Frank Stranzl

Fists of fury rained down upon an ageless wonder as Randy “The Natural” Couture felt the wrath of Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. Pure poetry.

Okay, so Saturday night’s Ultimate Fighting Championship bout between Couture and Liddell is hardly symbolic of the intricate beauty that is poetry. However, it was a thrilling six-and-one-half minutes of savage brutality.

Saturday night was the first time I had ever seen a UFC fight. I had seen highlights, commercials promoting the events and photos of mangled faces with blood spewing from gaping wounds, but never a full match.

The fight on Saturday fulfilled my expectations of the sport.

The first fight I watched was short and sweet. Justin Eilers got knocked out by a vicious kick by Brandon Vera. Eilers staggered and fell to the mat. On his way down, Vera gave Eilers’ knee to the jaw and, for good measure, gave a quick punch to the side of Eilers’ head.

As my friends and I shouted and cheered, Eilers lay motionless on the mat. Man, did he get rocked.

Then there was the match between Branden Lee Hinkle and Jeff Monson, a short yet ripped-out-of-his-mind fighter. This match was mostly boring, but eventually Monson wrapped his massive arms around Hinkle’s neck and when Hinkle woke up, he was bewildered. The look in his eyes was priceless as he came to with trainers and coaches encircling him; he had no idea what had happened.

But nothing compared to the featured fight, Liddell vs. Couture Round III. It had all the telltale signs of a historical sporting event.

For those of you unaware, Couture defeated Liddell on June 6, 2003 only to lose his light heavyweight title to “The Iceman” two years later. That gave Saturday’s night precedence and rivalry, two key elements to a timeless sports classic.

Next comes the old school/new school element. Couture, 42, was one of the greatest fighters in the history of UFC. He is the only fighter to possess both the light heavyweight and the heavyweight titles at the same time.

Liddell, 36, is hardly a new kid on the block. However, Saturday’s fight was a ceremonial changing of the guard, an official end to the “Couture Era.”

Precedence, rivalry, the old vs. the new and, of course, the bout was the pinnacle of UFC competition, a fight for the light heavyweight belt.

Although the UFC is not one of the sports we view as a “great sports competition” in that it’s not a traditionally American sport, Saturday night’s fight had all the credentials of a great sporting event.

Savage as the sport may appear, the athletes competing are hardly savages themselves. One of the fighters on Saturday was an NCAA wrestling champion. Many were advanced jiu-jitsu martial artists.

These guys aren’t street-fighters intent on destroying each other. They are methodical and skilled combatants.

I’m not about to jump into the ring and become a UFC fighter myself, nor would I want any of my relatives or future children to join the UFC ranks. But I do have a newfound respect for UFC fighters.

Liddell won the fight, by the way. He broke Couture’s nose in the first round. In the next round Couture, broken nose and all, slipped and Liddell took advantage, planting a firm right hand to Couture’s face. Liddell jumped on top of a fallen Couture and the deed was done. Brutish yet highly entertaining and part of the sport.

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