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Liddell’s UFC reign ends with ‘Rampage’

For the last three years, Chuck Liddell looked unstoppable in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight division, knocking out seven consecutive opponents, mostly on the strength of his powerful right hand.

Saturday night, Liddell found out how it feels to be on the receiving end of one of those forceful blows.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson knocked out Liddell just 1:53 into their scheduled five-round championship bout Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 14,728 at the MGM Grand Garden to end Liddell’s division reign.

“We’ve been putting our lives into this,” Jackson said of his team’s efforts to win the title and, in turn, get paid. “It’s about time we’re getting that paper. It’s my turn now.”

Jackson blocked a right hand, then landed a huge right hook as Liddell backed away, putting the champion on his back. He quickly jumped on Liddell and squarely landed several hard rights, prompting the referee to jump in and stop the fight.

“I agree with the ref,” Jackson said as he watched a highlight from inside the octagon after the fight. “I saw the neck snap. Good job, ref.”

Early in the fight, Liddell moved cautiously around the ring, prompting Jackson to stop dead in his tracks and drop his hands as if to ask his opponent to start fighting.

Moments later, it became apparent why.

Liddell was unable to handle Jackson’s power, much like when Jackson handed him his last loss in November 2003 in Tokyo.

“I made a mistake and he capitalized on it,” Liddell said. “I will still keep training and fighting. I’ll be back.”

In their first meeting, Jackson was on his home turf with the crowd behind him and Liddell claimed to have come in with an injury. Saturday, a healthy Liddell received a prolonged ovation from a raucous crowd, but the result was similar.

“Chuck was right. He said somebody was going to get knocked out in the first round,” Jackson said. “I was real relaxed, I didn’t expect my fight to go so quick.”

Aside from Liddell’s entrance, the loudest applause of the night went to Houston Alexander, who made a thunderous UFC debut. He electrified the crowd with a barrage of punches in stopping heavily favored Keith Jardine just 48 seconds into the first round.

Jardine had appeared to be on the fast track to the top of the light heavyweight division after an impressive stoppage of Forrest Griffin in December.

But Alexander was ready to play spoiler.

“I wasn’t nervous coming into this fight,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m a seasoned vet at this point. I’m just new to the UFC.”

A UFC veteran at just 24 years old, judo specialist Karo Parisyan showcased his improved stand-up skills in a unanimous-decision victory over Josh Burkman.

While both fighters remained on their feet for much of the fight, Parisyan was able execute one successful judo throw.

He used the post-fight interview in the octagon to beg UFC president Dana White for a shot at the welterweight title.

Matt Serra, who already has lost to Parisyan, holds the title but is expected to defend it against Matt Hughes next.

Parisyan was set to fight then-champion Hughes for the title in November 2005 before suffering a hamstring injury that kept him from competing.

In the first fight of the televised portion of the card, Kalib Starnes won a unanimous decision over Chris Leben in a three-round slugfest.

The non-televised portion of the card featured four fights, with three ending in the first round and another stopped short of two full rounds.

Din Thomas took until 2:44 of the second round before submitting Jeremy Stephens by choke.

Wilson Gouveia and Alan Belcher earned early submission victories, and Thiago Silva stayed unbeaten in his professional mixed martial arts career, being awarded a victory when James Irvin suffered a right knee injury early in the first round.

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