Finally… Liddell climbs out of The Pit

Fans of Chuck Liddell have had it rough the past few years. For a long time the Iceman got by on dropping his opponents with a couple of bombs padded with leather.

Inevitably the time arrived when fighters and coaches caught on to his methods of destruction and the blueprint was set.

It was never a secret what Liddell’s plan or intention was inside the Octagon and that worked for a time, but those days are gone. When you rely on one method of victory over and over again you are viewed as a one-dimensional fighter.

Even if you have other tools at your disposal, if no one ever sees them and they are never used, it is the same as not having them in the first place.

Liddell’s days of knocking out grapplers and wrestler’s with sub-par striking skills are over simply because light heavyweight fighters at the highest level have evolved. 

Liddell is a unique specimen because he could get away with that one-dimensional style earlier in his career due to the fact he was willing to stand toe to toe with anyone and he could eat a few shots if need be in order to land his one big one that would put you out.

It first started to become evident some kind of change in the Liddell camp was needed after Chuck’s second loss to Quinton Jackson at UFC 71 and the reason for the loss from the Liddell camp basically was, “he got caught, it could happen to anyone.”

Then he fought Keith Jardine for three full rounds and they could no longer say “he got caught” since it went to a decision. He simply got beat up.

The Iceman came back in his next fight against Wanderlei Silva and what we saw in that fight was a Chuck Liddell his fans could be proud of. We saw him more well-rounded than he had been in a long time and he even took Wanderlei to the ground. It gave us a glimpse of the Chuck Liddell fans had been clamoring for for years.

But the clouds quickly gathered once again and blocked out any rays of hope when Liddell stepped into the Octagon against Rashad Evans in his next bout. It was back to the old Chuck that Keith Jardine had already beat and Jardine’s coach simply applied the method to one of his other students in Rashad Evans. They read him like a book, “The Iceman cometh.”

Where does Chuck Liddell go from here? We saw him suffer one of the most brutal knockouts in the history of the sport at UFC 88 against Evans and it came from the type of guy Liddell used to eat for breakfast; a wrestler.

Critics have said for a long time that Chuck should change training camps and that he had learned all he could from John Hackleman. Experts wondered in vain who was there at Liddell’s camp who could really push him on a daily basis. We would always hear they would bring different peopole in to train with when it was time for a fight but on a day to day basis there was definitely something lacking in Liddell’s camp.

If you compare where Liddell has spent the majority of his time training over the last years, The Pit, to where the current Light Heavyweight Champion trains, Xtreme Couture; there is no comparison. 

This is not a knock on John Hackleman. It’s just a fact. Look at the quality and quantity of sparring partners and coaches that Forrest Griffin gets to work with at Xtreme Couture and then look at who Liddell has to work with at The Pit. If there is another current Light Heavyweight UFC, Strikeforce, or Affliction fighter at The Pit, it is the world’s best kept secret.  

In a recent interview with Fight Hype, John Hackleman revealed that Liddell is training with ATT (American Top Team) and when asked  if he will learn anything new there, Hackleman replied, “Yeah you learn something new wherever you train. He’s always cross-trained and had people come in. He will definitely learn from Liborio and Matt.”

It’s hard to make much of this statement. It doesn’t appear Chuck has left The Pit altogether but most likely just adding some time with American Top Team into his schedule.

When Hackleman speaks of Liborio, he is referring to Ricardo Liborio, a BJJ Black Belt under Carlson Gracie and co-founder of Brazilian Top Team. He is a three time Brazilian National Champion and the 1996 BJJ World Mundial Champion. He was also voted the most technical BJJ competitor at the 1996 Mundials.

At this point in his career, it’s very interesting for Chuck to finally do something like this, something the MMA community recommended he should do many moons ago. It’s possible that Chuck valued his loyalty to Hackleman more than he valued winning.  

It will be interesting to see what kind of changes Chuck may implement into his strategy from here on out. Could we see Chuck taking guys down, trying to take their back and sinking in a rear naked choke? Maybe instead of trying to get back to his feet the next time he gets taken down he’ll throw up his legs and look for a triangle. It would certainly throw his opponents off.

Chuck Liddell will be thirty-nine years old in a few days (Dec. 17). If Chuck gets nothing out of ATT except perhaps the opportunity to train with guys like JZ Calvacante, Thiago Alves, Denis Kang, Antonio Silva, and other guys under the American Top Team umbrella it will be more than worth his time.

Fans can only hope it’s not too little too late for The Iceman.

-Jack Bratcher

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