by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Rematches have seemingly become the standard for just about any main event in the UFC these days and when light heavyweight champion and arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world, Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell takes on Renato “Babalu” Sobral at UFC 62, this will be the 2nd time these two fighters have squared off, the first of which Liddell won by KO in 2002. For Chuck Liddell this will be his third title defense since winning the belt, while Babalu will hope to move his 10 fight win streak to 11 by defeating Liddell and winning the UFC light heavyweight championship along the way.
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell has gained a very respectable reputation over the last couple of years since moving into the spotlight of the 205lb division in the UFC. Liddell was always seen as an ultra tough opponent but his sprawl to avoid takedowns has become legendary and his deceptive but powerful strikes are feared by any fighter willing to step into the Octagon with him. While making his way to the top of the UFC light heavyweight division, Liddell has defeated some of the very best in the game, including 2 knockout wins over Randy Couture, something no other fighter can claim to have done even once.
Liddell’s game doesn’t seem to have very many short comings with his incredible ability to sprawl and avoid takedowns while having stand-up that is almost unparalleled in the sport. The only times Liddell has faltered during his rise to fame have been against Couture in their first bout in which Liddell just looked overmatched standing up while also being taken down by the legendary wrestler throughout the fight. Both things could be contributed at the time to Liddell hoping for a bout with Tito Ortiz and then being matched up with Couture instead, a fight everyone at the time said Liddell should win with ease.
The other fight that Liddell has lost along the line was to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in Pride in 2003. Liddell looked ready to go when the fight started but after tagging Jackson a couple of times and him not going down, it looked as if Chuck was discouraged. To add on to his inability to land anything to really damage Jackson, Liddell has always been known for keeping his left hand low while standing up and that doesn’t match up well at all with Rampage who throws one of the best overhand rights in the business. In the end, Liddell lost the bout but then went on to win his next 5 in a row, along with the UFC light heavyweight title, bringing us to where we are now.
Redemption can be very tough after coming off a devastating loss, but that’s exactly what Renato “Babalu” Sobral has managed to accomplish since his loss to Liddell over 3 years ago. Babalu was sent packing out of the UFC after losing to Liddell at UFC 40, and had to rededicate himself to winning before coming back to compete in the Octagon. Among the victories that amounted to his current 10 fight win streak included 3 bouts in the IFC Global Domination light heavyweight tournament in 2003. The one night tournament featured some of the best 205lb fighters in the world and looking back on the event it could be considered one of the greatest compilations of fighters to compete in a single tournament on U.S. soil in the history of the sport.
Babalu managed wins over Trevor Prangley, as well as current Fighter of the Year, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Babalu was also able to defeat Jeremy Horn by decision in one of the gutsiest performances any fighter has ever given in the finals for the tournament. Since that time, Babalu has continued his winning ways, among them 3 victories in the UFC over top competitors like Travis Wiuff, Chael Sonnen and Mike Van Arsdale. It was almost a forgone conclusion after his last win that Babalu had to be next in line for a shot at Liddell’s title and he will get his shot soon enough.
The announcement just weeks ago that if Chuck Liddell was able to win this bout that he would finally get to face current Pride champion Wanderlei Silva seemed to really take some of the steam out of the hype machine for this fight. While no one would ever presume Liddell would totally look past Babalu in this fight, the prospect of fighting Silva had to be the real prize at the end of the night. But now that it looks like the Silva fight won’t be happening, Liddell is left with only Babalu in his sights.
The first bout between these two warriors showed quite a few things, many of which leave Babalu to improve upon if he expects to win. Liddell was the crisper striker and the scary thing is that his sprawl to avoid takedowns has gotten even better since first time fighting Sobral. Babalu has shown good striking in previous fights but standing and trading with Chuck Liddell is never the best idea, just ask the laundry list of fighters who have been dropped by his right hand.
One thing that a lot of people tend to forget about Liddell is how good he actually is at wrestling. Training with the Cal Poly team for most of his career, he has maintained a solid base and while it seems like he trains it only so he doesn’t have to end up on the ground, he still has great grappling skill even if we never actually get to see it. Babalu has competed with the Brazilian national team in wrestling so his skill is there as well but he has never fought a fighter with a takedown defense the likes of Chuck Liddell so if he shoots for a takedown in the opening minutes and doesn’t get it, will Sobral get discouraged and change his entire game plan?
Its never a good idea to look past a fighter with such amazing heart like Renato “Babalu” Sobral who always seems to find a way to win but anyway you cut it, this match-up with Liddell is bad on all parts. Chuck is definitely the better stand-up fighter and the likelihood of Sobral taking him down is not good at all which negates the submission game, which is Babalu’s one defining advantage over Liddell. Since returning to the UFC, Babalu has faced all grapplers who couldn’t out grapple the Brazilian stand-out. Now Sobral faces possibly the most dangerous striker in all of MMA this side of Mirko CroCop, and Liddell is poised for another exciting win in this fight.
Prediction: Chuck Liddell by KO Rd 1