By JOHN SPECHT
MMANEWS.COM Staff Writer
With Chuck Liddell vs. Rich Franklin looming on the horizon at UFC 115 in June, I can't help but think about the implications for both fighters.
Career defining? Possibly. Must win for both? Definitely.
I think Rich “Ace” Franklin's legacy won't be affected as much, in the event of a loss to the Iceman. Franklin has fought a few top fighters in the last couple of years, but lost them all though. Was Wanderlei really one of the weight divisions top fighters at the time of Franklin's big win over him? I think there will be much more talk of “What happened to the Iceman?” if Liddell posts his 5th loss in 6 fights. Five of six?! Hard to imagine.
I'll be honest, when I first heard the ink was on the paper for this fight, I was less than thrilled. Part of this was the build up of another KO of Ortiz at the hands of Liddell, but then seemingly out of nowhere, it was Franklin to step in. I first viewed this matchup like a handful of others lately, pitting two fighters against each other in a fight that would have been better years before.
But as the date draws closer, the high stakes of this bout come into focus. This matchup is a great one, given where these two fighters are in their lives and careers both. With that in mind, I would not want to draw Rich Franklin as my current fight to try to succeed at my comeback attempt. That's the rough sport of MMA though. No easy fights. No ducking fights. All of them, equally huge, with big career implications. This is the main difference between boxing of today and MMA. I know that topic has been done to death, but it's true. No trying to pad records in this sport.
Liddell's thoughts on fighting Franklin:
“Other than the fact that Franklin's a southpaw, there's not much of a difference. I've had to work on my all-round game because he's decent at everything. Him taking me down is not really a big threat, so if it goes to the ground it's because I decided it should, but he is a much better striker than Tito.”
Rich Franklin is much more dangerous than Tito by far. Ironically, Franklin and Liddell both have wins over Wanderlei Silva, but have both have struggled getting wins the last couple of years now. Franklin has recent losses to Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort, and two to Anderson Silva. All top flight fighters, but losses all the same.
The question at hand is, could Liddell's teetering “legend” status and his legacy be tarnished with a loss to Franklin? A loss that could knock him out of the UFC, and even MMA? I mean, can you really see Chuck fighting for any organization other than Dana White and the UFC? I just don't feel good about the chances of the Iceman getting over on Franklin at this point in both of their respective careers.
Franklin had this to say about his goals for the future:
“If I can make a title run, that would be awesome,” Franklin said. “That would be a great Cinderella story for myself, especially for someone like me. I'm a third-string high school football player, and that's my athletic history.
“If I didn't (get another shot at the title), I would not lose any sleep over it. In between, if I'm putting on fights that fans want to see and that are exciting, that's really what the goal is because I still love to compete. I haven't lost that edge for competition.”