by Mitch Gobetz – MMAWeekly.com
Chuck Liddell is 37 years old. He has fought the elite of the UFC light heavyweight division and has beaten all of them. His list of opponents he’s defeated is unbelievably impressive. He has compiled a record of 20-3 in his nine-year career. Two of his three losses have already been avenged convincingly. ‘The Iceman’ has a chance to avenge his final loss – against Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson – this Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Liddell lost his third MMA fight ever at UFC 19 against Jeremy Horn. He was choked unconscious and woke up after the round was over. After losing that fight, Liddell went on a tear through the light heavyweight division defeating names like Kevin Randleman, Amar Suloev, Murilo Bustamante, Jeff Monson and Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral.
Undoubtedly the number one contender in the division, he was set on a collision course with Tito Ortiz, but Tito had other commitments and refused to fight Chuck. At that point, Randy Couture had just lost his last two fights at heavyweight and moved down to 205 lbs. to fight Chuck Liddell for the Interim Light Heavyweight Championship. With Liddell being a big favorite, Couture spoiled his plans by out striking Liddell and taking him down. Eventually, in the 3rd round, Randy Couture defeated Liddell by TKO.
Chuck then went over to Japan to enter the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. After knocking out Alistair Overeem, he was set to fight Quinton Jackson. Jackson took it to ‘The Iceman’, throwing numerous overhand rights and taking him down. Liddell’s corner threw in the towel after Liddell was getting ground and pounded in the corner.
Many fighters would get down on themselves, but not Chuck. He came back to the U.S. and knocked out Tito Ortiz and Vernon White, leading him to another fight with Randy Couture. Liddell was much more prepared for Randy’s game plan and knocked him out early in the first round to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. He would have another opportunity to wipe away a loss he had early in his career in his next fight against Jeremy Horn. Liddell dominated the fight and eventually got the TKO in the fourth round.
Since then, he has gone on to defeat Couture again, as well as knock out ‘Babalu’ and Tito Ortiz again. This has lead to his long awaited rematch with Jackson. ‘Rampage’ was acquired from the UFC after their purchase of the WFA.
Chuck has been licking his chops to fight him since he was brought into the UFC. “I’m excited about it. It’s something I’ve wanted since I lost in ’03,” exclaimed Liddell. “I wanted another shot at him right after, so I’m excited. I can’t wait. I had a long training camp and I’m ready to go.”
There were a lot of rumors that Chuck had a torn quad going into that fight. At 37 years of age, everyone wants a healthy Liddell going into what is probably his biggest threat to the title in the division. “I feel great. Everything is working good and it was probably one of the healthier training camps I’ve had in a lot of years.”
Jackson is a well rounded fighter and ‘The Iceman’ knows this. What kinds of problems does Chuck thinks ‘Rampage’ brings? “He’s a good, rounded fighter. He can wrestle. He can strike. He can stand in there and he hits hard, so I’ve got to hit him and not get hit.”
A lot of fighters would switch up their game plan and training for a fight that they lost, but Chuck doesn’t believe in that too much. “I don’t change the way I train for anybody really other than we make a few adjustments on certain things. It’s more strategy and adjustments, and some things [trainer John Hackleman] wants me to work on, certain techniques he wants me to work on for the fight.”
Many fans might wonder if ‘Rampage’ is in Chuck’s head from their first fight, but Chuck dismisses that immediately. “As far as the mental side goes, I never had that confidence problem when someone beat me. Both the other guys I went back and avenged, I thought I should have beat them the first time. Afterwards I thought I messed up and I could go out there and beat them this time.”
If Chuck were to win this fight, he would have pretty much cleared out the entire division. ‘The Iceman’ isn’t worried about that. He knows that something will come up. “There’s plenty of stuff. There’s a lot of guys out there I’d like to beat. I have plenty of stuff to do after this. We’ll see what comes up, but I’ll find something. With the Pride guys being able to come over, I wouldn’t mind getting a shot at a couple of them and have some fun.”
This fight has fireworks written all over it and is by far the toughest test Liddell has had since his fight last year against Randy Couture. There is a lot more pressure on Liddell to win this fight than there is for ‘Rampage’. A loss to ‘Rampage’ would put him up 2-0 on ‘The Iceman’. “If you’re asking me if I feel pressure to win, I always want to win.”
As far as Liddell’s game plan, it’s simple. “I’m going to try to make him adjust to what I want him to do. When I go out there I want people to fight my fight. I’m going to try to make him fight my fight… If he wants to exchange with me it’s going to be fast, exciting, and a short night.”
This fight has potential to be very exciting. ‘Rampage’ always brings it and Chuck is not one for letting a fight go to a decision. “I’ll be prepared for five, but I don’t think that it’s going to get anywhere close to that.” Liddell predicted, “It should be over in one or two… I’m going to knock him out.”