Candidates for Chuck Liddell in March

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Dana White and Chuck Liddell himself have both made it clear that Liddell will probably return to the UFC in March in Columbus. Despite early reports of a possible Jardine-Liddell fight, that fight appears to be a backup option.  Liddell wants to get that win back, but the UFC appears to be against that fight.  UFC sources indicated to me that before last night, the plan was to do Chuck vs. Wanderlei in Columbus if Silva won, which explains Liddell's reaction to Rampage's win.  MMA Weekly's report from Jardine's camp that he won't be fighting Chuck was before the end of UFC 92, so it could be back on, but I doubt it.

When considering who they will put him against, there are a few things to consider.  First, they do not want to just destroy him, they want to rebuild him.  Second, if he is going to lose they want it to be to a star they can get behind and promote.  Finally, it needs to be a fight that interests Chuck.  With all that being said, here are some possible candidates:

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua:  I believe this is the most likely choice.  Shogun is very used to quick turnarounds, and if he is able to quickly dispatch of Coleman, I think this would be a very big and even fight.  I think there is a general feeling in the UFC that Shogun is going to destroy Coleman, but after UFC 92, you never know.

Mark Coleman:  The other side of the coin.  If Coleman pulls off the win and can go again, he could find himself in a main event in his home state against Chuck Liddell.  This match would likely sell very well, and on the surface it looks like a fight tailor made for Chuck to win.  

Wanderlei Silva:  This was the original plan before last night, and reports of the press conference suggest Dana is still open to it.  I personally don't like it because it really puts Wanderlei Silva in a terrible corner, but it would still be a huge fight given how popular their first fight was.  Probably the biggest buyrate option besides Couture or Anderson Silva, but I don't think they want to kill Wanderlei, and I don't think he'll be ready in 8 weeks.

Keith Jardine:  Chuck wants revenge for the loss, and Chuck almost always gets what he wants.  The fact that they haven't given in suggests how much they don't want this fight.  Greg Jackson seems to have the Liddell equation figured out, and another decision loss would really be the end of the line for Liddell.  A win here wouldn't do much for him either.  I think this is only going to happen if none of the other options pan out.

Houston Alexander:  I think Houston is a dark horse pick, but they still haven't cut him despite 3 straight losses because he is so popular with the fans.  Much like Tank Abbott, fans will pay to see a guy that once delivered brutal KOs even after a number of losses.  A battle of knockout artists would be easy to promote, and would probably be an easy win for Liddell given his huge reach and size advantage, but I don't think the UFC wants to risk the PR nightmare of setting up a mismatch like this.

Rich Franklin:  In the latest Wrestling Observer, Dave Meltzer reported that Franklin is still not sold on the idea of coaching opposite Bisping if he beats Henderson.  Franklin against Liddell would probably be big for name value alone regardless of the outcome in January, but Rich has refused to take fights on short notice before.

Squash match:  The final option, not to be confused with the Houston Alexander option, would be putting Liddell in with a guy well below his level for him to smash, the way they did with Vernon White in the past.  The UFC almost never does this anymore, but they could put Liddell in with someone like Brian Stann or someone of that nature.  

Randy Couture:  An outside possibility at this point given the Liddell camp's negative reaction to the fight.  It was one of three fights Randy wanted upon returning, he is probably open to it, but I doubt he would be willing to take a shortened camp at this point in his career.  Highly unlikely.

Anderson Silva:  I saved the least likely for last.  Given their plans to rehabilitate Chuck, Dana made a conscious decision not to make this fight.  If all the options disappear it's possible, but highly unlikely.  Reports of the press conference say Dana White said Anderson Silva will "probably" fight Leites in April, but it is not confirmed yet.

I think Shogun is the most likely option, followed by one of Henderson or Franklin, and then Keith Jardine.

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