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Jackson busts through opening left by Liddell

Times Staff Writer

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has made a habit of entering his mixed martial arts fights by howling.

He had a lot more to yell about Saturday night, stunning a sellout crowd of Ultimate Fighting Championship fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena by dropping light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell with a sudden right hook in the first round, then pouncing atop him for another five-punch barrage that forced referee John McCarthy to stop the fight and award Jackson a victory by technical knockout.

Jackson decked Liddell after more than a minute of little action. At one point, he opened his arms wide to Liddell, as if to ask UFC’s most popular, dominant fighter when he was going to bring on his onslaught.

Instead, Liddell, 37, walked into Jackson’s big right hand, fell backward with a thud on the canvas, and the 28-year-old self-proclaimed “brawler” from Irvine claimed his new UFC belt with a five-punch attack on the ground that included a backhand and a devastating right. McCarthy stopped the fight 1 minute 53 seconds after it began.

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It appeared Liddell at first was arguing McCarthy’s stoppage as too quick.

“Tell Chuck I’ll do it again right now,” Jackson chided in the octagon.

Later, Liddell admitted he was caught off guard by Jackson’s big hook.

“I made a mistake, and I got caught,” Liddell said in the ring afterward, reassuring television viewing family members that he was OK.

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Jackson (27-6) has defeated Liddell before -- by a second-round TKO at a PRIDE Fighting Championships 2003 Grand Prix event in Japan -- but Liddell (20-4) has been on a wicked streak since then.

The Mohawk-wearing Liddell had won seven consecutive fights since 2004 by knockout or TKO, with current heavyweight champion Randy Couture and former light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz among the victims. In Jackson, Liddell was trying to avenge a loss to the third and last man to beat him.

Jackson, meanwhile, had lost three fights since 2004, and he confessed to some nervousness before making his UFC debut earlier this year.

He entered the octagon an underdog in Las Vegas sports books, and was clearly less popular to UFC fans who have seen Liddell on HBO’s “Entourage,” his own DVD and the cover of ESPN The Magazine within the last month.

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“All you fans who booed me ... I love you, man,” the comical Jackson said in the octagon afterward.

Jackson earned $450,000 by winning, the Nevada State Athletic Commission announced. Liddell was paid $500,000, and would’ve gained another $500,000 had he won.

“I want a rematch, I want to fight again,” Liddell said.

Liddell’s popularity might gain him a quick rematch, but PRIDE light-heavyweight champion Dan Henderson of Temecula appeared in the octagon after Jackson’s victory and challenged the winner.

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“Quinton’s my friend ... but it’s a sport, and I’m ready to make some money with friends,” Henderson said.

Jackson concurred, savoring a victory that comes as the interest in the former fringe sport is peaking. “It’s about time we get that paper,” Jackson said.

Also Saturday, North Hollywood’s Karo Parisyan moved a step closer to a possible UFC welterweight title shot with a unanimous decision over Josh Burkman, 30-27, 30-27, 29-28.

Parisyan (25-4) made the most of the fight’s long upright-fighting periods, continually scoring hard rights, lefts, counterpunches and judo punches.

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Burkman (19-4) got Parisyan to the mat with a takedown slam early in the third round, but he couldn’t wrestle into position for a submission hold, and Parisyan pounced up to land more blows.

After the bout, Parisyan asked UFC President Dana White for the opportunity to fight for the belt.

“I’m not going to get on my knees and beg, but I think I deserve it,” Parisyan said.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com


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