UFC 62 Preview: Liddell Vs. Sobral Light Heavyweight Showdown

The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to pay-per-view on Saturday, August 26 with its UFC 62 event from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. UFC has been on fire with its pay-per-view extravaganzas dating back to Super Bowl weekend earlier this year when Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture settled their grudge over the UFC Light Heavyweight Title at UFC 57. There, Liddell retained his championship with a second round knockout in what turned out to be Couture’s retirement fight. “The Iceman” returns to the octagon on August 26 with a tough title defense against Brazilian Renato “Babalu” Sobral. Also on the card, Forest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, the two light heavyweight finalists who competed in the fight of the year in 2005 on the finals of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, will finally have their long anticipated rematch on pay-per-view.

From a business perspective, UFC 62 will have a difficult time living up to the success of the previous events this year. In addition to sellout crowds and multi-million gate receipts, the events have been drawing record buys on pay-per-view. UFC 57 on Super Bowl weekend, headlined by Liddell vs. Couture III, set a company record with 400,000 pay-per-view buys. Just three months later at UFC 60, the return of UFC pioneer and legend Royce Gracie to the octagon against Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes shattered the previous records with a whopping 600,000 buys. UFC 61 in early July is expected to challenge that figure when all of the numbers are reported. The highly anticipated Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz showdown – four years after their initial battle – could ultimately set the all-time UFC pay-per-view record.

Nine fights are on tap for UFC 62 with all eyes on whether Babalu can pull the upset and dethrone the popular Light Heavyweight Champion.

UFC Light Heavyweight Title: Chuck Liddell (c) vs. Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral
Liddell enters the fight victorious in this last six UFC fights, including two victories over Randy Couture and one against Tito Ortiz. Liddell’s knockout power is unrivaled and his kickboxing has improved as a standup weapon. Sobral comes into the fight undefeated since 2002. Ironically, the loss came against Liddell at UFC 40. Along the way, Sobral has used his takedown ability to dominate the fights on the ground and garner submission after submission. His last three wins in UFC have come via tapout. Neither man has fought since February 4. Liddell will enter the fight as a prohibitive favorite, but Babalu will be no push over. As an interesting side note, Liddell is tentatively scheduled to defend his title in November against Pride’s Wanderlei Silva in an interpromotional dream match should he get past Babalu. Looking ahead to the encounter with one of world’s best light heavyweight fighters could cost Liddell here.

Light Heavyweight Fight: Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar
These two fighters made household names for themselves on the finals of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter in April 2005. Their 15-minute standup war left fans wanting more. Griffin won the razor close decision, but UFC awarded Bonnar a six-figure UFC contract as well. Since that classic, Griffin has performed better in the octagon than his counterpart. Griffin choked out journeymen Bill Mahood and knocked out Elvis Sinosic before losing a controversial split decision as a heavy underdog to Tito Ortiz at UFC 59 in a fight that many felt, including the live crowd in Anaheim that night, Griffin won. Bonnar disposed of fellow reality show participant Sam Hoger and then submitted James Irvin in his first two fights. He won a questionable decision over Keith Jardine before losing a majority decision to Rashad Evans in an unimpressive performance. Griffin enters the fight as the favorite in what will hopefully be a repeat of their classic first encounter.

Welterweight Fight: Thiago Alves vs. Josh Neer
Both men are coming off losses and need a good showing here to continue their UFC careers. Alves, a standup fighter with solid striking ability, enters with a 2-2 record in the octagon, with TKO victories at UFC 56 over the previous undefeated Ansar Chalangov and UFC 59 against Derrick Noble. Neer also enters the fight with a 2-2 UFC record. His most impressive victory came via decision over The Ultimate Fighter 2 winner Joe Stevenson in April. He choked out Melvin Guillard back in January. Neer will likely enter as the favorite and should hold the advantage if the fight goes to the ground.

Lightweight Fight: Hermes Franca vs. Jamie Varner
The UFC is expected to bring back the Lightweight Title later this year and this fight could put the winner in the mix for a championship shot. Franca is a UFC veteran with a 3-2 mark. His latest victory came via submission over Joe Jordan at UFC 61 after over two years out of the octagon. Franca’s strengths are on the ground attempting submissions, but he has no problem standing and trading. Varner enters the fight as a replacement for Spencer Fisher, who suffered an injury in training. This will be his fight UFC fight, but he boasts a 9-0 MMA record. Varner specializes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but might find life difficult under the bright lights for the first against a quality fighter riding a 5-fight winning streak.

Heavyweight Fight: Cheick Kongo vs. Christian Wellisch
It will be an international heavyweight showdown as Kongo, hailing from Paris, France, battles Wellisch, a native of Budapest, Hungary. Kongo debuted at UFC 61 in July with a first round victory over Gilbert Aldana. Wellisch holds a 7-1 MMA, but has yet to step into the octagon. He enters with a background in wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Kongo should enter the fight as the favorite, but a win for either man could begin a run toward Tim Sylvia and the UFC Heavyweight Title.

Four preliminary bouts have been announced for the show and, time permitting, may or may not air on the pay-per-view.

Light Heavyweight Fight: Wilson Gouveia vs. Wes Combs – Both men are coming off losses in June in their only UFC fights. Both possess heavy hands and like to stand and trade so expect a knockout.

Light Heavyweight Fight: David Heath vs. Cory Walmsley – Both boast undefeated MMA records, although neither has competed in UFC.

Middleweight Fight: Yushin Okami vs. Alan Blecher – Belcher replaces David Terrell, who has been sidelined from training with a sinus infection. Both are UFC rookies with Okami, a ground and pound specialist from Japan, holding an edge in experience.

Light Heavyweight Fight: Rob MacDonald vs. Eric Shafer – MacDonald has fought twice in UFC, submitting Kristian Rothaermel in June as his lone victory. Shafer is making his UFC debut.

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