UFC 88 in Atlanta was the first live UFC event I ever attended. Rashad Evans was fighting Chuck Liddell as the headlining fight that night. I sat in the nosebleed seats at Phillips Arena in Atlanta on September 6, 2008 in front of some very inebriated guys with heavy southern accents, intermittently chanting ‘USA’ or ‘knock that Mexican out’ during the Dan Henderson vs Rousimar Palhares fight. Despite the ignorant beer spilling drunks behind me it was an experience I will not ever forget. I tend to prefer to watch UFC at home but the energy of a shocked crowd that just witnessed Chuck Liddell fall to the canvas rigor mortis style after a huge overhand right from Rashad Evans is one of those things that makes me love seeing these fights live.
It was the first time I’d ever seen someone really laid out on the canvas, eyes rolled back in the head and stiff bodied live and in person. Sure I’d seen it on TV prior to that, but in person it just lends an entirely different vibe. First, there was the initial electric excitement from the crowd as they realized the KO happened. It included a mix of angry boos from those who felt that their hero ‘The Iceman’ was just unexpectedly defeated by Rashad Evans (who was somewhat villianized at that time) to screams of joy that massive KOs always deliver. I remember jumping up with my friend Trina in happiness as our male counter parts sat shaking their heads in shock and disbelief.
That excitement slowly faded into a concerned hush amongst the crowd as it seemed Liddell was stiff and unconscious for an uncomfortable amount of time. As much as we love the brutality of a knock out, we are also horrified at the thought of any tragic injury. After what seemed like forever, Chuck finally got up and the crowd re-erupted in an intermix of cheers and boos as they announced Rashad Evans winner via TKO at 1:51 of the 2nd round. Honestly that’s the moment I really fell in love with MMA-before that I just was in like with the sport. Call me a noob if you want, but prior to that I was really more of a boxing and jiu jitsu loving chick.
Chuck Liddell will never forget that moment with Rashad either and that’s why he told MMAWeeklyRadio he is just shaking his mohawk laden head about the betting odds of this Jones vs Evans fight. (Odds on some betting sites are favoring Jones at a whopping -500 and Rashad at +350.)
“I think that’s ridiculous. 5 to 1, and 6 to 1, I mean, Jon’s been great, he’s doing great, and he’s going to keep getting better, but this is a fight styles wise that’s a tougher fight for him than the ones he’s had. He likes to control the distance, control where the fight was, whether it was standing or on the ground, and I think he’ll have a harder time doing that with Rashad.”
“When you can shoot in and take a guy down, you can change the distance whenever you want, you can be pressed to do something else, and it’s a lot easier to follow your game plan.”
“If I was a betting man, with the odds, absolutely no question you have to go with Rashad. That’s for sure. It should be a pick em’ but I want to see if Rashad can do it. I really want to see how Jon reacts, I want to see him get pushed and see how he reacts.”
I think I really fell in love with MMA at that moment at UFC 88 because there’s something magical to me about watching the underdog rise up and defeat the favorite. Its serendipitous and maybe Rashad will get a chance to do it all over again in his return to Atlanta this Saturday night. [source]