Jackson Scores Stunning First-Round KO to Take Liddell's UFC Title

By Ryan Mink
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, May 27, 2007

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson heard the boos as he entered the ring. He was going up against the Ultimate Fighting Champion poster boy Chuck Liddell and he was not only predicted to lose, but desired to lose.

So when Liddell, who forecasted a first-round knockout, bobbed around the ring for the first minute of yesterday's UFC 71 light heavyweight title fight from MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Jackson lowered his hands and urged Liddell to come at him.

Then he capitalized on it.

After Liddell leaned in for a body shot, Jackson landed a right hook to Liddell's mouth, knocking down the title holder. He landed several punches to Liddell's face as he lay on his back before referee John McCarthy stopped the fight in 1 minutes 53 seconds.

"I was surprised [it was stopped] just because Chuck is pretty tough," Jackson said. "I was hitting him that hard in the first fight and he wasn't staying down. I threw the right hook and he went down like a ton of bricks."

Jackson (27-6) also convincingly beat Liddell in 2003 during a PRIDE bout, several times slamming him and consistently landing his punches until the fight was stopped.

After that loss, Liddell set out to avenge all three of his career losses and he seemed to be doing it, first knocking out Randy Couture in the first round, then beating Jeremy Horn into submission.

Liddell (20-4), who was dubbed by UFC President Dana White to be "the King of MMA," had won seven straight bouts, including two victories over Couture and rival Tito Ortiz.

But Jackson, an outspoken fighter from Memphis, wasn't concerned entering the fight, saying he was willing to trade punches with one of the most feared mixed martial arts fighters.

"I heard the boos and that added fuel to my fire," said Jackson, who let out his trademark howl after getting off the mat. "It was my destiny. I knew it was going to go down this way."

Yesterday's bout was just Jackson's second fight in the UFC after distinguishing himself in Japan. Jackson predicted a third-round victory. Turns out, it came much before then.

"I made a mistake and got caught," Liddell said. "I always want a rematch, man, but we'll see. I always want to fight again."

Asked whether he would accept a rematch, Jackson said, "I'll fight anybody."

Jackson's win marks the third straight card with an upset in the main event after Matt Serra shocked Georges St. Pierre and Gabriel Gonzaga beat Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.

In the undercard, Kalib Starnes (10-2-1) outlasted Chris Leben (16-4), winning by unanimous decision after taking Leben to the ground. Houston Alexander (7-1) pulled off a heavy upset in his first UFC fight, knocking out Keith Jardine (12-3-1) in just 48 seconds.

Middleweight Terry Martin (18-2) beat Ivan Salaverry (12-5-1) by technical knockout 2 minutes 4 seconds into the first round. Welterweight Karo Parisyan (25-4) beat Josh Burkman (19-4) by unanimous decision. Lightweight Din Thomas (23-7) defeated Jeremy Stephens (13-2) by submission.

Also, Dan Henderson, who is the middleweight and welterweight PRIDE champion with a 22-5 MMA record, will fight for the UFC.

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