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Dissection by Dallas: Liddell vs. Franklin

By CagePotato contributor Dallas Winston
To see past installments of Dallas’s incredibly thorough (and usually accurate) fight breakdowns, click here.

The UFC’s infusion of Pride and other overseas fighters had a significant impact on the nearly invincible aura surrounding Chuck Liddell and Rich Franklin.

Only a few short years ago, the duo had thoroughly cleaned out their respective divisions as UFC champions, shellacking any and all takers with unorthodox striking that commonly ended in highlight-reel knockouts, until Pride’s demise opened the flood gates for an influx of hungry new blood.

Before first meeting Anderson Silva in 2006, Franklin boasted a stout 20-1-1 clip, ending all contests but one by stoppage — fourteen of which were handled in the opening frame — with some mysterious karate guy accounting for his only stain on the carpet. Since that dark eve of the profoundly deviated septum at UFC 64, Franklin has notched a mediocre 5-4 run, checkered by three brutal first-round beatings and one tight decision loss, all dealt by former Pride fighters (although Vitor Belfort’s classification should remain amorphous).

In only his third professional fight in an event intended to flesh out the up and coming “Young Guns” at UFC 19, Liddell was coaxed into an arm triangle by Jeremy Horn, who almost beat then-God Frank Shamrock the previous year. “New Mohawk Guy” was scratched off the list of prospects. What followed was a sterling cycle of wins that rank amongst the sport’s most resplendent: Liddell cleaved through ten straight foes marked by notables like Kevin Randleman, Belfort, and Murilo Bustamante en route to light-heavyweight gold; then hit a 1-2 skid after experiencing some of Captain America’s special treatment and splitting a pair of fights in Pride versus Alistair Overeem and Rampage, but ultimately regained his prestige by laying waste to the remaining UFC contenders with seven consecutive TKO’s.

“The Iceman” would then seek revenge against the man who had elbowed him severely enough in the Pride ring to elicit guttural grunting and gurgling noises that typically accompany a healthy bowel movement. Round two of the Rampage saga triggered the first of four upcoming losses in his next five ventures; he managed to retain consciousness in only one.

Despite similar career trajectories, all the pressure seems to be on Chuck here. One-dimensional or not, his Machida-like strategy was once virtually unstoppable, but inevitably rendered dysfunctional when his footwork got sketchy and the odometer rolled on his chin. The decline of his resilience to punches can likely be tied to the fact that Chuck had bested some phenomenal strikers throughout his career, but the only true power puncher on his resume preceding Rampage was Belfort.

After his nimble patterns of movement and mythical beard strength unexplainably vanished into thin air, Chuck was out of his element. He turned up the volume on his forward movement and aggression versus Keith Jardine and Rashad Evans, but the former pinpointed his heavy forward stance with sharp leg kicks and found open holes others could not, and the latter reinforced the sentiment that charging into range and throwing uppercuts with your hands down can be a rather ill-advised approach.

The other important arrow that’s become absent from Chuck’s quiver is the simple beauty of his straight right hand. Liddell’s shtick as champion could be boiled down to calculated movement and angles anchored by a basic left hook and a right that was coiled and sprung loose at light speed with the stopping power of an M-60 at close range. Simple, but effective.

This glimpse of the past illuminates the tools Liddell needs to rediscover and redevelop for success in the present and future, and that task in itself may be Chuck’s biggest burden: physically, mentally, and technically speaking. I’m not sure he knows exactly what his style is or should be nowadays.

Congruent to Liddell, Franklin was mostly a counterpuncher who played off his opponent’s reactions to formulate his attack, and became more brazen after tasting mortality. Overall, his game-plan and mechanics have been steadier, with fewer failure-modes being added to the drawing board. Franklin still represents the type of striker that Chuck used to eat for lunch, which is one that focuses on finesse over power and intellect over aggression.

In his heyday, Chuck would ingest a smattering of medium-powered blows until he landed the showstopper, but I’m not sure the deteriorated Liddell can pull that off anymore. Chuck’s best bet is to patiently bait Franklin into the role of the aggressor and potshot while circling out, resuscitate the laser-sighted right straight, and mix things up by leading with ancillary basics like low kicks and a long, active jab. Dare I suggest that he fit pigs with wings and ice over hell by rifling in for a quick takedown to surprise Franklin and accrue points on the score cards? His deviation from proven fundamentals like these once made his style a distinctive anomaly, but now merely isolate where it’s lacking.

Conversely, Franklin’s cerebral and technical flavor may be the perfect undoing for the contemporary “Iceman”. Those who found Franklin’s chin did so with world-class use of angles and head-movement deep inside the pocket, a scenario that Liddell will probably steer away from and supplement with more selective shots from outside. Though not as abstract, Rich also employs fragments of the looping punching style referred to as “casting” like Chuck does, which wreak havoc on the defender with unusual timing and cryptic arcs of travel—but clean, straight punches should be his bread and butter on Saturday night.

The way Franklin unloads his powerfully accurate kicks should allow free use of the technique, and could be his weapon of choice based on Chuck’s susceptible stance and unwillingness for anything even remotely related to the ground. What I’ve always enjoyed the most about Rich Franklin is his creativity, and his fight with Edwin Dewees typifies that. When Dewees had two-plus points down, where most fighters kick the legs or flurry with wild punches, Rich bombed massive kicks to the midsection, threw in some vicious knees for good measure, and took advantage of legal tactics where Pride rules normally thrive.

Franklin also excels at fanatically altering his pace and mixing his strikes in fluent combinations that divert his adversaries’ attention from trying to mount offense to pure defense and survival, and if Rich can reign that policy in to acceptable limits of measured ferocity with tighter defense, I see him weathering a few exciting outbursts from Chuck and skating to a competitive decision victory.

Logic and longwinded analysis aside, I would be thrilled to see an exuberant Liddell wind up and deliver the nostalgic meat-hook or bore a hole through Rich’s soul with his signature right. But Chuck’s chances are too parallel with “the puncher’s chance” — there is too much stress on the mental aspect of combat, and the sudden screech to his momentum leaves too many questions to address.

My prediction: Franklin by decision

Cagepotato Comments

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winfredshepp25- June 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm
Mr_Misanthropy- June 10, 2010 at 4:57 pm
If Chuck gets KOed and shits himself again he should save it for after the fight.

He can run out and start flinging it all over Dana like an angry spider monkey at the post fight press conference when Dana gives his stupid Chuck-retirement speech to the media.
Angry Whopper- June 10, 2010 at 4:05 pm
Rich Franklin via Ace Ventura impression.
echoxer0- June 10, 2010 at 2:46 pm
see now all them big words, imma take them as disrespect, you want a nigg@ ? well nigg@ here now, what you want?

where the hell are my fart jokes?
Ninja- June 10, 2010 at 1:15 pm
Great article.

I just wish I would stop reading it in C3P0's voice.

Whenever I manage it it kind of goes into Stewie's voice for a bit and then back to C3P0.

I thoroughly enjoyed the in depth analysis of both fighters styles and how they match up.

great work!
2DaDeath- June 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm
I want Chuck to win almost as badly as Chuck wants to win, but this analysis is pretty on point. Aside from a puncher's chance, Liddell is gonna be pretty helpless against Franklin.

Also, I don't mind ur style of writing at all. I guess all those "RIF" commercials in the 80's had an effect on me.
just some dong- June 10, 2010 at 12:11 pm
Catalyst8487: "I don't mind a long piece, and I thought it was well written."

That's what she said!
justscrappin- June 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm
I don't mind this Dallas guy. The most important thing..he broke down the technical aspects of both guys games to a tee. Did he put a little too much pizazz in this piece...yeah I think so. I can let that go if the meat and potatoes is correct though. Yes the old MW hierarchy went Lindland getting upset by Terrell....Tanner thumping Terrell...Franklin thumping Tanner. Then the Silva happened...sorry Mw's....better luck next decade.
As far as this fight goes, I pretty much agree with the explanation given for both guys strategies, strengths and weaknesses. Liddell has a small chance to land a fight-ender...but is to easily frustrated by a consistent...technical striker. Franklin can dictate and be creative..but has a weaker chin...and only needs to catch one bad one. This fight would have been pretty sweet 5-7 years ago. I would watch it if it was free. The interest I have in this fight is purely nostalgic.
Mr_Misanthropy- June 10, 2010 at 12:07 pm
This whole upcoming card is similar to the Liddel/ Franklin match up. I'm leaning towards a lot of the (relatively) newer guys and prospects but they are all gettiing matched with tough vets that are hungry and need wins badly. This is the type of card I like, I think these fights with a lot of question marks and people having a lot to prove form all sides generate the craziest results. I'm going to hate making fight picks for this shit.
Lysol- June 10, 2010 at 11:33 am
You "educated" types make me sick! But the article was good, so I'll keep reading what you write.
Get Off Me- June 10, 2010 at 11:32 am
No fight will ever go a lot like Chuck vs. Wanderlai.
I don't think Franklin has the chin to take that kind of abuse from Chuck.
I do think Franklin has the KO power to do Chuck.... Especially if he lands a straight left or Rua like left on Chuck.
I agree with you on Chuck winning but I am not putting a penny down on this fight, just hope it can be 1/5th as entertaining as Silva v. Iceman, that would be great.

Mr_Misanthropy- June 10, 2010 at 11:22 am
Good article. Too bad you put so many people off by using words containing more than four letters. Why did you have to hoist your high and mighty ivy-league book learnin' on high to shame all the barely literate pederasts that frequent this site? It's pretentious cocksuckers like you that took my daddy's farm and led me to a life of iniquity and crystal meth. I hate knowledge! I hate books!
munche- June 10, 2010 at 11:09 am
I like your analysis, but I'm taking the opposite opinion of you. I think this fight is tailor made for Chuck to win. Franklin is not going to be shooting takedowns, and so Chuck can stand and bang.

I know Franklin has some stoppages on his record, but he doesn't have the one-punch-KO power that's been stopping Chuck in his last few. Franklin will get in there and trade with Chuck, and in the game of who can punch harder, I think it's going to be Chuck. Franklin is also a bit small at that weight, further adding to my opinion that he won't have the power to KO Chuck.

I think this fight will go a lot like the Wanderlei fight, with Chuck picking his big shots and taking the W by decision.
Leonard Washington- June 10, 2010 at 10:35 am
LOL @ my last comment being "flagged as spam". This clearly proves I don't talk too much. I addressed a lot of the comments above, so don't think I'm ducking anyone.

@Jugger- "And all this scientific approach can be thrown out in a second because MMA has its own Chaos Theory once the cage door closes. But it's still fun to put styles and skills under the microscope."

I couldn't agree more. I always stress the comparison of styles as the focus on these articles, rather than my guess at the result. There are solid arguments why Rich is a bad match-up for Chuck, and vice-versa. I would call this fight nearly even, with a small advantage for Rich, but only because he's more consistent and has less to adjust for. I would honestly prefer to see Chuck trounce him.

@superflat- good input. I usually get all pissy when a fighter is "washed up" after a few bad performances, which is why I pointed out that Chuck hadn't really faced anyone who would seriously test his chin in the run of good strikers he beat.

I also think Dana's view on Chuck is pretty harsh. He was put on a lofty pedestal for "fighting anyone at any time", which was great when he won. To me, it's not surprising, but realistic that a guy who fearlessly takes on the best is going to lose.

However, you can't deny that his footwork has oddly gotten much worse, or that the straight right he killed people with was mysteriously swapped for more sloppy loopers.

superflat- June 10, 2010 at 10:04 am
In all the analysis I've read, people are basically assuming that Chuck and Franklin are a bit wasted physically and behind the game mentally. While this may be true, of course, you can't count such naturally talented fighters out of the game.

Both fighters have had lay-offs, which could mean they come back worse, or it could mean they reinvent themselves. Honestly, nobody thought Shogun would be where he is today, or Belfort for that matter (well, we'll see).

It's so hard to judge, because the top 10 guys in any weight class in the UFC are all capable of handing anyone a loss. So, you see a former champ lose a few and think he's toast. It really could be a case of getting clipped once or twice, losing confidence, and needing to rebuild. Even at Franklin and Lidell's advanced age.
steampunk22- June 10, 2010 at 9:59 am
I didn't think "unexplainably" was a word? Shouldn't it be "inexplicably"?

Things that make you go, Hmm....

Jugger- June 10, 2010 at 9:51 am
Great article. I disagree on a few minor points, but this is what I consider an entertaining read. Keep this guy's stuff coming, please.

My friends tease me for breaking down fights in a similar fashion. And all this scientific approach can be thrown out in a second because MMA has its own Chaos Theory once the cage door closes. But it's still fun to put styles and skills under the microscope.

Good stuff!
Catalyst8487- June 10, 2010 at 9:40 am
I don't mind a long piece, and I thought it was well written. I agree with your assessment of the fight as well. I see this fight playing out very much like the Franklin/W. Silva fight. Chuck will show us some "new" stuff (takedowns, leg kicks, dare I say improved boxing defense?) and I think he'll be more choosey with his punches, but it won't matter because Franklin will pick and choose better and come out on top in most, if not all the exchanges.
flying gogoplata- June 10, 2010 at 9:32 am
great article. keep up the good work
El Famous Burrito- June 10, 2010 at 9:30 am
Cro Cop has a better chance versus Boo Berry.
Jabsent- June 10, 2010 at 9:26 am
awesome write up.

now do crocop vs pat berry
Viva Hate- June 10, 2010 at 9:21 am
About 5% through the article I needed to check thing out, thought I ended up at BE by accident.
ReX13- June 10, 2010 at 9:12 am
Lorenzoe553- June 10, 2010 at 9:05 am
i think its worth mentioning that 3 of the 4 guys to beat liddel ended up becoming champions shortly after. u also cant deny that rashad, rua, and jackson have ko power and have ko'd several other people so u cant exactly say liddels chin is weak and jardine just had a pretty good gameplan against liddel.
Dubya- June 10, 2010 at 9:01 am
@Leonard Washington : "Where did you guys find this pretentious windbag?"

Amen to that. Fumbling my way through all his creative rhetoric was annoying as fuck. His analysis is on point.. but get to the f'n point. Dallas.. you forget who your audience is you giant d-bag.

PS. Way to go Hawks!! Bringing that cup back to the Chi made my day.