Chuck Liddell’s secret; an interview with Rashad Evans

by:  Jack Bratcher

Pro MMA Radio host, Larry Pepe, interviewed Rashad Evans last week and uncovered some very interesting information about the man who put the Iceman to sleep. Probably the most interesting and noteworthy detail of this interview consists of Rashad Evans revealing a “tell” that Chuck Liddell gave away in his fight that allowed Rashad to capitalize on the moment and send shockwaves throughout the UFC Light Heavyweight division and the entire MMA world. Much the same way a poker player may go all in, but a “tell” to one who knows has let on that it is a bluff, Rashad received a certain bit of information from a training partner that may very well have made all the difference.

When asked if the win had sunk in yet? Rashad says, “Yeah a little bit, but it still kind of feels unreal. I was such a huge underdog.” Rashad gives a lot of the credit for his win over Liddell to his muay thai and boxing coach, Mike Winklejohn. Evans says about Winklejohn, “He seen it coming a long time ago. He told me at the beginning of training camp, this is the punch that is going to put Chuck Liddell down.” According to Rashad, his coach had watched a lot of film on Chuck and came up with the formula that would take him out. In fact Winklejohn was so confident of how the fight was going to turn out he told Rashad just before the fight as he was warming up, “What’s going to happen is you’re gonna hit him with that overhand right and knock him out and I won’t be able to get into the cage afterward to congratulate you because he’s gonna still be sleeping.” And that is exactly what happened. I don’t even know if that is confidence. It is more like prophecy.

For those who may have wondered why Rashad did not go for any takedowns he explains, “I did not want to exhaust myself trying to take Chuck down. He has really good takedown defense.” Rashad’s coaches told him he was going to punch with Chuck until a takedown became easier and presented itself. “We weren’t going to go in there and try to wrestle him because that’s what they were expecting us to do.” A lot of wrestlers have gotten into that game of trying to take Chuck down. Maybe they even get him down for a moment, but he gets right up and then they find themselves chasing him and they end up getting caught. That gameplan of “chasing Chuck” has been the demise of more than one wrestler.

One of Rashad’s closest friends and training partners, Keith Jardine, defeated Chuck Liddell almost a year ago to the day that Rashad was due to face the former light heavyweight champ. One question that had been on a lot of our minds was, “How much of Keith Jardine’s experience helped Rashad as he faced the Iceman?” According to Rashad, “It helped a tremendous amount. There were things you could not get from film unless you had been in there with him.”

More specifically, Keith Jardine gave Rashad what may very well have been the final ingredient needed in the Iceman sleeping potion, “You’re gonna see Chuck coming.” Rashad said, “What do you mean?” Jardine replies, “Well, when Chuck comes he kind of makes a face like he’s coming at you…he bites his lip and bears down before he even throws a combination.” Rashad goes on,”So I was out there…it took me a minute….but I seen it…I seen in his face when he was coming in to hit me. I was like OK. It was a little cue. But had I not known that I would’ve had to figure it out and I don’t know how long it would have took me.”

If you were a fighter and knew your next opponent was THE Chuck LIddell and knowing Chuck’s reputation, one may be inclined to think that his punching power bordered on superhuman. Knowing the man’s knockout ratio could be intimidating. However, prior to the fight, Keith eased Rashad’s mind a bit about Chuck’s power, “Also, Keith told me about his power. He said listen, he hits hard but he’s not the hardest person I ever got hit by. He’s by far not the hardest person I ever been hit by.” One thing Keith didn’t tell Rashad was how accurate Chuck was with his punches. “Chuck is a very accurate striker. I couldn’t believe when I was moving around a little bit he snuck a couple of punches in there. I was like there’s no way. I thought I was out of the way or slipped the punch pretty good but his punches got like a curve on them or something, heat-seeking missles to them or something.”

Even though Liddell conncected on Rashad a few times and one time specifically comes to mind that knocked Rashad against the cage, Rashad made it clear that he’s been hit harder by other fighters. Actually, Rashad said, “I was relieved to find out how hard he hit.” That goes back to what I was saying before about how a fighter who has a reputation like Chuck has the potential to get built up in someone’s head to be more than what they actually are. Rashad expounds on what fighters have power, “Who hits harder than that is my boy Paul Buentello.” Buentello came down to help Rashad train for the LIddell fight and Rashad said, “Paul hits way harder than that [Chuck] and way faster and he’s just as accurate. Paul will give you headaches after sparring with him.” Rashad goes on, “Also, Jardine hits super, super hard.”

Rashad talks theoretically about if he was ever put in a situation where he had to face Keith Jardine. He says, “I couldn’t do it. I would have to go somewhere else to train cause he’s the one that brought me in. [to the Jackson camp]” Although it would be one hell of a fight, that is one match that most likely will never happen and should not have to happen as long as both fighters remain good friends and at the same training camp.

Rashad also talks about Georges St. Pierre who is also part of Greg Jackson’s camp. Rashad says, “If George became a collegiate wrestler I believe he could win a national title. I believe he is that good and he could probably make the Olympic team in Canada.” That is talking about a guy who NEVER wrestled before getting into MMA. Rashad affirms GSP’s power, “He’s as strong as any 205’er I’ve ever locked up with. He’s amazingly strong.” Evans aknowledges that GSP’s addition to the Jackson camp has been a great asset to the and his teammates.

When talking about the importance of training camps, many people have raised the notion that Liddell may need to get away from the Pit and John Hackleman. However, Rashad says, “I think Chuck is the same fighte he has always been…he has a lot of tools in his toolbox…but at his age he has become so dependent on that one punch…he has to continue to mix it up like he did against Wanderlei.” Rashad said Chuck was thinking that he would just go in there and hit him one time, knock him out and the fight would be over in less than a minute. Rashad really thinks Chuck underestimated him.

Rashad said that Dana and Lorenzo were “floored” and “very shocked” by the result of his fight with Liddell and Lorenzo stated to him after the fight, “When you do it, I guess you really do it.”

Rashad Evans has much to share in this interview and Larry Pepe was great at connecting with him and getting him to open up. I really encourage you to take a listen to the whole interview which in all honesty is the best and most in-depth interview I have ever heard with Rashad Evans. Once you hear one of Larry’s interviews and entire radio show episodes you will realize what good mma radio is all about.

Our friend, Pro MMA Radio airs every Monday night at 6pm PST/9pm EST at www.prommaradio.com. Pro MMA Radio is hosted by veteran radio personality and journalist, Larry Pepe. Based in the hotbed of MMA, Las Vegas, Larry is the senior MMA writer for Bodybuilding.com and has produced MMA content for FLEX magazine.

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