UFC 115 Preview, Chuck Lidell, Rich Franklin
UFC 115 Preview

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There are no titles on the line Saturday night when UFC 115 takes place from the General Motors Palace in Vancouver.

But in all likelihood, a career will end and a legacy will be shaped.

The main event of Saturday's card features two former UFC champions when Rich "Ace" Franklin and Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell meet. At one time, both were considered among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but now, the two are thought to be past their prime.

Liddell (21-7) is making his return to the octagon after being away for over a year. His last fight was a first round knockout loss to current light heavyweight champion, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.

Chuck LidellLiddell won the UFC Light Heavyweight title back at UFC 52 against Randy Couture. That win was part of a seven-fight win streak that saw Liddell defend his title four times before running into Quinton Jackson (co-star of "The A-Team"). "Rampage" knocked out Liddell in the first round of that fight, which started a string of four losses in five outings for Liddell.

The problem that Liddell has been facing is that he was so successful for a stretch earlier in his career that he believed he didn't have to continue to evolve. He continued to rely on his punching power, while his opponents found new ways to gain the upper hand on him. As Liddell refused to change, wins subsequently turned to losses and now, a loss to Franklin will end his career. (Or so says UFC President Dana White.)

The road hasn't been much different for Franklin (27-5), who won the UFC middleweight title at UFC 53 by defeating Evan Tanner. From there, Franklin put together some dominant wins over mediocre talent in Nate Quarry and David Loiseau.

Franklin's career hit its downturn when he faced Anderson Silva at UFC 64. Silva picked him apart and exposed clear weaknesses in his game, as Franklin was knocked out in the first round, losing the title. Franklin made a nice run back into the title picture by beating Jason MacDonald and Yushin Okami, but he was once again destroyed by Silva, which forced him out of the middleweight division.

Since moving to light heavyweight, Franklin has lost two of four fights, falling to Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort. His most recent fight was the loss to Belfort, where his speed and punching power were clearly inferior.

Rich FranklinFranklin's recent decline isn't about evolving, as much as it is his skills aren't at the elite level in comparison to guys like Silva and Belfort. Franklin does a nice job mixing up his strikes and his ground game is respectable, but when facing a guy with faster hands, he tends to struggle. Now, being eliminated from the title picture in the middleweight division, a loss to Liddell would leave Franklin's career in limbo.

On paper, Franklin looks to have the edge. His striking is more diverse, while Liddell is straight forward and predictable. A wrestling match may favor Liddell if he has been working on it, but his best hope is for a knockout. The key for Liddell will be whether or not his game has evolved or if he simply relies on his looping hooks to score him a knockout.

The rest of the UFC 115 main card features four other bouts. The co-main event is a heavyweight clash between Mirko CroCop (26-7-2) and Pat "HD" Berry (5-1). Both men have tremendous kicking ability and this fight should be a stand-up war. Berry has put away three of his opponents by leg kicks in the first round and CroCop has a long list of head-kick knockouts to his credit. The winner of this fight will be considered one of the top six heavyweights in the UFC division.

In a welterweight contest, Paulo Thiago (13-1) takes on Martin "The Hitman" Kampmann (16-3). Thiago has had a nice run in the UFC, winning three of four fights, including a KO win over Josh Koscheck in his debut. Kampmann is looking to re-establish himself as one of the top welterweights in the UFC after getting beat by Paul Daley last fall. This fight should have some good striking, but Thiago would be better suited to get the fight to the ground.

Another main-card bout features heavyweights Ben Rothwell (30-7) and Gilbert Yvel (36-14-1). Both of these men are strikers that don't like going to the ground. The fighter that has better technique and better conditioning will come out on top.

In a welterweight contest, Carlos Condit (24-5) takes on unbeaten Rory MacDonald (10-0). Condit was the last WEC welterweight champion that defended his title three times before the organization merged their welterweight talent into the UFC. Since, Condit has gone 1-1 and a win over MacDonald would push him into top-10 status. MacDonald is just 20-years old, but is 1-0 in the UFC and he trains with current welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre. Showing a good mix of striking and grappling, MacDonald has shown that if he is taken lightly, it will be a big mistake by his opponent.

UFC 115 begins at 10 p.m. live on Pay-Per-View. The card is solid from top-to-bottom and it should be an exciting night of action.


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