With the recent announcement of Chuck Liddell retiring from mixed martial arts, we here at RSR reflect on the brilliant career of MMA’s biggest star.
Chuck Liddell was a special superstar the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in his prime was must see TV. What endeared him to the fans was his brawling style of fighting. That, coupled with an iron jaw, made for must see PPV whenever the “Iceman” fought.
How I will choose to remember him is what he did for the sport and how he brought the fans up out of their feet. I will not remember him for him going 1-5 in his last six with the loss to Rashad Evans and Shogun especially painful to watch.
The last version of Liddell with seemingly no legs or chin left getting knocked out cold is tough to remember him by. I will simply remember him as a warrior who ducked nobody, and when he was in his prime, was unbeatable. What made him unbeatable was his great takedown defense against very good wrestlers like Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz and his awesome power in his hands. His greatest strengths were his heart and determination to go with his counter right hand that seemingly always hit its mark at the right time.
His destruction of Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Kevin Randleman to go with his knockouts over Alistair Overeem (current Strikeforce Heavyweight Champ) and win over Vitor Belfort. He will always have a place in my heart because every time I plunked down money for a UFC PPV, I did not feel ripped off. I felt like it was money well spent.
Now here are the defining fights that made his career.
The Randy Couture Trilogy
This was a trilogy that defined both fighters. In the first match, Liddell was facing a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. Randy Couture was coming back from two consecutive losses in the heavyweight division. The former two time champion was facing the number one contender to Tito Ortiz’s title in Chuck Liddell.
Ortiz had been ducking Liddell for some time and this match was for the Interim Light Heavyweight Title with the winner facing Tito Ortiz. Liddell would be surprised by the 40 year old former 2-Time UFC Heavyweight Champion as Couture would dominate the fight standing, but then once he managed to takedown Liddell he ground and pounded him for the TKO stoppage. This was the beginning of a brilliant rivalry. Couture would defeat Ortiz in the ring and at one point literally spank him when he had him on the ground.
Liddell would go on to fight in Pride for a brief stint and when he returned he would rattle off a couple of wins before facing Couture again. In the second fight, Liddell would knockout Couture to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. What followed was his first title defense against Jeremy Horn that resulted in him avenging an earlier career loss to Horn by stopping him. Next was the third fight with Couture as Liddell would once again stop Couture in the second round cementing himself as a legit champion.
Renato “Babalu” Sobral 2
Since there first meeting in which Liddell won by a spectacular head kick, Babalu had rattled off ten straight wins over Chael Sonnen, Jeremy Horn, and Mauricio Shogun Rua, to name a few. Babalu was a clear cut number one contender and many thought that with his wrestling, he could takedown Liddell and defeat him.
What would follow was a toe to toe exchange between the two, with Babalu seemingly stunning Liddell who backtracked only to leave himself open by getting tagged by Liddell. Before we knew it, the fight was over and Liddell was getting his hand raised. What was unique about this matchup was Liddell played possum, pretending to be hurt by but once Babalu thought he had him, he left himself wide open for a counter. By now Liddell had defined his legacy as champ.
Tito Ortiz 2
When Tito Ortiz was Light Heavyweight Champion, he would disrespect fighters such as Ken Shamrock, antagonize Guy Metzger, and basically trash talk and disrespect opponents. When it came time to face Liddell the first time, Ortiz declined saying he would never fight a friend. Liddell responded by saying we were never friends. They would face each other for the first time with Liddell defeating Ortiz. Though this match came shortly after Ortiz lost his title, Liddell would stop Ortiz and go on to defeat Couture.
Meanwhile, after losing to Liddell, Ortiz would win five straight and the buildup to this fight was intense with both fighters displaying an intense hatred for each other, as the “friendship” had dissipated and the rivalry was ignited. The fight happened, and not a person was sitting in their seats, as once again this was another fight that resulting in both fighters going toe to toe with Liddell stunning Ortiz repeatedly and getting the victory. This may have been the most satisfying victory of his career.
What would follow after the Ortiz defeat was a matchup with Quinton Rampage Jackson in which Rampage would win via spectacular knockout?
Since that time the light heavyweight belt has bounced back and forth between Quinton Rampage Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida and now Mauricio Shogun Rua. Furthermore the division has not had a champion quite like Liddell since. He will be missed.