UFC 79: Liddell vs. Silva an instant classic

It was a fight billed as six years in the making but the wait for it felt like a lifetime. After being teased with the prospect of a dream match between Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell so many times only to see it unravel at the seams, I, like many others, began to wonder if it would ever really happened.

And once it was finally signed and sealed, I began to have questions about the delivery. Could a fight that had been built up so big in the minds of diehard fans come anywhere close to matching the hype?

Well, last night in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay the MMA world received its answer and unless you have terrible taste in fights, the answer was a resounding yes.

I made a promise to myself a long time ago that if Liddell vs. Silva ever happened that I would do whatever it took to make sure I was there to see it in person. I had been a fan of both fighters for years. In the States, Liddell was considered the be all end all when it came to light heavyweights. But to more worldly MMA fans, Silva was Liddell’s equal and in the minds of some, his superior.

I never got caught up in the petty PRIDE vs. UFC nonsense. Over the last year I’ve been accused of being a PRIDE “nut hugger” by some while also biased towards the UFC by others. I think I’ve been subjected to that contradiction of opinion because even though I’ve followed the sport a long time, I’ve only covered it as a journalist for slightly over a year. People are new to my writing and my opinions so they read one thing and they make a grand assumption.

I never bothered weighed-in on the PRIDE vs. UFC debate because as a fight fan, I enjoyed both. To me, they were equal yet very different. And I enjoyed the differences. I saw no need to pick a side. I’m a fight fan and I’ll support good fights regardless of what initials are associated with it.

The PRIDE vs. UFC debate extended to a debate as to whether Liddell or Silva was the more dominant fighter at 205 pounds. I never got caught up in that debate either because I enjoyed both fighters. I also didn’t understand why fans were left to make a judgment. This is a sport, let the fighters compete against each other and let’s see who really is the best.

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6 COMMENTS
  • Zack says:

    It was as good on TV Sam. The one minor flaw of the fight was Chuck’s clockwatching/defensive posturing in the last half of the 3rd. He looked gassed and clearly was looking for the decision with the last 15 second takedown.

    I’m jealous you got to see it in person. How were your seats?

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  • Jeremy says:

    Put to words very well Sam what happened last night. I can only imagine what it was like in that arena last night. It came through on the tv pretty well though during the fight. The crowd was pretty electric the entire time. I never thought we would see a 3 round war between these two(only in my dreams I did) but that is exactly what we got, and it was great to see.

    I watched the fights with 5 buddies of mine, who are what I would categorize as casual mma fans. Not too many times have they watched fights with me where they were just enthralled with the action, but to hear them screaming and hollering at moments during that fight was great. It did truly live up to everything I hoped it could be.

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  • MMA SKOOL ™ says:

    It was crazy on TV. Very exciting…

    Silva was getting hammered but there was the sense that he could turn it around anytime with a well placed strike… He kept Chuck honest until the very end.

    Like the last Liddell fight against Jardine, it seemed to go by too fast. It was like a blur. Good to see Chuck win. He had more to lose than Wanderlei.

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  • Jaeger says:

    Am I the only person who is now looking for part Two of this story?? Couple fights apart and a rematch?? While this fight didn’t turn out as I had hoped, The action was super and I come away from this fight impressed with a solid game plan by Liddell. I just had the feeling that they made eachother better. Very much a Magic vs. Larry type thing.

    For my money once just isn’t enough.

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  • mike wolfe says:

    Good enjoyable fight. Silva seemed subdued, though. I think he had the conditioning and the skills, but didn’t fight the way he did in PRIDE–aggressively close, clinch, and knee. Maybe it was the hype, nerves etc. They should fight again to see who’s best. By way of example, it’s pretty apparent now after two fights that Silva has Franklin’s number, and after three fights GSP has Hughes’.

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  • Steve says:

    #4 I’m with you on that! Who wouldn’t want to see the rematch? If they ever do I really hope its a five rounder. I want to see both of these guys get back to the top with one holding the title and fighting for the belt. How badass would that be??? All they have to do is keep winning and we’d probably see it. Of course, thats a huge if in this division.

    #5 I agree with that too. Wandy did look a little subdued compared his Pride days. It was probably a number of things, nerves, tentativeness from memories of his last two losses, awareness of Chuck’s counter punching style and knowing he could eat that right hand at any moment if he came in too aggressive. That said, if they fought again, I would like to see Wandy with a game plan to neutralize Chuck’s reach advantage and spend more time in the pocket where he lived in his Pride days. He could have been more aggressive. With a few confidence boosting wins and a better game plan I think we could see a more Pride like Silva put Chuck down.

    There is one distinct difference between guys Chuck has beat and Wandy though. When Chuck hit everyone else with his power shots, they feel to the mat. When Chuck his Wand with his power shots, Wand swung back like it was a reflex. Wanderlei is a true warrior.

    That match really gives me the itch to see matches like Wandy/Rampage III, Shogun**/Rampage II, and Shogun**/Liddell, Hendo/Wandy III, Hendo/Liddell, Hendo/Shogun**. Those are the kind of fights I want to see.

    **the 05 MW GP Champion form of Shogun, not the no stamina under prepared version we just saw

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