Chuck Liddell was the face of the Ulimate Fighting Championship. Rashad Evans is part of the changing of the guard in mixed martial arts.
Evans knocked out Liddell with a thunderous overhand right to the jaw 1:51 into the second round Saturday night at UFC 88, setting up a likely championship bout with light heavyweight title-holder Forrest Griffin late this fall.
"Hopefully it puts me right up there," Evans said. "I'm a patient man."
Liddell, the former champ and a key figure in the rise of the sport, has lost three of his last four fights, two of them by knockouts.
"I'm fine. A guy caught me," Liddell said after the loss. "What you want me to say?"
There has been speculation that the 38-year-old would retire, but Liddell wouldn't discuss it.
"I'll decide in the gym whether or not to retire. Not after a fight," he said.
Liddell was on the canvas for several minutes after the knockout before getting to his feet and walking out of the octagon.
"You've got to go right for the horns," Evans said. "You can't fight him trying to takedowns."
The 28-year-old Evans is unbeaten after getting his start on the reality television series "The Ultimate Fighter." He won the second season of the Spike TV series.
Liddell and Evans were scheduled to fight in June, but the bout was postponed. Neither had fought since late last year.
Attendance at the sold-out event in Philips Arenda was 14,736, making for a gate of $2.6 million.
Rich Franklin, a former UFC middleweight champion, won the light heavyweight co-main event on a TKO, dropping Matt Hamill with a kick to the ribs 39 seconds into the third round. Franklin, moving up a weight class, suffered a deep cut near his right eye early in the round, but had won the first two rounds.
"Cutting weight this week was awesome, but pushing another 20 pounds (around) wasn't," Franklin said. "I'm going to try and gain some weight if I'm gonna stay (a light heavyweight)."
Dan Henderson showed he still had something left as a top UFC competitor, taking a unanimous decision over Brazilian newcomer Rousimar Palhares. Two judges scored it 30-27 and the other had it 29-28. It was Palhares' first UFC loss and broke a two-bout losing streak for Henderson.
"It's been a while," Henderson said. "This opponent was as tough as anybody I faced. ... Nobody knows who he is, but he's ... dangerous."
Nate Marquardt stunned Martin Kampmann with a kick to the head and then finished off their middleweight bout with a flurry of punches, getting a TKO victory after 1:22 of the first round. It was the first UFC loss for Kampmann, who is coming back from a knee injury.
South Korean welterweight Dong Hyun Kim was awarded an unpopular split decision over Matt Brown in the first bout of the undercard. Two judges had it 29-28 for Kim and the other scored it 29-28 for Brown, who suffered a cut under his left eye when Kim landed an elbow in the third round.
Lightweight Kurt Pellegrino bloodied Thiago Tavares' face in the first round and won via unanimous decision over the Brazilian in the final preliminary bout. Two judges had it 29-27 and the other 29-28.
Light heavyweight Tim Boestch hit Michael Patt was a big right to the jaw and scored a first-round TKO. The fight was stopped at 2:03, giving the Pennsylvanian his second quick win in as many UFC bouts.
Middleweight Jason McDonald defeated Jason Lambert by submission 1:20 into the second round. Saved by the horn at end of the first round after being caught in a guillotine, the Canadian put Lambert in a rear-naked choke and the California tapped out.
Wealterweight Ryo Chonan of Japan won a split decision over Roan Carneiro. Two judges scored it 29-28 for Chonan, the other 29-28 for Carneiro.
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