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The Return of Chuck “Iceman” Liddell to the Ultimate Fighter

By Gina L. Caliboso

In December 2009, Dana White announced that Chuck “Iceman” Liddell, 21-7, a coach from the first season of the Ultimate Fighter will be making a return for Season 11.

Since his last fight, Liddell has been seen on HBO’s “Entourage” and “Dancing with the Stars.” But I think it’s a smart move to see Liddell back in the Octagon. It is a homecoming for the Iceman. At 40, it’s best for his career that he considers life outside of the ring even as a coach. But by Randy Couture standards, Liddell still might have more fight in him.

For Season 11 of the Ultimate Fighter, Liddell the coach will be up against Tito Ortiz, 16-7-1 who also makes his return. As a member of the UFC Hall of Fame which also includes such MMA greats Randy “The Natural” Couture, 17-10 and Royce Gracie, 13-2-2, Liddell will hopefully lead his team and a skilled fighter towards the elite MMA contract with the UFC. In the first season of Ultimate Fighter, he matched up against Randy Couture. It would make for a great season end fight, but you never know with President Dana White and the UFC.

In Season 10 of the Heavyweights, I was expecting Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, 30-7 to fight Rashad “Suga” Evans, 19-1-1. It was so painfully clear that the two needed to meet in the Octagon. It would have made a great headline match from the drama of the show leading to the PPV event. However, this fight has since fizzled due to Jackson’s would be retirement and new career as a film star. Evans, by contrast, defeated Thiago Silva, 14-2, most recently in UFC 108. But again, Dana White is constantly making supposed matches just to ensure the UFC’s future. I don’t quite count out UFC 1?

Finally – Evans vs. Jackson.

But let’s get back to the Iceman. In looking at his fight career, Liddell’s performance in the Octagon cannot be questioned. Even as he faces a younger rival in Ortiz, it is in his fights against the 46-year old Couture, 17-10, that reveals MMA excellence. In UFC 43 back in June 2003, Liddell suffered a loss against Couture due to a TKO in the 3rd round.

Two years later in UFC 52, appropriately titled Couture vs. Liddell II, he defeated Couture with a KO in the 1st round. Finally, in February 2006, in UFC 57, again appropriately titled Liddell vs. Couture III, Liddell scored a 2nd round KO over the then just in his 40’s champ Couture. By the way, Couture, now 46, is fighting in UFC 109 on February 6 this year against Mark “The Hammer” Coleman, 16-9.

Liddell also has a winning record against Tito Ortiz. In April 2004, in UFC 47, Liddell went to the 2nd round against Ortiz, but not for very long. At :38 into the 2nd round, Liddell scored the win by TKO. In December 2006, in UFC 66, he defeated Ortiz again with a 3rd round TKO.

In November 2009, Ortiz most recently suffered a loss against Forrest Griffin in UFC 106 – Ortiz vs. Griffin II with a split decision. Both Liddell and Ortiz come to the Ultimate Fighter at a good point in their fight careers. It’s Liddell’s most recent fight record that perhaps reveals he needs to re-focus his training a la Randy Couture and get into the best shape and MMA mentality if he is to fight against Ortiz for a 3rd time.

Since 2007, Liddell has experienced a series of losses that point in the direction of re-evaluation of his fighting style which consists primarily of a good balance between his stand up striking to his grappling. However, since Liddell has been in the UFC, the MMA tactics and newly crowned champions of late are different fighters. Luckily, Liddell has great athleticism and mental toughness. But whether or not his body can take it just might make the difference in his eventual return.

In May 2007, in UFC 71, against Rampage Jackson, Liddell suffered a TKO in 1:53 of the 1st round. 4 months later in UFC 76, he lost to Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine, 14-7-1, in a split decision with the fight going all three rounds. In UFC 79, in December 2007, he defeated Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, 32-10-1, in a unanimous decision going all three rounds.

As 2007 was a full fight year, Liddell did not fight again until UFC 88 in September 2008 where he fought and loss to Rashad Evans. Evans scored the KO in the 2nd round. In April 2009, Liddell suffered another loss with a TKO against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, 18-4, within 4:28 in the 1st round. Altogether, Liddell has fought 5 times in the last 2 years with a 1-4 win-loss record.

As Liddell does have amazing athleticism, I can see that he may easily adapt to his opponent. And as far as his age and veteran status go, Liddell cannot be counted out just yet. It appears that for MMA and UFC overall, Liddell must establish his dominance with a convincing stand-up and go for the KO in the opening round. If he gets caught with the right strike, Liddell may lose. But two great things stand out for Liddell: his controlled aggression and fearlessness.

Even though his most recent fights show losses, Liddell isn’t the type of fighter or athlete to back down in his own development and stature as a fighter that can get better and most importantly, win.

Luckily, Liddell has set a standard in the world of MMA. UFC President Dana White knows this for a fact and the Iceman’s presence is nothing but lucrative. Overall, it’s a good thing for Liddell to come back as coach, maybe he can teach something to the up and coming UFC fighters.

Either way, as coach or as fighter, Liddell has nothing to prove to anyone, maybe just himself, that he set the standard for MMA and will continue to do so – at least until his next fight.

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