By Thomas Gerbasi

LAS VEGAS, May 26 – Chuck Liddell’s right hand had extracted revenge for him on many occasions, leading him on a reign of terror at 205 pounds that saw him win seven fights in a row, all by KO or TKO. But tonight, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the streak came to an end at the hands of the last man to beat him, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, who earned the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship with a stunning first round TKO.

PLAY VIDEO //Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell VS Quinton “Rampage” Jackson //


And it all started with a right hand to the jaw.

“That’s how I saw it in my head,” said Jackson, who stopped Liddell in the second round of their PRIDE bout in Japan on November 9, 2003.

“I made a mistake and got caught,” said the 37-year old Liddell.

The tension was thick early on as camera flashes were seen throughout the arena. The action didn’t match the atmosphere in the opening minute though, bringing a look of disdain and a wave in from Jackson to engage. Liddell obliged, but after Jackson absorbed a left hook from ‘The Iceman’, he came back immediately with a right hook that dropped Liddell to the canvas hard. ‘Rampage’ immediately pounced on the soon to be ex-champion, and after four unanswered blows, referee John McCarthy halted the bout at the 1:53 mark, and a new king was crowned at 205 pounds.

With the win, Jackson improves to 27-6. Liddell falls to 20-4.

Welterweight contender Karo Parisyan moved one step closer to his long-awaited title shot, outpointing fellow 170-pound standout Josh Burkman via unanimous decision in a hard-fought three rounder.

Scores were 30-27 twice, and 29-28 for Parisyan, who improves to 25-4. Burkman falls to 19-4.

After a memorable forehead to forehead staredown, Parisyan and Burkman got down to hostilities for real, swinging for the fences with each shot. And though most of the haymakers missed their mark, it didn’t matter to the packed house. As the round progressed, Parisyan countered well with big right hands to the head, but it was Burkman who scored the first significant takedown midway through the round. The fight quickly went back to the feet though, and after a fierce exchange won by Parisyan, ‘The Heat’ scored with one of his trademark judo throws, scoring more points and earning the round.

Parisyan’s speed and anticipation continued to pay dividends in round two as he repeatedly scored with his right hand flush. Burkman took the shots well and though he stunned Parisyan briefly with a couple of counters, his work rate was being doubled by the Armenia native and it was losing rounds for ‘The People’s Warrior’.

With the fight slipping away, Burkman went on the offensive in the final frame, scoring well with his fists and then slamming Parisyan to the mat. Parisyan worked his way back to his feet, and almost scored with a submission / takedown on his opponent that got a rise from the crowd, but Burkman escaped and rose to resume the standup battle. It was too little too late for the Utah native though, as he suffered his second Octagon defeat.

Hard-hitting Terry Martin made it 2-0 in the middleweight division as he followed up his 14 second stoppage of Jorge Rivera in February with a first round finish of returning UFC vet Ivan Salaverry.

Salaverry (12-5-1) worked his kicks from long range in the early going, but it was Martin (18-2) who landed the first big shot, jarring the 36-year old with a right to the jaw. The two subsequently locked up, and though Martin’s first two slam attempts were rebuffed, the third time was the charm, and as the two hit the mat, Salaverry was knocked out by the impact, with a follow up flurry by the Chicagoan merely a formality until referee Mario Yamasaki called a halt to the bout at 2:04 of the first round.

“I’m willing to stand with Anderson Silva,” said Martin of the UFC middleweight king. “Is he willing to stand with me? I’m ready for anybody.”

UFC newcomer Houston Alexander made quite an impression in his debut, stunning 205-pound contender Keith Jardine via a devastating first round knockout.

“I wasn’t nervous coming into this fight,” said Alexander. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m a seasoned vet at this point. I’m just new to the UFC.”

The bout was fought at a hellacious pace from the opening bell, with Jardine apparently hurting Alexander with a quick left hook that put the Nebraskan on the canvas briefly. Alexander quickly recovered though, and once the two clinched, he opened up with overhand rights that stunned the ‘Dean of Mean’. Moments later, after a barrage of heavy shots, Jardine hit the canvas from a right uppercut. Another follow-up right uppercut put Jardine down face first, drawing the stoppage from referee Steve Mazzagatti, and just like that, the crowded light heavyweight division has a new face.

Alexander improves to 7-1 with the win. Jardine falls to 12-4-1.

In an entertaining pay-per-view opener, Kalib Starnes and Chris Leben left it all the Octagon, but in the end, it was Starnes who took the close three round decision in a battle between middleweight alumni from The Ultimate Fighter reality series.

Scores were 29-28 twice, and 30-27 for season three’s Starnes, who moves to 10-2-1. Season one’s Leben, who has now dropped three of his last four fights, falls to 16-4.

“I have nothing but respect for Chris,” said Starnes. “I would have gave him the nod in the fight myself.”

Both fighters had their moments in the fast-paced opening round, Leben scoring with brief flurries and looping shots while Starnes landed the harder and crisper shots with counters straight down the middle to the head and body.

Starnes upped the pressure in the second, stunning Leben with a straight right to the jaw and immediately following up with a hard takedown, and the Canadian continued to score well, but Leben, true to form, would not go away quietly, and he finished the round strong as he aggressively pursued a tiring Starnes and landed with a wide array of punches, kicks, and knees.

Leben kept pursuing a backpedaling Starnes as the final round got underway, and a left to the body by Leben hurt his foe, allowing the fight to go to the mat. There, Leben worked his ground and pound effectively as the exhausted Starnes simply tried to survive. With a little over two minutes left in the fight, Starnes reversed his position and worked into Leben’s guard, but even there, it was ‘The Crippler’ outworking his foe with peppering punches and kicks from the bottom position. And though Starnes was able to land some final shots before the bell, it appeared that Leben’s previous work proved to be enough to earn him the nod. The judges disagreed though, giving the razor-thin decision to Starnes.

In preliminary action…

The expected standup war between Chute Boxe newcomer Thiago Silva and James ‘The Sandman’ Irvin fizzled out early when a partial ACL tear caused Irvin to retire at 1:06 of the first round.

As the two grappled, Silva (10-0) went for a takedown and Irvin (12-4) planted his right foot. As the two hit the canvas, Irvin’s foot remained planted and he twisted his knee. In visible pain, Irvin tapped, causing the injury-induced stoppage by referee Herb Dean.

“I did not want my fight to end this way,” said Silva. “But a fight is a fight and I am happy with my win regardless of how it happened.”

Alan Belcher came in on just two weeks notice to replace the injured Eric Schafer against Sean Salmon, but stamina wasn’t an issue for ‘The Talent’ as he submitted Salmon just 53 seconds into the opening round.

Salmon, a former Ohio State wrestler, looked for the takedown early, but as soon as he shot in, Belcher sunk in a guillotine choke that just got tighter as the seconds ticked away. After a slam was unable to break the lock, Salmon was forced to tap out and he fell to 0-2 in the Octagon and 9-3 overall. Belcher ups his record in his UFC light heavyweight debut to 10-3.

Lightweight contender Din Thomas spoiled the Octagon debut of Jeremy Stephens, submitting the newcomer in the second round of a scheduled three.

30 seconds in, Thomas (23-7) welcomed Stephens (13-2) to the UFC with a takedown and actively worked to finish, moving to side control and then to Stephens’ back where he sunk in a rear naked choke. ‘Lil’ Heathen’ escaped Thomas’ submission attempt, but the veteran refused to give up his position. By the end of the round though, the gutsy Stephens reversed his fortunes and opened up on his opponent with punches to the delight of the crowd.

Buyoed by his strong late first round surge, Stephens stood and traded with Thomas in the early stages of round two and scored well, but once the fight went down to the mat, Thomas’ experience paid off and he sunk in an armbar. Stephens tried to slam his way out of trouble, but to no avail, as referee John McCarthy wisely halted the bout at the 2:44 mark just before it appeared Thomas would have snapped his game opponent’s arm, drawing protests from the fighter and scattered boos from the fans in attendance.

“He probably didn’t tap, but I was gonna break his arm and take it home with me,” said Thomas.

Wilson Gouveia continued to show improvement in his game as he notched his third straight Octagon win by submitting Carmelo Marrero in the first round.

After two minutes of cat and mouse between the two light heavyweights, Gouveia struck gold with devastating kicks to the leg that dropped Marrero. Once on the mat, Marrero had no answers for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt who earned the submission victory at the 3:06 mark via guillotine choke.

“I expected him to take me down so I practiced my guillotine,” said Gouveia, who made sure practice made perfect as he improved to 9-4. Marrero falls to 6-2.

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