately following the fight, his long time friend Dana White stated that he was retiring. However, Liddell recanted his retirement after he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and White officially announced – to the surprise of many who saw the Rua fight – that he was slated to battle Franklin in UFC 115.
Franklin has had a tough year of his own. His last fight against Vitor Belfort in UFC 103 on September 19, 2009 seemed to show a Franklin that was running out of steam. His conditioning seemed poor, his strikes were a minute too late, and within minutes of the first round starting the Brazilian Belfort rained punches on him severe enough to end the fight. Many critics, including our very own mixed martial arts San Diego trainers and fighters, saw this as the beginning of the end for Franklin, a well liked and well respected fighter; at his age, no one was surprised or disappointed.
Pre-game hype for UFC 115 portrayed two former champions fighting for the chance to reclaim not only their glory but also their spark and reputation among fans as powerhouse talents. Both claimed to have switched up their training routines, both claimed to have put in the hours it takes to be the best, but in the end it was Franklin who, unquestioningly, dominated The Octagon and put Liddell to sleep with ease in the first round.
For Franklin, the fight was more than a win – it was a bona fide comeback in the eyes of the UFC fans and Dana White. For Liddell, the fight was just one more piece of evidence that his time in The Octagon should be over for his own sake at least. While he will always be an important member of the UFC family, he is clearly past his prime and needs to gracefully retire from the fight, not pretend to be someone he just isn’t anymore.
Bottom line of Liddell versus Franklin: one star rose, another set – just another night in The Octagon.
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