Unless Chuck Liddell receives very bad advice in the next few weeks, he has unofficially retired. Although not official at this time, his retirement will mark the end of the first generation of UFC fighters.
The reason older stars such as Chuck, Matt Hughes, and Wanderlei Silva are losing matches is not so much due to the decreased speed and agility of aging, but because the next generation of fighters are freakishly well-rounded. They stand and box like boxers, stand and kick like pro kick boxers, and can perform double leg take downs like top tier NCAA wrestlers. Gone are the days when fighters could straddle each fighting discipline using their own unique and awkward style. The sport has evolved into a polished hybrid of the major fighting genres.
Thiago Alves, George St Pierre, Rashad Evans, and other young fighters are proving to be the next level of mixed martial art's evolution. A chin is never as well protected as in a boxer's stance. Legs are never as effective of weapons until they are those of a kickboxer's. Takedowns, sprawls, and body control have been perfected by the sport of collegiate wrestling. All separate disciplines have undergone centuries of refinement and are at their best when done exactly as prescribed. Fighters who can bring them together without losing an inch of their respective science and style will approach mixed martial arts perfection. This melting pot is proving superior to the now awkward-looking first attempts done by the Randy Couture era fighters. And it takes growing up in the midst of this new style to perfect it. It is too late for the old guard to truly master it.
In much the same way the Flosbury Flop made the old high jump style completely impotent, the newer fighters will not be stopped, even by a well conditioned and speedy "old school" fighter.
Chuck's contribution to the sport will be historically significant and a sportsmanship award should be created in his honour. Yet if he chooses to continue fighting, he will diminish the flare of his legacy and only prove this article's thesis. It is time for the old lions to bow out gracefully.
Thank you, Iceman. It has been exciting.