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What If…Chuck Liddell Had Beaten Quinton Jackson at UFC 71?

The Date – May 26, 2007.

The Setting - Chuck Liddell enters the Octagon poised to avenge the last of three losses, the only stumbles in his MMA career. Having defeated Jeremy Horn and Randy Couture prior to his bout with Quinton Jackson, and riding a seven-fight winning streak, the world expects Liddell to retain his light heavyweight title.

At the start of the first round both men begin feeling each other out, with Chuck tentatively awaiting “Rampage” to push forward in order to land one of his patented counter-strikes. At almost the two-minute mark Jackson does just that, cutting in and catching Liddell with a looping hook. Liddell crumbles. Jackson immediately marches in for the finish, but amazingly “The Iceman” regains composure and is quickly up, meeting him with a quick combo of punches to keep Jackson at bay.

The mowhawk’d icon is barely standing upright when Jackson attempts another big punch, but Liddell is able to side step and answer with a haymaker of his own that sends Jackson crashing towards the canvas. Jackson is motionless until John McCarthy appears at his side and calls the fight.

This is the part of the column where it should, as always, be pointed out that’s not how it played out in real life. Still, how might’ve Liddell’s fights following this match with a win changed him or changed his potential opponents?

In an interview with Sherdog, trainer John Hackleman had little to say regarding game plan leading up to the fight with Jackson other than their collective strategy. After being asked what Liddell’s approach to Jackson was, Hackleman can be quoted as saying, “Just punch him in the face over and over…”

Of course, that’s something Liddell really never got to do. Had the team had a more robust plan other than relying on Liddell’s well known KO power, things may have gone differently. Looking back, we now know the easiest way to get defeated within the Octagon is by becoming predictable. But how might’ve MMA been different as a result? Would Jackson have eventually gotten another shot at the belt or would the loss have sent him on a downward spiral? Would the ability to recover from Jackson’s fight-ending punch have changed Liddell’s career as well considering the trouble he had staying conscious post-knockout?

What do you think? Let us know in the Comments section below…