Liddell Highlights 2006 Awards

By Staff Jan 5, 2007
There may have been more impressive in-ring performances from fighters over the past 12 months, but no mixed martial artist in 2006 had the same impact on the sport as Chuck Liddell (Pictures). For these reasons, has named the UFC light heavyweight champion as Fighter of the Year for 2006.

Marking the third consecutive year Liddell has gone undefeated — scoring stoppages in each of his 10 fights during the span — the 37-year-old “Iceman” won three contests in 2006 to extend his won-loss record to 20-3-0.

Liddell began his Fighter of the Year campaign by retiring UFC legend Randy Couture (Pictures) in the rubber match of perhaps the most important trilogy in UFC history.

On Super Bowl Saturday, Liddell plastered a right hand on the venerable Couture for the second time in three fights, putting the “Natural” on his shield one final time.

Liddell-Couture III also set the gate revenue record for a mixed martial arts card in North America, netting nearly $3.4 million in ticket receipts.

During the calendar year, The Iceman’s fights took the first, second, and fourth spots on the list of all-time UFC gates. And Liddell’s New Year’s Eve-weekend bout with Tito Ortiz (Pictures) now owns the top position by over $2 million.

In August, some six months after stopping Couture, Liddell overwhelmed Renato Babalu to score a knockout just 95 seconds after the opening bell. That main event contest brought in $3 million at the door, and helped accelerate Zuffa towards MMA dominance.

Liddell’s rematch with Ortiz was the zenith for him and the UFC in 2006.

In his third title defense of the year, it was anticipated that Liddell-Ortiz II would shatter UFC pay-per-view records — which, thanks in some measure to Liddell, ballooned to upwards of 700,000 for a single card in 2006 — by out-selling any pay-per-view event for the year and topping 1-million subscriptions.

Again Liddell dominated.

After dropping the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” in the first round, Liddell bided time while stalking on an injured knee to score a third-round technical knockout.

Liddell joins 2005’s co-award winners Takanori Gomi (Pictures) and Mauricio Rua (Pictures) as a Fighter of the Year.

Other finalists for the award were PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix winner Mirko Filipovic (Pictures), and UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (Pictures).

Fight of the Year

In a year full of in-ring wars, stand-up fights and grounded submission battles, it was difficult to find one contest that ranked above the rest. After much deliberation, we believe Diego Sanchez (Pictures) and Karo Parisyan (Pictures) settled that question in August, when their welterweight clash portrayed every aspect of a great mixed martial arts fight.

Capping off his win by inducing the most discussed image of a flying tooth since Gerard Gordeau punted Teila Tuli in the face, the undefeated Sanchez solidified in the minds of many that he was the real deal at 170 pounds, and a sure-fire challenger for the belt in 2007.

Knockout of the Year

Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) made sure fans would remember his highly anticipated PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix semifinal bout versus Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) for more than just the circumstances surrounding the contest.

In the end, Filipovic’s effort against Silva, which will be remembered for countless images of the Croatian plastering a left high kick into the side of Silva’s shaven skull, remains that night’s iconic moment.

After battering “The Axe Murderer” for the first half of round one, “Cro Cop” finally landed the dangerous kick — perhaps the single most effective weapon in MMA outside of Liddell’s right hand — and crumbled Silva on the spot.

Later that night, Filipovic stopped Josh Barnett (Pictures) to capture the GP crown.

Submission of the Year

Generally, end-of-the-year awards are published before the New Year. But in mixed martial arts, that’s just not possible. With four major fight cards in the 72 hours leading up to Jan. 1, — and the rest of the MMA world — had to wait before it could truly piece together a list commemorating the year’s best.

Aren’t we glad we did? Thanks to Shinya Aoki (Pictures) there isn’t one award that’s easier to dole out.

During PRIDE’s “Shockwave” card, the Japanese submission maven applied what many longtime followers of MMA have said is the first successful gogoplata — a choke with the legs that looks like something kids might try in the schoolyard — on former Shooto champion Joachim Hansen (Pictures).

Few imagined Aoki would best his tapout-inducing flying triangle against Clay French (Pictures) in November, but the rubberband-limbed submission-grappler made it easy to forget after toying with Hansen as if the Norwegian was a BJJ blue belt.
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