If Saturday night’s fight with Shogun Rua was truly Chuck Liddell’s swan song then we witnessed the end of an era. We witnessed the farewell to MMA’s version of Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan.
Chuck Liddell did so much more for MMA than just knocking people out and winning championships. He helped MMA get into the mainstream media.
The invention of The Ultimate Fighter was a stroke of genius but choosing Chuck Liddell as one of the coaches was just as important as the concept of the show itself. With his trademark Mohawk and tattooed head Chuck Liddell was recognized around the world to hard-core, casual and fleeting fans.
With appearances on Entourage and his dedication to helping the sport grow by doing countless interviews Liddell will go down in history as not only a great fighter but a man who did all that he could to popularize the sport that he loves.
Everyone has memories of Liddell whether they are memorable or forgettable. Everyone remembers certain fights of Liddell’s whether they were rooting for him or against him. Here are my three top memories of Chuck Liddell.
1) Chuck Liddell defeats Tito Ortiz via knockout at UFC 47 in April of 2004. Liddell had been chasing Tito for a long time and Tito was hiding behind a supposed friendship that the two had developed while training at Big Bear together. If you read Liddell’s book the two were never close and he knew Tito was afraid of him by the way he dominated him during training sessions. Liddell had already beaten a who’s who of mixed martial artists and was coming off a loss to Quinton Jackson in the semi-finals of a Pride tournament that was supposed to see Chuck match-up with Wanderlei Sliva. You knew Chuck was highly motivated by that loss and was finally getting his opportunity to get his hands on Tito. While the first round was spent feeling each other out Liddell was just biding his time. In the second round Liddell unleashed a flurry of crosses, straights and uppercuts displaying unbelievable hand speed that sent Tito crashing to the canvas and Liddell running around the octagon in celebration.
2) Chuck Liddell defeats Randy Couture via knockout at UFC 52 in February of 2006. This was a rematch of their first fight that took place in June of 2003. Couture utilized his wrestling and frustrated Liddell the whole fight while earning a TKO victory in round 3. The two were opposing coaches on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter and their rematch was highly anticipated. While the fight did not live up to the hype as Liddell knocked out Couture early in the first round, it cemented Liddell as the best light heavyweight in the world. It was sweet revenge for Liddell as he became the first fighter to knock Randy Couture out cold. The two would fight again 10 months later with the same result but this time it ended in the second round as opposed to the first.
3) Chuck Liddell defeats Wanderlei Silva via unanimous decision at UFC 79 in December of 2007. This was a fight that everyone wanted to see for years. The two most feared strikers in their weight class had flirted with the idea but it never came to fruition. Now with Silva signed with the UFC everything was falling into place but it almost didn’t happen. Liddell had lost his championship to Rampage Jackson at UFC 71 in May of 2007 and was scheduled to fight Keith Jardine in what was supposed to be a tune-up fight at UFC 76 in September. With Silva sitting cage side with UFC President Dana White, Jardine leg kicked his way to a split decision victory. At some point during the fight Silva asked White if Jardine was really going to win this fight as he saw yet another opportunity going out the window to fight Liddell. Thankfully the UFC put this fight together and these two certainly did not disappoint. They went back and forth never giving up an inch for 15 minutes. Liddell even broke out a spinning back fist and took Silva down a few times in what looks to be the last victory of Liddell’s storied career. If this is the case he couldn’t have won his last fight against a better opponent.
These are my three favorite moments in Liddell’s career. I thoroughly enjoyed all of his fights except the ones where he got knocked out. I will admit I am not the biggest fan of Liddell’s but I respect him and I loved his style. Guns a-blazing’, go for broke and entertain the fans is what he was all about.
It wasn’t just age that caught up with him but the new breed of fighters today are so well versed in so many disciplines and with the way fighters study videos and break down their opponents style and are able to identify certain actions it was just a matter of time that he was going to get passed by.
With that being said he always went all out and a lot of people questioned his life style outside of the octagon but when it came down to it he always trained his heart out for his fights. He cared about his performances and he understood his role and that he was representing not only the UFC but MMA as a whole.
We have been lucky enough to witness one of the greatest fighters of our life time and I am very happy that I was able to watch him compete. He has been a true ambassador for the sport and will continue to help this sport grow in other capacities. Twenty years from now we will all be proud to say that we got to watch the great Chuck Liddell during his heyday as a fighter.