mma / Columns

Liddell vs. Ortiz 3: Yes, You Should Feel Bad

November 27, 2018 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Chuck Liddell Tito Ortiz Liddell vs. Ortiz

I know I have a tendency to start my columns by talking about random crap that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with my main topic of discussion. It’s kind of me mimicking how my brain works.

That’s not happening today. I’m getting right into things. I’m here to talk about the big MMA rematch we got to see headline a major event this past Saturday.

That’s right: Blaydes vs. Ngannou 2.

Did you see how quickly Curtis got lit up in that fight? He was successful in neutralizing Alistair Overeem his last time out but it’s hard to look at a second TKO loss to Francis Ngannou and think that he’s ready for a UFC title shot. He may get one by default, especially if Stipe eventually becomes champion again after Daniel Cormier finishes his career (assuming he doesn’t grab the carrot Dana White is dangling in front of him to stick around past his retirement date) but it’s going to take a lot of work to get fans excited for that one.

Oh wait. That’s not the rematch everyone is talking about. They’re talking about the other rematch that happened this weekend, the one I don’t want to talk about because it’s just going to make me sad.

All right, I’ll talk about it, but I don’t know why anyone would make a big deal out of Rocky vs. Drago. I mean, they don’t even fight in Creed 2. I don’t think they shared more than 5 minutes of screen time together, which is a shame because seeing a Swede pretend to be a Russian is still as enjoyable in 2018 as it was back in 1985.

That being said, it was good to see Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren together after all these years (ignoring The Expendables and every other movie they’ve been in since Rocky IV). The same cannot be said for Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.

Okay, here we go…

I don’t feel good about what happened in the main event of Golden Boy MMA’s inaugural show. You more than likely don’t either. The only people who probably do are the people who directly profited from it; namely Liddell, Ortiz, and head of Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar de la Hoya.

We always knew what this fight was about. It had nothing to do with a new promoter entering the world of MMA to shake up the establishment and provide new opportunities for fighters to make a living. It had nothing to do with introducing the world to exciting new MMA talent. It had nothing to do with making any broad statements about how fighters are presented or how they are compensated (the disclosed payroll for everyone other than the headliners should be proof of that).

Nope. This show was just three men coming together to see how much money they could make, betting on the fact that MMA fans are wild about nostalgia, which we are, even when we shouldn’t be.

That’s the core of the problem when it comes to fights like this. We claim we have little to no interest in seeing aging fighters continue to compete past their expiration date when, in reality, that’s not completely true, or at least not to the extent that enough of the audience who says they won’t watch these fights usually do anyway.

Hey, I’m guilty of it, although I try not to pay for the privilege of seeing fighters furter tarnish their legacy if I can avoid it.

Free TV is a different story, though…

Also, it is hard to turn away from a good trainwreck, which is what Liddell-Ortiz 3 was. A loud, fiery trainwreck.

I guess some credit can be given to Chuck for being willing and able to make the walk one more time after all these years. It was a very slow, belabored walk a man his age shouldn’t be making, but he still made it.

And then he proceeded to get flattened by Tito Ortiz, a man who used to be known for his ground and pound and not so much for his ability to knock guys out on his feet.

That’s right: Tito Ortiz knocked out Chuck Liddell while standing.

Not that it’s much of an accomplishment. It meant something when Rashad Evans, Shogun Rua, and Rich Franklin did it years ago. Today it just represents what we knew all this time, that Chuck has no business competing in MMA anymore.

If the argument could be made previously that Chuck still had something left, it can’t be made now. We know Chuck has nothing left. The man who, 12 years ago, was the hottest thing in the sport is now less than a shell. It’s not easy seeing someone as legendary as Chuck hold on to past glory and refuse to move on with his life.

Maybe the loss on Saturday will be what finally helps him do that. I can understand if he felt bitter before because he was essentially forced into retirement when he wasn’t ready for it. And maybe he did have more to offer in 2010, even if it would have had to be against lesser fighters or, if Dana was insisting on Chuck not fighting anymore, lesser promotions.

Now, though? Well, he did find his way to a lesser promotion…

This is all to take nothing away from Tito, who stayed active in MMA for the majority of the years Chuck didn’t, but he’s not the same fighter he used to be either. He got stopped by strikes the first two times he fought Chuck. Now he’s the one who looks like the better striker.

Could Tito have improved his striking in those intervening years? It’s possible. What’s more possible is that Chuck is 8 years older and 8 years slower than his last fight, a fight where he looked old and slow already.

It’s hard to feel good about Saturday night, and I know it’s hard to say that because, had Chuck defeated Tito, everyone would probably be losing their minds right now about what a comeback it was for The Iceman and how excited we all are for what he does next, even if that next thing should be a proper retirement.

That thought highlights the reason why it’s hard to turn away from fights like this because, for as nonsensical as it may have been for Chuck to fight again, the thought of it happening was intoxicating because Chuck was the man back in the day. He’s the fighter a lot of us grew up watching and getting the chance to see him return was one that would be hard to pass up, even if we knew we should pass on it.

It’s a phenomenon not unlike seeing Def Leppard in concert when they came back in the 2000s, despite knowing Joe Elliott’s voice is shot and he can’t sing any of the songs anymore.

Seriously, if you want to be sad, go listen to a live version of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” with the guitars tuned all the way down so Joe can hit the high notes. It makes you feel silly for liking the music in the first place.

That’s what fights like Liddell-Ortiz 3 does. It makes us question why we’re fight fans, and what non-fans might say if they knew this kind of action was something that interests us. Maybe that’s why we condemn it publicly but still consume it privately.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having a guilty pleasure, but it feels weird when said guilty pleasure involves a UFC Hall of Famer further putting his health at risk because he can’t walk away from the game.

I have nothing but respect for Chuck. He fought for more than enough years to prove he wasn’t just in it for the money. He loves fighting. It’s just too bad he can’t find a way to love it that doesn’t involve competing.

C’mon, Chuck. Randy Couture was able to move on, as was Tito before the allure of finally beating you presented itself (or because he wants to work with de la Hoya as a promoter). It’s time for you to move on as well.

Now let’s put this fight in the rear view so we can look forward to the fights we really want to see, like Fedor Emelianenko getting destroyed by Ryan Bader, or Anderson Silva making himself look foolish by taking a fight with Israel Adesanya.

And people keep wondering why promoters book these fights…

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.