What do you do with a degree in accounting from a fine school like Cal Poly San Luis Obispo? If you’re Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell (18-3, 11 KO’s, 1 Submission) you become one of the top fighters in mixed martial arts. “My grandfather put it in my head that I should go to school and study something I could use in the real world. I never thought I’d have a career as fighter. I thought I’d be an accountant or open a gym,” says Liddell from his home in San Luis Obispo or SLO as the hip college town in Central California is known.
Although Liddell considers himself an incredibly laid back person, the UFC light heavyweight champion is no slacker once he’s in the ring. He’s a fierce striker and cold fisted marksman that can take you out with one punch or end a fight with a quick barrage. Once Liddell catches and stuns his prey, the punches start raining like boulders down a mountain on top of a dazed victim that usually crumbles to the mat. That’s exactly what happened to the UFC’s highest profile fighter Tito Ortiz. Ortiz is famous for his “ground and pound” offense. The problem is that you have to be able to take your opponent down in order to execute it.
And there lies the dilemma. Liddell is legendary for his takedown defense. He defends against wrestlers and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu masters effectively and even when taken down, he has the strength and ability to get himself off the canvas and bring the action to a standing position where his punch and kick combinations become uncanny and deadly. “Submission fighters can be losing the whole fight but if you make one error then you’re done for. It’s the same with me as a striker. It can be the last round but if I have enough energy, all I have to do is catch you once to get you out of there,” says Liddell.
One punch or one kick to the head can and have, ended matches in Liddell’s favor several times.
In fact, Brazil’s Renato “Babalu” Sobral (27-5, 2 KO’s, 14 submissions), who will headline against Liddell on August 26th at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas, fell victim to one of Liddell’s finely timed kicks in losing by KO in their first encounter. Sobral is considered a master of submissions and has since reeled off a ten fight winning streak and like any fighter with pride is seeking retribution. “The question will be, can Sobral take Liddell down and keep him there in order to submit him. They last fought in 2002 and they’ve both gone through many changes since then. I think Sobral has a good chance to beat Liddell,” says Cesar Garcia who writes for the MMA newspaper Combat Sports Authority. Let’s face it. Whether it’s M.M.A. or Boxing, whether it’s with a high kick to the head or a perfectly timed left hook that you never saw coming, anyone can get caught on any given night. Especially against Liddell who’s great at ending fights early. Tito Ortiz, the aforementioned “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” found that out when they met up in a highly anticipated match in March 2004’s UFC 47.
It was an intriguing fight as the former training partners were finally set to exchange blows in an official contest. Ortiz came out tough and tried to take down Liddell in order to initiate the “ground and pound.” “I was expecting him to try and take me down,” remembers Liddell. “I had trained with him before but it had been awhile and I didn’t know if he had improved. I didn’t think he could do much to me unless he got lucky.”
Liddell defended brilliantly and was able to stay off the mat where Ortiz does his best work. Ortiz was now fighting Liddell’s fight, swinging for the fences with little success. Ortiz was obviously frustrated by his inability to put “The Iceman” down. In the second round, Liddell found his range and landed a punch that stunned Ortiz and led to a downpour of clenched fists that beat the “bad” out of the Huntington Beach native.
It was an important victory against a man he felt had always avoided him in the ring. Ortiz in the past had claimed that he and Liddell were close friends and therefore could never face each other. Liddell says that’s nonsense. “Tito and I were never friends outside of the business. He never called me once unless it had to do with business whether it was training or doing some charity event. No barbecues, no movies. Nothing. He makes it seem like they took me off the streets and showed me everything I know and that’s not the case,” says Liddell. “He asked me and a partner to come down and help him train for Frank Shamrock. My partner trained with him and leg locked him something like 25 times,” jabs Liddell further.
Even though a match against Wanderlei Silva was announced by UFC Chief Dana White should he get past Sobral, Liddell knows where the box office is and wants to eventually give Tito the rematch that team Ortiz claims to want. Ortiz and Liddell are considered the two most marketable fighters in the UFC and a rematch would send the already high Pay Per View numbers for UFC events soaring further. “There’s talk about a rematch. Hopefully they can talk him into it. I’d love to fight him again. I don’t see what the difference will be. I’m going to knock him out again,” says a confident Liddell.
Liddell’s confidence is not without merit. This is the same man who knocked out a legend in Randy Couture twice and also holds wins over Vitor Belfort and Jeremy Horn. Although well versed in wrestling and submissions, Liddell prefers to stand toe to toe against the best the sport has to offer. This is exactly what makes him arguably the most exciting fighter in the world of mixed martial arts. Let’s face it. There’s no bigger buzz kill than two grapplers taking the action to the mat for what seems to be an eternity. You know something great could happen but usually it’s two guys vying for position which takes up precious time. That’s usually not a concern when you’re watching Liddell fight.
Whether it’s a losing effort to the very credible Quinton “Rampage” Jackson or one of his early Muay Thai kick-to-the-head KO’s against Ron Kosakowski, Liddell is usually thrilling and his warrior heart abounds. One of his losses came to “Rampage” in 2003 and Liddell has since begged the UFC to get him in the ring with Jackson. “I’ve been asking to get that rematch for two years,” said Liddell.
Although well respected, “Babalu” Sobral has a tough road ahead of him on Saturday night. His task will be to take Liddell down and capitalize on the smallest of his mistakes. Liddell knows it won’t be easy but seems sure of the outcome. “I know it’s going to be a war. I’ve done all the work in the gym and I’m showing up to win. I can’t sit on what I’ve done. I’ve got to keep moving forward and Sobral is in the way. If Wanderlei Silva and Tito Ortiz want to make something happen afterwards I’d be more than happy to comply.”
For more information on August 26th’s UFC 62 Pay-Per-View featuring Chuck Liddell vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar go to www.ufc.com
For one of Liddell’s earliest pre-UFC KO fights against Ron Kosakowski click the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCkpraLJKhA