Liddell’s Top 8 Moments in MMA

No. 5 – No. 2

By Jordan Breen Sep 4, 2008
Jeff Sherwood/

Liddell displayed the toughness that
has defined his entire career in a
come-from-behind knockout of
Guy Mezger at Pride 14.
5. Liddell vs. Guy Mezger (Pictures) (May 27, 2001)

It seems like eons and epochs ago that a prized Zuffa fighter could have jumped on a plane and scrapped in Japan for another company. Crazier still, when Liddell halted former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman (Pictures) in 78 seconds on May 4, he had scored the biggest win of his career. Just 23 days later, he met Guy Mezger (Pictures) in Yokohama and usurped that win.

A battle of two top-10 light heavyweights at the time, Pride parent company Dream Stage Entertainment officially announced the bout less than two weeks beforehand in true DSE style. While Liddell looked to play predator early, stalking Mezger around the ring and attacking with right-handed haymakers, Mezger’s experience was on display as he soundly outstruck Liddell with crisp counters. With the opening 10 minutes winding down, Mezger even gave Liddell a taste of his own medicine, putting him on the mat momentarily with a rainbow right hand.

Despite Mezger getting the better of Liddell and seemingly having a handle on things, Liddell turned in his most brutal bit of handiwork early in the second round. Pushing Mezger back to the ropes, Liddell began firing wildly with punches, and when Mezger attempted to return fire, Liddell let loose with a whipping right hand that absolutely melted Mezger on the spot.

The brutal bird's-eye view of the aftermath crystallized the vicious KO as one of MMA's pantheon-level finishes, revealing a motionless Mezger with his left leg pinned precariously beneath him and his right arm slung over his chest as if he'd been laid to eternal rest in the middle of Yokohama Arena.

Liddell is known as one of the sport's most brutal hitters, and none have been more brutal than his one-hitter-quitter of Guy Mezger (Pictures).

4. Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz (Pictures) II (Dec. 30, 2006)

Chuck Liddell (Pictures)'s rematch with Tito Ortiz (Pictures) was not his greatest triumph. It was not a bout that transformed MMA fans into stark-raving lunatics with excitement the way Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) vs. Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) did. It didn't produce anything significant for the Liddell highlight reel. What it did produce, though, was a mega-marketable matchup that made for a media and monetary breakthrough for MMA.

There was little reason to believe Ortiz-Liddell round deux would end any differently than their first fight. However, it didn't stop all major media outlets from turning UFC 66 into a major sporting spectacle, including ESPN, which two years earlier would have seemed like an insane pipe dream for MMA.

In the end, UFC 66 took in a gate just under $5.4 million and a whopping estimate of 1.05 million pay-per-view buys, making it by far the most lucrative North American MMA event to date. As for the fight, while Ortiz did better than most expected, Liddell retained his title with a third-round stoppage due to strikes (and with a torn MCL, no less).

The profile of the bout also launched Liddell's pop culture crossover, leading to appearances on Letterman, Leno and “Entourage,” and giving us his infamous appearance on “Good Morning Texas.”

Photo by

Liddell brought his A-game in
both bouts with rival Tito Ortiz.
3. Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz (Pictures) I (April 2, 2004)

But, for the purposes of this list, magnitude triumphs the monetary, and few fights in the sport's history have produced the anticipation of the first clash between Liddell and Ortiz.

The back story is familiar lore to MMA fans at this point. Once upon a time, Ortiz and Liddell went away to fight camp together, and depending on whom you believe, they either stayed up all night telling ghost stories, pricked each other’s fingers to become blood brothers and swore to never fight, or Liddell beat up Ortiz, kicked sand in his eyes and made him cry every day.

Whichever you believe is up to you, but regardless, with Randy Couture (Pictures) rekindling his rivalry with Vitor Belfort (Pictures) and both Ortiz and Liddell returning after losses to "The Natural," the timing was perfect for two of the sport's most storied 205-pounders to square off.

While the majority of the first round produced little action, the sheer tension between the two was enough to carry it until the last five seconds of the round, when Liddell landed a volley of strikes that ignited the crowd at Mandalay Bay and caused Ortiz to taunt Liddell in defiance.

However, carrying over into the second round, the excitement had no chance to build to a crescendo. Instead it combusted quickly when Liddell forced Ortiz to retreat to the fence (or poked him in the eye, depending again on which version of the truth you prefer), and let loose with a furious chaingun flurry of punches that put Ortiz down and out.

Liddell's triumph over Ortiz isn't the fight that made him a champion, but it is the bout that turned him into a bonafide star.

2. Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) (Dec. 29, 2007)

From the moment he first set foot in Japan, where Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) made his combative home in Pride, Liddell told anyone who would listen that he wanted to fight the Brazilian.

More than any matchup in MMA history, Silva-Liddell morphed astonishingly over its chaotic six-and-a-half-year buildup. As Silva began his destructive reign as Pride's light heavyweight kingpin, many believed he was the alpha dog -- an opinion strengthened in November 2003, when Liddell was brutally bashed by Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in Pride's 205-pound grand prix. When Liddell finally struck gold in the UFC, though, and tore off seven straight knockouts, Silva's struggles with Brazilian rival Ricardo Arona (Pictures) and his brutal demolition at the hands of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic led most to think Liddell would be the victor if the most mythic of MMA fantasy matchups ever actually happened.

Photo by

The MMA world waited years for
Liddell to take on Wanderlei Silva,
and the bout delivered.
If Silva's February 2007 crushing KO loss to Dan Henderson (Pictures) didn't kill all hope of the 205-pound pie in the sky, Liddell losing his UFC title to Quinton Jackson (Pictures) three months later, and subsequent lackluster loss to Keith Jardine (Pictures), did. Yet, with Pride buried by Zuffa and Silva under UFC contract as 2007 drew to a close, the fighters’ recent failings only made the stakes higher with a back-against-the-wall, absolute must-win scenario for the sport's two greatest light heavyweights.

After a buildup that lasted longer than either World War, it would've been nigh-impossible for the fight to live up to the hype. And yet, it did.

Silva-Liddell offered 15 minutes of the brand of balls-to-the-wall brawling that both have become famous for, with both men hitting the deck and a frenetic five minutes in round two that has unlimited replay value. However, throughout the bout, it was Liddell who controlled the action, landing the more brutal blows that seemingly would have ended such an affair on any other night. In the end, “The Iceman” picked up a richly deserved unanimous decision. If there is one moment in MMA we can point to in order to justify holding fast to our dreams and bathing in the promotional bluster, this is it.
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