By Robert Rousseau
February 8, 2008:
There was a time when the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization ( UFC ) was considered a one horse show by many media outlets. That horse was their unbelievably popular light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. The Iceman— as he is known by many— was famous for two aspects of fighting: Knocking his opponents out— usually with one punch— and stuffing their takedown attempts like a Thanksgiving turkey.
By the way, Chuck Liddell is still known for all of that today. And of course the media was proven wrong in thinking that he was the whole show, even if he was and continues to be a big part of it.
But that does nothing to take away from what this legendary UFC fighter with 13 (T)KO’s and a 21-5 overall MMA record has done in the sport. Simply put, an argument can be made that Liddell has better takedown defense and hits harder than anyone in the history of the division.
The PRIDE Fighting Championships were once a very popular and impressive organization in their own right because of the stellar fighters that competed for them. Perhaps none of these fighters, however, was more respected than Wanderlei Silva, their longtime 205 pound champion.
Unfortunately, during the time when both of these organizations, PRIDE and the UFC, were flourishing their fighters were hardly ever able to compete against one another. Thus, the sadness many felt when PRIDE finally did succumb to financial troubles was negated somewhat by the possibility that mixed martial arts fans might finally get to see some of their dream match ups.
None of these dream match ups stood taller than a fight between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva.
Thus, when that match finally did go off at UFC 79: Nemesis on 12/29/07 the world watched with bated breath.
Let’s put it this way: the fight was worth every penny that people gave to pay per view it. But before we get into that. . .
Chuck Liddell before MMA
Chuck Liddell was born on December 17, 1969 in Santa Barbara, California. We could get into a lot here, but how about starting with what everyone knows him for?
Liddell started training in Koei-Kan karate at the tender age of 12. In fact, a tattoo on his scalp actually reads, Koei-Kan. But a tattoo on his shoulder seems to be what gives the masses the most trouble. You see, that tattoo does not say Kenpo.
Rather, it says Kempo. Here’s the difference, according to longtime trainer and friend John Hackleman (taken from the Knuckle Pit).
"In 1985, when I moved from Hawaii to California,” says Hackleman, “I switched it (the name of his martial arts style) from Kaju Kenbo to Hawaiian Kempo. I added some things to it, took away some things and started calling it Hawaiian Kempo. I took out the katas and the forms and I threw in more natural fighting techniques and conditioning. Now that’s my style. Like if you see Chuck (Liddell) with the tattoo on his arm, that’s the logo for my school."
Perhaps even more interesting, however, is that Chuck Liddell was more than just a martial artist as a kid. He was a full- fledged and rather diverse athlete. Along with this, Liddell was a four year starter on the San Marcos High football team and eventually became a Division I wrestler at California Polytechnic State University.
In case you were wondering where his stellar takedown defense came from.
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and MMA
Fighting out of the Pit— John Hackleman’s gym that was founded in 1986 and now goes by the public name of KuZen— Liddell took on Noe Hernandez in his MMA debut at UFC 17 on 5/15/98 where he pulled out a decision victory. He would win another fight by decision before falling to Jeremy Horn via first round Arm Triangle Choke in his third fight.
Liddell seemed to learn something on that day, however, as he hasn’t been submitted since (including his TKO rematch victory over Jeremy Horn on 8/20/05). Further, he went on a 10 fight winning streak that included victories over MMA greats like Jeff Monson (decision), Kevin Randleman (KO), Guy Mezger (KO), Murilo Bustamante (decision), Amar Suloev (decision), Vitor Belfort (decision), and Renato “Babalu” Sobral (KO).
But then came a hiccup.
Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture I
Breaking things down, Chuck Liddell had been the longtime number one ranked contender in the UFC Light Heavyweight Division. Unfortunately, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz, a person that Liddell had trained with in the past, considered him a friend.
And he didn’t want to fight him because of this.
Clearly, Liddell didn’t consider them as close as Ortiz did. He wanted a shot at Ortiz’s belt. Finally, it seemed like he would get one. All he had to do was get through Randy “The Natural” Couture, a former UFC Heavyweight Champion that had lost two straight before deciding to try his hand in the light heavyweight division.
Unfortunately for Chuck Liddell, it was not meant to be.
Basically, Couture dominated Liddell with takedowns and ground and pound on his way to a TKO victory, ending the Iceman’s chances at the belt. In fact, soon after Couture would take the belt that Liddell had wanted so badly from Tito Ortiz by dominating him in similar fashion.
Next thing you know, Chuck Liddell has lost via TKO to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson over in Japan and he’s almost an afterthought. But giving up on Chuck Liddell is not the kind of thing that smart MMA fans and media do.
Because that match up with Tito Ortiz finally did come to fruition at UFC 47: It’s On. A victory could serve to put him back on the championship map.
But a loss could put him on the fast track to nowhere.
Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz at UFC 47
The bad blood was obvious. You could cut the tension with a knife. Ortiz came into the Octagon ready for war. He felt slighted by what he perceived as a former friend. Liddell also seemed to feel slighted.
Said another way, these two guys came in to knock each other out. The problem for Tito Ortiz was that he was not the better striker, nor did he have more power.
Thus, Liddell unleashed a furious assault on the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in the second round to win via TKO. And that started a whole new winning streak for him.
Chuck Liddell and TUF 1
Right after knocking out Ortiz, Liddell did the same to Vernon “Tiger” White. Then came his rematch with Randy Couture. Well, not really.
First, he went up against Couture as a coach on the initial installment of Spike’s The Ultimate Fighter Reality Television Show ( TUF 1 ). There he did well, as the fighters under his calm tutelage won more than they lost. But he would he come through against Couture in a fight where he was the clear and decisive underdog?
Simply put, Liddell looked like a new fighter in the rematch. He was never caught stationary. He was patient. He stuck and then moved.
And eventually, at 2:06 of round one at UFC 52, Liddell dropped The Natural with a punch and followed things up toward a KO victory.
From there Liddell would go on to consecutively defeat Jeremy Horn (TKO), Randy Couture again (KO), Renato Sobral again (TKO), and Tito Ortiz again (TKO).
Losing the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship to Quinton Jackson
PRIDE had folded, and along with this there were a lot of free agents on the market. One of these tried his hand with the WFA for one victorious fight against Matt Lindland before making his way to the UFC.
That man was Quinton Jackson, the only fighter that Chuck Liddell had been defeated by without avenging the loss. Thus, Liddell wanted the rematch big time, and on 5/26/07 at UFC 71 he got what he wanted.
But the fight didn’t end as Liddell had hoped. Rather, Jackson scored a big time upset with a first round TKO of the Iceman.
Liddell vowed to be back, but in his next fight he lost a close decision to Keith Jardine, which prompted UFC President Dana White to say, “the Chuck Liddell that I saw fight didn't look like the Chuck Liddell that loves to fight.”
Was this it for the Iceman?
Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79: Nemesis on 12/29/07
This was the PRIDE vs. UFC match up that everyone had been waiting for. Well, the fight didn’t disappoint. Liddell clearly won the first round. The Axe Murdererer, Wanderlei Silva may have taken the second. Both fighters fought valiantly. But in the end, Chuck Liddell proved that he was the better striker in the third by dominating the action. Heck, he even took Silva down during the fight, something that he’s known for purposefully never doing.
Thus, Liddell had won a clear decision over his arch- nemesis. Will this prove to be the fuel to allow him to get back on track again? Or is it simply a last hurrah?
Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
On February 1, 2008 former PRIDE Grand Prix Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua announced that he had signed to fight Chuck Liddell in an upcoming bout. Currently, it appears that the fight may take place in June, but word is that it could be moved up to May.
Will this be a huge fight? You’re darned right, it will. Prior to his loss to Forrest Griffin, Rua had widely been considered the best 205 pound MMA fighter in the world. Further, he was reportedly injured for that fight.
Can Liddell come through once again over another elite MMA competitor? Well, let’s put it this way:
Are you willing to put money up against him? Many have tried before and failed.
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