The fight that was six years in the making finally took place at the Mandalay Bay events centre Las Vegas on 29th December 2007. For the best part of a decade Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva was the fight that fans had been clamouring for – and it did not disappoint.
MMA in early 2000’s was Pride vs UFC
During the early 2000’s both of these men were separated by the organisations that they fought for, Chuck Liddell fighting for the UFC and Wanderlei Silva fighting for Pride FC in Japan. Both men were considered by most to be the best fighters at 205lbs in their respective organisations.
205lbs being the Pride Middleweight division and the UFC Light heavyweight division that was seen as the glamour division at the time. The sport was very different even just 13 years ago it was almost unrecognisable.
Wanderlei Silva Pride Legend
Silva had run rough shot over the majority of Pride FC middleweight division, he was known for dishing out savage highlight reel beatings. Particularly brutal was his clinch work; knees, elbows and powerful hooks on the break were his trademark.
With Silva you knew you were in for a bloody and brutal affair that is what made him such a fan favorite. Rogan even noted that even though Silva had not fought in the UFC since 2000, the crowd still applauded the Axe Murderer more than any other fighter because of his reputation and fight resume.
The nickname the Axe Murderer is possibly the most apt nickname in the history of the sport. Silva had one speed, straightforward all out attack. His stare downs were the stuff of legend and he took on all comers. He even fought Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Hunt at heavy weight; he backed down from no man.
Chuck Liddell – UFC icon
At the same time that Silva was striking fear into the hearts of fighters over in Japan, in the US there was a fighter referred to as the Ice Man who was smashing his way through the UFC one over hand right at a time.
Chuck was a huge fan favorite in the UFC, his style was very fan friendly, his trademark was the over hand right that he kept cocked at all times. His wrestling was very good but he used it to simply keep the fight on its feet.
Chuck was very good at using straight punches, jabs followed by crosses then looping the big right had to try and put his opponents away. His kicks were also devastating, he was capable of either overwhelming you with pressure or knocking you out while going backwards he was a very accomplished striker.
Pride is bought out by UFC
Once Pride FC had been bought by the UFC, there was one fight in particular that fans desperately wanted to see. I know at the time myself and my friends had speculated for years over who would win, Chuck or Wanderlei, and now we were about to find out.
For me this fight was the culmination of the golden era of MMA, back then it was a bit rougher, grittier. The fighters had more character; they were wild men, not so much the athletes that you see today. They perhaps were not as technically good as some of the best athletes we see today but man they were fun to watch.
I remember very clearly the sheer anticipation for this fight; both Chuck and Wanderlei were arguably past their best, both coming off losses. But that didn’t matter to me, finally we were seeing the Axe Murder trying the break the cool of the Ice Man in an intense stare down, and the fight was on.
3 rounds in the UFC light heavyweight division
The fight started out tentative, a clear feeling out process by both fighters. As I mentioned earlier both men were coming off losses, and neither felt they could afford a loss at this point if they wanted a run at the title.
After the first minute or 2 the action picked up, and really didn’t stop again until the final bell. Chuck was landing a lot of jabs and crosses, he looked to stun Wanderlei fairly early with a cross sending Silva stumbling to the fence.
Silva bounced of the fence smiling as Chuck went in for the kill, Silva the crafty veteran had laid a trap to try and catch Liddell coming in. Both men then proceeded to exchange, I was out of my seat.
Liddell really started to take over in round 2; he managed to back Silva up with pressure. Many rights and lefts landed but the Axe Murderer just kept swinging back. Watching this live was incredible as you knew that any second one of these bombs could put the lights out.
Liddell then landed some elbows on the break leaving Silva bloodied and stumbling, the last few seconds of the round were ticking by and Chuck grabbed a single leg to get a take down before the end of the round ending in top position.
The start of round 3 and to everyone’s surprise Liddell shot in again and scored a quick takedown that did not keep Silva down for long. Chuck then stunned Silva again, backing him up against the cage and unloading with rights and lefts.
I was amazed that Silva was still standing, and so was Chuck, he had expended a lot of energy and stepped right back to the centre looking at the clock. Again I was still out of my seat, was Silva now going to take advantage of a now tired Liddell and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?
No was the answer, Chuck had slowed down but still continued to pour on punishment. Liddell scored another takedown and finished the fight in top position landing blows. As the timer expired Herb Dean separated the 2 men and Chuck raised his hands.
There was little doubt in everyone’s mind that the Ice Man was back in the win column and had secured a victory over one of his biggest rivals in the sport. It was in my opinion one of Chuck’s last great performances, and it was just that, great.
When I watch this fight back I still get goose bumps, this was the culmination of 6 years worth of highlight reel performances from both fighters. Both men really put on a show, from start to finish. In the downtime with fewer events on and more time on your hands due to COVID19. Go back and have a watch – I do not think you will be disappointed.