VANCOUVER – His left arm broken, and his options dwindling, Rich (Ace) Franklin knew he had to come up big in UFC 115 on Saturday night.
He did, throwing a devastating right that not only knocked out Chuck Liddell at 4:55 of the first round, but probably ended the Iceman’s career.
“I was happy the fight was over,” said Franklin, who showed up to the post-fight news conference with his arm in a sling and covered with an ice pack.
“I knew my arm was broken (but) I wasn’t going to quit. There was part of me that was wondering what kind of strategy I was going to use to win the fight.”
Franklin said he felt the arm break about two minutes into the bout. Sensing Franklin was in trouble, Liddell backed the former math teacher up against the fence.
After Liddell missed with a punch, Franklin caught him with a right hook. When Liddell crumpled to the canvas, Franklin hit him with a another blow.
“Chuck caught me with a couple of punches,” said Franklin, who earned US$85,000 for delivering the knockout of the night.
“I kind of got stupid standing in front of him. It looked like he was making himself tired. He was putting a lot of effort into punches that were not landing. He follows up big when he thinks he has you hurt. I just tried to stay tight, threw the hook, and it caught him on the chin.”
Liddell lay motionless for several minutes in the ring while support staff swarmed around him.
Dana White, the UFC president, said Liddell was taken to hospital.
It was a rough end to UFC’s first card in Vancouver and the sold-out crowd of 17,000 at GM Place loved it. A deafening roar when up following Franklin’s victory.
White said the night’s gate was US$4.2 million. He called it a great night and definitely plans to return to Vancouver.
“I’m satisfied, very satisfied,” said White. “It was a great night of fights.”
Liddell, the former world light heavyweight champion who also has appeared on “Dancing with the Stars,” was looking to put his career back on track. He’s now lost five of his last six fights, four by knockout.
Franklin had mixed emotions after the win.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said the Cincinnati native who improved his record to 28-5 with one no contest.
Liddell, of San Luis Opispo, Calif., is 21-8.
Earlier, Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic used a flurry of third-round blows and a rear-naked choke to score a tap-out decision over Patrick (HD) Barry in the co-undercard.
The win earned Filipovic, a former member of Croatia’s elite anti-terrorist unit, the submission of the night. That also was worth $85,000.
Filipovic was twice knocked down in the fight, once by a thunderous right hook in the first round.
He put Barry in trouble late in third, catching him in the face with a punch, then knocking him to the mat. Quick as a cat, Filipovic was on Barry and raining blows. The fight was over when Filipovic applied the choke.
The win improved Filipovic’s record to 27-7-2. Barry, who has said Cro Crop is his idol, falls to 5-2.
Toronto’s Claude (The Prince) Patrick took the shine off Ricardo (Golden Boy) Funch but he was the only one of three Canadians to win on the undercard.
Rory (The Waterboy) MacDonald of Kelowna, B.C., lost to Carlos (The Natural Born Killer) Condit while Montreal’s David (The Crow) Loiseau lost a bloody match to (Super) Mario Miranda.
The MacDonald-Condit battled was the fight of the night, earning both men $85,000.
Patrick, a welterweight, used a guillotine choke to force a tap-out victory at 1:48 of the second round.
“I’m happy with my performance,” said Patrick, who needed two chokes to subdue Funch. “I knew I didn’t have the choke the first time, but I knew it was sunk the second time.”
Patrick improved his record 12-1 while Funch, who had his hair decorated with blue and red beads, dropped to 7-2.
A furious rain of punches late in the third round allowed Condit to score a late decision from MacDonald. Both fighters were left bleeding after the physical welterweight bout that had the crowd on their feet.
MacDonald controlled the first two rounds of the fight and even put Condit on the canvas near the end of the second with a kick to the chest. The 20-year-old walked back to his corner, pumping his fist in the air.
Condit, 26, regrouped in the third. He had MacDonald down and pounded him with blows forcing the referee to end the fight, which brought boos from the crowd.
The win upped Condit’s record to 25-5.
“I was taking some good head shots,” said MacDonald, who lost for the first time in 11 fights. “I was lost.
“I felt like I was close. I just wasn’t confident.”
Condit gave the young Canadian credit.
“He’s got a great career ahead of him,” Condit said.
Miranda, 30, who was making his UFC debut, dominated his fight against Loiseau. Blood poured from a cut on Loiseau’s head, staining the blue floor of the Octagon.
Late in the second round the crowd, which earlier had chanted “Canada, Canada” in support of Loiseau, began to boo as the referee allowed the fight to continue. Miranda sat on Loiseau’s back and hammered down punches until the fight was mercifully stopped.
“To be honest, I thought the ref let it go a bit longer than he should have,” said Miranda, who improved his record to 12-1.
Loiseau, 30, is 11-2.
In two other welterweight matches, Mike (Quicksand) Pyle used a triangle choke to score a tap-out win over Jesse (The Ox) Lennox at 4:44 of the third round while James (Lightning) Wilks scored a unanimous decision over Peter Sobotta.
Fans looking for blood were rewarded in the first night’s fight.
Pyle, 34, staggered Lennox with a vicious right hand in the first round that left The Ox’s face smeared red. Lennox, 28, battled back with a couple strong punches that put Pyle on his guard.
The fight was called at 4:46 of the third round when Pyle wrapped his legs around Lennox.
Pyle’s record’s improved to 19-7-1 while Lennox falls to 15-3.
The Wilks-Sobotta fight was a tame affair. The loudest cheers came for the women who carried the cards indicating the rounds of the fight.
There were more boos when (Handsome) Matt Wiman’s lightweight bout against Mac Danzig was stopped early in the first round.
The referee awarded Wiman the victory 1:25 into the match when he thought Danzig was unconscious. A confused Danzig tried to argue the decision but to no avail.
Ben Rothwell won his heavyweight bout against Gilbert (Hurricane) Yvel in a unanimous decision. That improved his record to 31-7.
Evan Dunham won his lightweight fight against Tyson Griffin in a split decision.
Martin (The Hitman) Kampmann improved his record to 17-3 with a unanimous decision over Paulo Thiago in a welterweight match.
The first ever UFC event in Vancouver drew a sold out crowd to GM Place. All the tickets for the event, which ranged in price from $76 to $601, were sold in 30 minutes making it the fastest sellout ever for the mixed martial arts organization.
Vancouver is the second Canadian city to host a UFC event. Montreal has hosted three cards.
In December, Vancouver city councillors voted six to three to approve a two-year trial period for MMA. Under the pilot program, promoters must ensure the city can’t be held liable for damages.
White would not say how much UFC has paid for insurance.