Liddell Powers Past Horn, Retains UFC Light Heavyweight Title

Liddell Powers past Horn

By Josh Gross Aug 21, 2005
LAS VEGAS, Aug. 20 — UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell (Pictures) promised he would test Jeremy Horn (Pictures)’s chin when the two met in the Octagon at UFC 54. He was true to this word early and often tonight, putting together a dominating performance in front of 13,520 fans inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena to retain his belt for the first time since winning it against Randy Couture (Pictures) in April.

The hard-punching Liddell dropped Horn twice in the first round, once more in the second and a final time in the fourth, forcing the veteran of over 100 bouts to tell referee John McCarthy that he could no longer see out of his two badly battered eyes. McCarthy promptly waived off the fight 2:46 of the fourth round.

Heading into Saturday’s highly anticipated rematch of a fight the challenger won by submission in 1999, Horn repeatedly said he would not shy away from Liddell’s power, which coming into tonight netted six consecutive stoppage victories.

The challenger walked into the Octagon preceded by a reputation of having never been knocked down or out during the course of his career.

Liddell put that to bed early.

He split Horn’s defense with a blistering straight right midway through the first round, crumbling the Salt Lake City-based fighter to the canvas. Liddell followed to finish, but Horn, a noted survivor, fought on pure instinct.

Liddell finally backed away, calling Horn up to his feet. Begrudgingly the challenger stood on unsteady legs but Liddell never rushed, never forced the issue. It didn’t need to be, not with the timing and power he came into the Octagon with tonight. Eventually, Liddell felt, it would come.

“Like I said before the first fight, if I didn’t knock him out in the first round he’s gonna wish [I] did,” Liddell said.

As Horn returned to his stool, fortunate to have survived a brutal opening five minutes, the light heavyweight updated his corner on his condition.

“I put the chair down,” said Horn’s training partner Matt Hughes (Pictures), “and he goes, ‘I can’t see. Everything’s blurred, I can’t see.’”

Horn’s vision did not clear as he stood to begin round two. But he wasn’t going to quit, not after spending three of the toughest months of his life preparing for the rematch.

It was the stamina that came from those long hours in the gym that helped him continue after Liddell blistered him with another right straight. The champion went in for the kill, but as he had done in the first, Horn held on long enough to delay the inevitable.

Standing on legs that did not want to support him, Horn hopelessly shot takedowns — more a tool to provide respite from the murderous punches he’d already tasted than an attempt to put Liddell on his back.

After two rounds Horn was down 20-17 on each judge’s scorecard and any hope the challenger had of winning by decision appeared to be gone.

Again, Horn indicated to his corner that his vision was troubling him. Fortunate for him the pace in round three slowed, which was rather surprising considering the champion appeared so close to avenging the first defeat of his career.

During the middle period Horn peppered Liddell’s lead leg with four hard Thai kicks that registered with judge Tony Weeks, who gave the round to the challenger. But Cecil Peoples and Jeff Mullen felt the champion did enough to notch it in his column.

By the start of the fourth Horn’s face was marked with evidence of Liddell’s power: a cut adjacent to his right eye and a constantly bleeding nose, which he pawed at during much of the fight.

“I was hoping his power would be gone,” said Hughes, who like so many in Horn’s camp felt that their guy needed to push the fight into the later rounds to have a realistic chance of winning. “I was hoping he got wore out, but Chuck is just one of those guys that just hits hard.”

No such luck.

Entering the championship rounds for the first time in his UFC career, Liddell, who came down with a nasty flu two weeks before the fight that saw him endure a 103-degree temperature, remained as sharp as he was in the first 10 minutes.

“I felt great going out there,” Liddell said, “so it didn’t affect me.”

Nearly halfway through the round, Liddell dropped Horn to the canvas for the final time with another plastering right straight. Horn reached for his eyes and, as he slowly rose to his feet, told McCarthy that he could no longer see. The referee immediately called a halt to the contest.

“We worked on a lot of short, straight punches,” said Liddell of the strategy for Horn, who went to the hospital following the fight and did not speak with the press. “To his credit. I was hitting the pads harder, [and I was] in better shape than I have been in my last two or three fights.”

Horn’s performance, no matter how heroic, will not go far in quelling doubters who call his professional MMA record unconvincing. More importantly, Horn’s desire to finally win the big one has come and gone again without the outcome he’d hoped for.

Running up against a champion like Liddell, whose combination of power striking and wrestling make him the most dangerous light heavyweight in the world outside of Wanderlei Silva (Pictures), was surely no easy task.

It was a dominating effort from Liddell, who tonight became the first UFC light heavyweight champion to retain his belt since Tito Ortiz (Pictures) defended the title against Ken Shamrock (Pictures) in 2002.

Defeating Horn means that the San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Liddell has avenged two of his three career losses. Next on that docket is Quinton Jackson (Pictures), though it may prove difficult to get him in the Octagon if the powerful light heavyweight continues to fight in PRIDE.
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>