Written By Trevor Lane
Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell is one of the most popular fighters of all time, known for his devastating knockouts and unshakable demeanor. He has appeared on the cover of ESPN The Magazine, and crossed over onto television shows such as Entourage.
Over the last five-plus years, The Iceman has been the face of the not only the UFC, but perhaps the entire MMA world as well. The sport has exploded during the course of his reign, with many fans tuning in solely to watch one of Liddell’s lightning-fast, overhand rights.
Unfortunately, time catches up to even the best of us, and it appears that Liddell may be at the end of his long, storied career following his knockout loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. While The Iceman’s impact on the sport is undeniable, I can’t help but look back at some of the major moments of his career and wonder, "What if…"
What If Chuck Had Never Lost To Randy Couture?
The battles between Liddell and Couture have been nothing short of legendary. The two icons first met up at UFC 43, where the underdog Couture managed to avoid Liddell’s dangerous strikes, and ground and pound his way to victory.
Liddell took the next two bouts with Couture, even sending Couture into a short retirement following UFC 62. But what if Liddell had been able to overcome Couture in their first meeting?
Randy Couture long has been a favorite among fight fans, but it was his victory over Liddell that proved that he still had it. Liddell also learned a valuable lesson about not taking opponents lightly (although his performance against Keith Jardine suggests otherwise).
In addition, Couture's upset over Liddell set the ball in motion for the inevitable rematch, which the UFC smartly marketed by having the two rivals coach opposing teams on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Had Liddell defeated Couture the first time around, it’s questionable whether Couture would have received a rematch, and fight fans would have been deprived of the classic triumvirate of bouts between the two legends.
What If Chuck Had Beaten Rashad To The Punch?
As usual, Liddell's fight with Rashad Evans featured one of the most devastating knockouts in UFC history. Unfortunately for Liddell, he was on the receiving end this time. Liddell swung with a right handed uppercut while Evans simultaneously fired with Liddell’s own patented overhand right. Evans connected a split-second before Liddell did, knocking The Iceman out cold.
It was this knockout loss that truly put Liddell’s career into question, but one has to wonder: What if he had been just a fraction of a second faster?
Had Liddell beat Evans to the punch, he likely would have scored the knockout, and moved on to face Forrest Griffin for the Light Heavyweight title. Whether or not he would have beaten Griffin is debatable, but the fact still remains that had Liddell been just a split second faster, he could be the Light Heavyweight champ right now instead of contemplating retirement.
What If the Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva Fight Had Happened When It Was Originally Supposed To?
Liddell and Wanderlei Silva are two of the most feared strikers in the game, and at UFC 79, they put on the fight of the year. Liddell pulled out the victory via decision, and both fighters left everything they had inside the octagon.
So what’s the problem? Well, they were originally supposed to fight all the way back at UFC 66 n what would have been a champion vs. champion clash, since Silva was the PRIDE champ at the time. However, for a variety of reasons, the fight never took place.
By the time they finally met at a year later at UFC 79, PRIDE was no longer in business, and both Liddell and Silva were looking to snap two-fight losing streaks. Instead of the best fighters from the two biggest MMA organizations going toe-to-toe, the fight was about which one could prove that he wasn’t on his last legs.
Despite the victory, this fight most likely will be the last time we saw Liddell near the top of his game. While it will go down in history as a great fight, it still pales in comparison to what could have been had the fight taken place just one year earlier.
What If Chuck Liddell Had Never Gotten Into MMA?
Perhaps the greatest “What If” of them all: What if Liddell had never gotten into MMA? It’s really not that far-fetched, as he has a degree in business and accounting from Cal Poly San Luis. Of course, no one can imagine the Mohawk-wearing, tattooed Iceman as an accountant, but let’s suspend disbelief here and look at what the ramifications would have been:
With no Liddell to fight, Randy Couture would be missing a huge part of what made him the beloved fighter he is today. Forrest Griffin and Diego Sanchez, both from Team Liddell, may not have won the first season of The Ultimate Fighter with a different coach. In fact, without Liddell, the UFC’s ratings may not have been high enough to warrant the filming of The Ultimate Fighter at all.
With no Liddell to stand in his way, Tito Ortiz might be considered the greatest UFC Light Heavyweight Champ of all time. Dana White would have been forced to turn to lesser fighters in order to headline all the shows that featured Liddell, and pay-per-view buys would have suffered accordingly.
It’s safe to say that without Chuck Liddell, the MMA world would be nothing like it is today. The current popularity of the sport being enjoyed by so many athletes and fans alike is in large part due to his influence.
I can only hope that should Liddell decide to retire officially, he does so in front of the fans and receives the sendoff he deserves.
After all, what if we don’t get a chance to say goodbye?
You can enjoy more of Trevor's work at MMAMadness.com.