The opening seconds of the Liddell vs Jackson rematch on May 27, 2007 – saw the former Pride stalwart, Quinton Jackson relentlessly stalking the retreating UFC wunderkind, Chuck “the Iceman” Liddell. Perhaps the two fighters in the octagon knew what few others did; the sense of danger and superiority informed by knowledge and experience. This wasn’t the first time the twain had met.
To understand the drama of those opening moments, you have to go four years to 2003 when Quinton Jackson pummled Chuck into a writhing mess and nearly had his kidneys for dinner in Pride’s Middleweight Grand Prix tournament of 2003. Dana White of the UFC had entered Chuck in the tournament as the official UFC representative in an attempt to snag the illusive Chuck Liddell-Wanderlei Silva fight. This was on the heels of Chuck’s loss to Randy Couture. (Chuck’s loss to Couture had slowed down his chase of the heavyweight title, which at that point was held by the churlish Tito Ortiz.) Quinton Jackson and Chuck Liddell were “unknown” to each other at that point and it showed. Their first face-off in the ring showed both as equally assertive and deferential. But all that was about to change in the short space of about two rounds because the second round saw Jackson giving Chuck perhaps the most excruciating beating of his career. Chuck’s corner had to quickly throw in the towel as he lay bloodied and withering under a barrage of heavy blows to the head and kidneys. I seriously doubt that Chuck ever forgot this beating.
So what unwitting fans may have been witnessing in those opening moments 0f UCF 71 was a manifestation of instant recall sparked by Quinton Jackson’s assertion of dominance.
In the animal kingdom such verities have distinct ordors that are neither forgott nor ignored. The edge of Jackson’s advance represented an event horizon that Chuck Liddel wanted nothing to do with. Jackson was the stalker and Chuck the “stalkee”. Fans soon realized that Chuck was onto something. Jackson was the man. No matter how irked they were by Chuck’s Ginger Baker routine (dancing backwards), they should have never pooh-poohed his instincts. Knowing who the hell owns your BE-hind is a sensibility that keeps people as much alive on Cell Block C as in the vaunted octagon.
Pre-match images of the fighters before the face-off had tripped my sixth sense right off cuff: Quinton Jackson was gonna kick Chuck’s butt. Jackson’s Rampage was “Original Man” to Chuck Liddell’s “Ice Man.” The clench of Jackson’s jaw portended ownership – even though I was a bit worried about the height and body-tone difference. Jackson looked a bit paunchy where Liddell was, well …. tall and lithe, his beer gut notwithstanding.
The pre-bout face-off and the stare, presented fans with a bit of commedia de farce. Jackson was scowling like a WWE wrestler while Liddell was kind of fidgeting with a half-sheepish smile. There was clearly a different dynamic going on here compared to Chuck and his other opponents like Tito for example. And this should have been the tip-off for most fans.
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