By Andrew Levine
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, August 27, 2006
There had been talk on the part of Chuck Liddell's opponent that so much had changed in the nearly four years since their last matchup, that it would be a grave mistake to expect a similar result. To some degree, maybe that was true.
Renato Sobral had entered his rematch with the Ultimate Fighting Championship's light heavyweight champion last night on a 10-match winning streak, but walked away from the Octagon in the same fashion as Liddell's previous five opponents -- the victim of a brutal knockout.
With the sort of relentless punching display that has carried him to the apex of his sport, Liddell scored a technical knockout over Sobral just 1 minute 35 seconds into the first round to retain his title at UFC 62 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
"I don't change my style for anybody," Liddell said. "They're trying to figure out how to beat me. They have to improve. I have one way of fighting: I'm going to come after you, put hands on you and knock you out."
Liddell was responsible for Sobral's only other knockout loss of his career, when he delivered a thunderous kick to the head that stopped the Brazilian midway through the opening round of their first match in November 2002. Sobral had called it a momentary lapse that he left himself exposed to a striker of Liddell's stature, and vowed not to let history repeat itself.
But the plan collapsed as soon as Sobral charged in on Liddell in the opening minute last night, only to absorb a crisp right hand that sent him flying into the cage. Liddell followed with another combination that planted Sobral on the canvas.
With Sobral dazed and desperately trying to defend himself on the ground, Liddell continued with an onslaught of punches before referee John McCarthy stepped in to stop the fight.
"I thought it would take a little longer for him to come after me," Liddell said. "I hurt him with a jab early and he didn't really like that so he came after me with a big overhand. He must have thought he hurt me and then I hit him with that right."
In the co-main event, light heavyweight Forrest Griffin defeated Stephan Bonnar by unanimous decision.
Except for a few flurries in the third round, the bout never unfolded like the slugfest that was their first matchup -- a decision won by Griffin in April of last year. Instead, Griffin controlled much of the fight with a steady stream of deliberate punching combinations.
On the undercard, lightweight Hermes Franca defeated Jamie Varner via third-round submission; heavyweight Cheick Kongo knocked out Christian Wellisch in the first round; and welterweight Nick Diaz defeated Josh Neer via third-round submission.