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Five observations

What we learned from UFC 76

Posted: Monday September 24, 2007 11:43AM; Updated: Wednesday September 26, 2007 11:23AM
Keith Jardine managed to overwhelm the golden boy of UFC, Chuck Liddell, beating him in a split decision at UFC 76.
Keith Jardine managed to overwhelm the golden boy of UFC, Chuck Liddell, beating him in a split decision at UFC 76.
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1) What must one do to tap Jon Fitch?

Against Diego Sanchez, who was undefeated until his last fight, Fitch spun out of triangles and slipped out of chokes. Pretty impressive, but not entirely unique.

More novel was his reaction to having the explosive Sanchez on his back with a forearm across his throat: Fitch gave a thumbs up, presumably to signal to ref Herb Dean that he was doing fine and that the fight should continue.

Talk about cool under pressure. Thumbs up? Maybe he can reach around and give his opponent bunny ears next time, just for kicks. Fitch's training mates say he can't be tapped, and it's hard not to believe them after his performance. "I'm pretty impossible to choke," Fitch said. "I've been in a deep choke in every one of my fights."

2) What's Not to Love About Chuck Liddell?

That was the title of ESPN the Magazine's cover story on the Iceman in the run up to his fight with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in May, and after this weekend, fans are probably ready with some answers.

Before that fight, Liddell was 20-3, and had avenged two of the three losses, with only Rampage still standing on the payback trail. Liddell was a god. He was going where no MMA fighter had gone before (i.e. the cover of ESPN the Magazine, a cameo on Entourage). It was startling when he lost to Rampage inside of two minutes, but it was absolutely inconceivable that, four months later, he would go the distance with, much less to lose to Keith "Dean of Mean" Jardine in a split decision. Jardine was a man widely considered to be cannon fodder, and perhaps just a loss or two away from irrelevancy.

So what happened? Is Liddell not all that the UFC hype machine made him up to be? It's hard to say at this point, but it certainly seems that Jardine, in a fight where neither man even attempted a takedown, was very aware of Liddell's weaknesses. Jardine normally has a tendency to walk right at an opponent, a strategy that would have made his head the perfect speed bag for Liddell's thunderous blows. But Jardine changed his style, and often beckoned Liddell forward rather than stalking him and allowing Liddell to circle backward and sideways and look for openings the way he likes.

Whatever Liddell's problem is, it's clear that he's going to have to expand his repertoire to regain his vaunted status.

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