A Breakdown of ‘Breakthrough’: The Real Winners and Losers of UFC 88


By Luke Thomas Sep 9, 2008
Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

The UFC may have been the real
losers when "The Iceman" was
stopped by Rashad Evans, blocking
a lucrative Liddell showdown with
Forrest Griffin (pictured).
The Losers

1. The UFC

Despite the long-term upside brought by Evans’ win over Liddell, very few would dispute that an Evans vs. Griffin event would be significantly less lucrative than a Liddell vs. Griffin scrap.

Liddell’s loss on Saturday not only robs the UFC of the opportunity to book a mega-fight with Griffin, it also massively damages the stock of a man who has been the face of the UFC franchise and the sport of MMA. Liddell likely has a few fights left if he wants them and he may perform quite nobly, but Saturday’s loss sent a clear signal that the illustrious career of “The Iceman” is past the point of no return.

2. Chuck Liddell

For all of Liddell’s faults and foibles, his ability to generate income for the UFC in the form of event attendance and pay-per-view buys is nearly without parallel. But Liddell won’t just miss out on a massive payday that a title bout with Griffin surely would’ve brought; he also loses his last chance for supremacy.

Any hopes of regaining the title have been dashed, and retirement questions have already begun to swirl around the man who once ruled MMA’s marquee division with an iron right hand. While Liddell’s past is first-ballot Hall of Fame material, his future could very well be the antithesis.

3. Thiago Tavares

Despite possessing youth, aggressive jiu-jitsu and grit, Thiago Tavares has fallen on hard times. After debuting in the UFC with a dismantling of hardcore favorite Jason Black, Tavares has lost three of his last four including a controversial decision, a vicious knockout loss and a thwarted attempt at retribution.

That’s enough to damper the spirits of even the sport’s mentally toughest competitor. Whatever ails Tavares, he must find a way to tackle the problem and do so immediately. His career in the UFC could depend on it.

4. John Hackleman

Fairly or unfairly, Chuck Liddell’s longtime trainer and the mastermind behind The Pit in San Luis Obispo, Calif., is taking a beating tantamount to the one Liddell suffered in the Octagon Saturday night.

Fans and critics alike have speculated that it is Hackleman’s alleged inability to develop Liddell’s skills in a fast-changing sport that are the cause of The Iceman’s demise. Even if the claims are fatuous (and they are), it hardly matters. The meme that Hackleman has held back Liddell is spreading like wildfire and could tarnish Hackleman’s image in the eyes of fans for the foreseeable future.

Stephen Martinez/Sherdog.com

All three Sherdog.com staff members
virtually scoring on Saturday's UFC
88 play-by-play saw the bout for
Dong Hyun Kim (above).
5. Atlanta’s Booing Attendees

One wonders whether the fans in attendance on Saturday realized that not only were the Olympics over, but it wasn’t 1996 anymore either.

As the dramatically improved Matt Brown and international prospect Dong Hyun Kim locked horns in a close but fairly straightforward affair, caterwauls of “USA! USA!” began permeating the partisan crowd. Kim was then treated to a chorus of jeers after being announced the split-decision winner over his American opponent. Adding fuel to the fire was UFC announcer Joe Rogan, perhaps the only MMA insider in the Milky Way aside from Cecil Peoples who believed there was anything even remotely controversial about the decision.

Rooting for the home team is rarely objectionable, but is Dong Hyun Kim -- a Korean fighter who voluntarily chose to leave his country to fight for an American company -- really the “away team”?

Like any other fighter under UFC contract competing in America, Kim’s participation in UFC events helps generate revenue for those American entities promoting the fight, to say nothing of how important Kim is for the UFC’s international expansion efforts. Obviously Kim’s contribution in making UFC 88 financially solvent isn’t make or break, but it should prevent him from being unnecessarily booed by Americans driving home in their Japanese imports.

Luke Thomas is the Editor-in-Chief of the MMA blog BloodyElbow.com.
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