Sunday, December 31, 2006

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Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell downs Tito Ortiz again in UFC 66 at Las Vegas
Neil Davidson
Canadian Press

Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, left, hits challenger Tito Ortiz during the second round in Las Vegas on Saturday. Liddell defended his title.

LAS VEGAS (CP) - Ice ice baby.

Light-heavyweight champion Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell stopped Tito Ortiz for a second time Saturday night, battering the challenger into submission at 3:59 of the third round at UFC 66 in their mixed martial arts title bout before a sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd of 14,067.

The TKO came after Liddell caught Ortiz and sent him to the canvas. The Iceman kept punching until referee Mario Yamasaki finally stepped in to end the punishment.

"There's not much to talk about," Liddell said in the ring later. "I had him hurt and I kept throwing punches until they stopped it."

Liddell defeated Ortiz by TKO early in the second round the first time they met in April 2004. This one just took a little while longer, with the Iceman stalking Ortiz - and waiting for the right moment to unload.

Ortiz was game but could not take Liddell down. And ultimately he could not withstand the raw power of the Iceman, who extended his string of wins to seven while improving his record to 20-3.

"I was impressed by Tito's performance but Chuck Liddell is the man," said UFC president Dana White.

Ortiz, known as The Huntington Beach Bad Boy, fell to 16-5 and saw a five-fight win streak snapped.

"Chuck's the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world right now," Ortiz conceded in the ring.

Still, Ortiz left his mark. At the post-fight news conference, Liddell sported a couple of welts on his face and a finger splint due to a broken tendon.

"Because I have a big head, that's why," Ortiz said to laughter.

Ortiz arrived late, wearing sunglasses and a hoodie. When he took the sunglasses off, there were welts under both eyes.

"I made a few mistakes ... Chuck fought a great fight," said Ortiz, who acknowledged that he had not seen some of Liddell's overhand rights.

"I have no excuses," he added. "Liddell's the man tonight."

The crowd was solidly behind the 37-year-old Liddell from the get-go, with the champion receiving thunderous applause on his way to the Octagon and during his introduction. Ortiz's reaction was decidedly mixed, although chants of Tito and Chuck alternated during the fight.

The two started cautiously, with Liddell stuffing an early takedown attempt. Liddell found his range with about 90 seconds left in the round, cutting Ortiz's face with a nasty right. Then he knocked the challenger down and whaled on him for a while. But the 31-year-old Ortiz survived and made it to the end of the round.

Liddell stopped two more takedown tries in the second round and quickly reversed a third that was partially successful. Neither fighter did much damage in the round.

Liddell connected in the third when another takedown attempt went awry. Ortiz found himself on his back and Liddell punished him from above, reopening the cut.

Several MMA websites pegged the fighter purses Saturday at US$250,000 for Liddell and US$210,000 for Ortiz, but both men can expect a lot more thanks to a slice of the lucrative pay per view sales. White said prior to the fight that Liddell and Ortiz were guaranteed record UFC paydays.