By Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Chuck Liddell solidified his place in mixed martial arts history on Dec. 29 when he defeated long-time rival and former Pride Fighting Championships middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79: Nemesis in Las Vegas.
“It’s great to get back on the winning track, getting my hand raised,” Liddell told MMAWeekly.com.
Coming off back-to-back losses heading into the fight, many questioned if he still had what it takes to compete on MMA’s highest level. Changes in preparation, both mentally and physically, showed in his performance.
“I think I changed a little bit of the intensity in the room, and kind of getting back to being a mixed martial artist. You know, mixing everything in and not just being a striker,” commented the 38-year-old about his training.
Liddell was able to secure two takedowns against Silva and attempted three. We hadn’t seen him take anyone down since his match with Alistair Overeem in August of 2003.
Discussing the takedowns, he explained, “I definitely wanted to work them in there sometime during the fight and keep him off balance a little bit.”
Liddell was able to utilize his reach advantage and keep Silva at the end of his punches throughout the fight, something he does extremely well.
“I always try to use that advantage,” he stated. “I’ve got pretty long arms for my height and always got a good reach for my size and weight class, so I’ve got to use that as much as possible.
“It just kind of works in the way I fight. There was no extra plan for it, but that’s just kind of how I do things.”
Silva also likes to trade from the outside, but is probably more devastating and dangerous from the clinch position where we’ve seen him finish current UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson twice. The one time Liddell and Silva clinched in the bout, Liddell did the damage with two elbow strikes.
“I thought he would have tried to clinch more,” Liddell reflected. “But I’m also decent in the clinch, and I throw good elbows in there when I gain that position, so I’m real comfortable there.”
In round two, the former UFC champ hit the canvas twice. The first one was a slip, but the second time Liddell went down appeared to be caused by a punch. He agreed and disagreed, saying, “It was a slip. It was more getting hit while I was moving in an odd way and slipped. I just had a couple of slips in that round.”
Along with the subtle changes in training, Liddell sought out motivational speaker Tony Robbins to assist in focusing for the bout.
He commented, “It was really good. . . I think (working with Robbins) really did help me get better and focus on just being in the moment of the fight. I’m not worried about anything else.”
Refocused and motivated, Liddell expects a big year in 2008.
“I’m back. I’m coming after my title, and hopefully get a shot at that some time in 2008.”
Asked about a rematch with Wanderlei Silva, and if the saga is over, Liddell responded, “I’m going after my title. I want to get the title back. If people want to see a rematch with us after that, then yeah. Sure.”