Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 3: Toe-to-Toe Preview – A complete breakdown

Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz III headlines Golden Boy MMA’s debut event this November 24, 2018 at The Forum in Las Vegas Inglewood, California.…

By: David Castillo | 5 years ago
Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 3: Toe-to-Toe Preview – A complete breakdown
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz III headlines Golden Boy MMA’s debut event this November 24, 2018 at The Forum in Las Vegas Inglewood, California.

One sentence summary:

David: MMA’s Jack Lemon vs. Walter Matthau.

Phil: Just look at that poster – Photoshop and harsh lighting and sucked-in guts working together to deliver Tito and Chuck sculpted from wet plasticine, built in a poorly outsourced MMA videogame, glaring out at the world with fierceness, determination… and hope?


Record: Chuck Liddell 21-8 | Tito Ortiz 19-12-1 Draw

Odds: Chuck Liddell +210 | Tito Ortiz -250

History / Introduction to Both Fighters

Phil: It’s hard to think of a fighter more of his time than Chuck Liddell. He defines the Mid-Zuffa Era, in part because he’s MMA’s biggest star of that period, but also because I’m not sure that he would have been that kind of star had he appeared any later? Laconic men with a taste for partying and power in their hands are not exactly uncommon in the UFC nowadays. He caught the MMA wave at just the right point for it to effortlessly imbue him with all those Regular Everyman, Quiet Badass associations which have evaded modern products like Stipe Miocic

I always got the impression that stardom baffled him about as much as it did anyone else, and there was a dislocation about Chuck whenever he was trapped outside the cage. From that groggy, drugged and disastrous interview on Good Morning Texas to his tendency to get lost while watching other people fight, where he’d paw at the air, re-enacting some weird meld of shadowboxing and the twitching limbs of a sleepwalking cat. After a string of KO losses, Dana White sat him down and convinced him to retire, with the help of a cushy retirement “job”. That little piece of goodwill was erased by the WME-IMG purchase, and so Chuck is back. Financial pressures and an inability to let go of the past doing their thing. As they tend to.

David: I started watching this ridiculous sport when it first began. Renting out videos of sumo wrestlers getting their eyeballs cold-cocked out of their sockets from Blockbuster, and thinking nothing wrong with me at all. I stopped watching after UFC 11 because as much as I enjoyed the spectacle, I never wanted to see Scott Ferrozzo’s panzon ever again. Squirrel: although I’m happy to know that they revisited their bout years later as a clear homage to Kimbo Slice. Something about this total recall of VHS tapes and bloody guts feels appropriate as we give thanks to Chuck Liddell: MMA history coming full circle to where it belongs — in someone’s backyard where grudges and gravy are forged, and consumed by eager spectators like us who refuse to look away from this caged, grand guignol.

Phil: As we’ve discussed previously, Tito isn’t thought of as being as central as Chuck to the early UFC, but there’s a solid argument that as he was even more important: he tied together the Shamrock era with the next generation, and got Randy and Chuck across. He was a reliable and bizarre foil, and if nothing else he’s still got his legendary mic skills: he’s younger than he was 12 years ago, he wants to outlive his kids, 100%, and he’s sparring with Herb Dean. Basically what I’m saying is that anyone who isn’t following Borrachinha Depot on Twitter needs to get on that right now.

David: I always give thanks to Tito. Not just because of stuff like this. Or this. Or this. But because he think he did for me what he did for a lot of current MMA fans: via his “grudge match” (which, let’s be honest, was more of a guillotine display than anything resembling professional competition) with Ken Shamrock, he helped bridge the divide between the theatre of combat, and the sport of combat. Ortiz is not a compelling personality per se. We condescend to his malapropisms, and biological misunderstandings, which makes him interesting but it doesn’t quite make him watchable the way Conor McGregor, or Jon Jones are watchable: clearly defined pugilists with clearly defined charisma. But Ortiz is the necessary transitional fossil of this sport. And that makes him interesting in a way that helped define the sport for the audience as well the fighters.

What’s at stake?

David: Nothing really. As much fun as I make of this fight, this isn’t some violation of natural law i.e. watching Gray Maynard fight like he’s trapped in carbonite, and clearly in need of well-earned retirement. These are just two old dudes in a fight that will end when someone shits themselves — not because attrition took its toll, but because gravity has to take its course.

Phil: In the same sad way that Rampage managed to tie up the series with Wanderlei, I guess it’s a chance for Ortiz to surf the wave of deterioration a bit more adeptly than Chuck. Conversely, if Chuck wins it’s basically confirming that he has Tito’s number forever, and he’ll still be able to put him down with a counter right hand when they’re squabbling over who gets the remote in the retirement home.

Where do they want it?

Phil: First, let’s review this footage right here and consider that people normally look better on the pads. What good things are there to say? Firstly, Chuck is not as fat as some old fighters get. He’s always had a somewhat bandy frame, and instead of bloating he’s thickened out into a fleshy cask shape. Secondly, he can still do a high kick! That’s encouraging. Other than that he looks achingly, ponderously slow. This compounds with the factor which hamstrung his late career: waning durability. In general Chuck was simply never the best striker. He was an accurate, powerful puncher with either hand, he had a great sprawl, and he was incredibly tough, but once that toughness started to go (and when he fought better and tougher strikers) his tendency to hang his chin out there started to get him flattened. He could sling long straight punches moving forward and backwards, and occasionally mixed it up with that high kick, but getting past his first strike spelled bad things for him. It’s part of the brutality of MMA- it evolves so quickly that often people find themselves simultaneously overpowered by younger athletes while trying to fight back with an outdated style.

David: Fleshy cask shape? There’s a description I’ll never get out of my head. I mean, Liddell’s game was never a mystery. I think that’s how he caught on despite no discernible charisma: like the chord progression of a Limp Bizkit song, you got your chorus, your verse, and lyrics that could be deciphered by a tardigrade. The simplicity of it all what made him effective. With brass knuckles, yardbird toughness, and bipedal impregnability, Liddell was genetically engineered to sport strike. He was not genetically engineered to be versatile, though. So yea, part of what you see in the Rich Franklin fight is Chuck stuck halfway in the afterlife portal and seeing a heaven where he gets to hit the bowflex butt-ass-naked next to equally nude blondes — admittedly an extension of real life — because his chin went from cobblestone to cranberry, but it’s also an extension of just doing rudimentary things at half speed. What am I saying? Chuck can be still be effective…if both men were strapped to cargo loaders in a ring made by Mattel.

Phil: In the same way that Chuck was never really the greatest striker, Tito’s problem was that he wasn’t ever really quite what was advertised: he was just never a particularly incredible MMA wrestler. He had a decent shot, and some tricky takedowns from the clinch, but he was always at his best once he had already gotten top position. Famous for popularizing elbows from top position but with a nasty choke submission game (as Messrs Bader, Sonnen and Schlemenko could attest to even relatively recently). His major issue was a lack of range. While his kickboxing improved over time, his reliance on short, winging hooks on the feet always got him into trouble, most specifically against Liddell. Chuck was simply able to pour on punches from a distance and easily step aside or sprawl on any of Tito’s shots.

Like Chuck, Tito looked done towards the end of his UFC tenure. He had an argument for winning against Forrest, but the fights beforehand were not comfortable to watch, where Rashad and Lil’ Nog smashed him to the body (historically a weak spot) and had him basically weeping in agony. It’s hard to think that his Bellator run has been a resurrection exactly, but there have been some bright spots- finishing Schlemenko, that intensely weird win over Sonnen. Even his loss to Liam McGeary wasn’t a blowout, and he got finished by crafty grappling instead of getting blown out of the water. Essentially it’s been a while since we’ve seen Tito look incredibly old in the cage.

David: Let me tell you something. People are counting me out this Easter just because I lost to Chuck once. But I don’t doubt myself. Doubt is the end of wisdom. And this is just the beginning for me. Don’t judge a fist by its cover. At the end of the day, I train hard. And I’ve been in this game since Steve Jobs came up with Microsoft. You see those rocks over there? Unturned, every one of them. Even those speed bumps. That’s the thing. At the end of the day, I can box Chuck. I can wrestle Chuck. I can submit him. And Chuck? You can’t sharpen an ax on Chuck’s head anymore. Those days are long over. These days, his chin is so soft he gets knocked over when the winds forgive and forget. He thinks the hen can see the snake’s feet. But the snake can see the hen’s boobs; Chuck’s boobs. And he’s about to get milked. This Christmas Chuck Liddell WILL be the last of the mohicans!

Insight from past fights?

David: To me, the thing with Chuck is that even if we didn’t see him losing a sparing match to a set of pads, we could still deduce that he’s slower. And even if he wasn’t slower, his chin has only gotten worse. For all of Tito’s faults, he can still take a reasonable amount of punishment while fighting a young man’s game. The same can’t said of Chuck. Yea, Ortiz has never been a powerful boxer, but he won’t need power to hurt Chuck at this point in his career.

Phil: Chuck did not look bad at all against Rich Franklin in his last fight. He was mobile, he feinted, he threw more kicks. It was one of his finest technical performances, barring the fact that he, er, got KOd by a man with a broken arm at the end of it. Other than that, I think it’s worth pointing out how bad these nostalgia fights tend to be. For every Nog-Couture, you get about five Gracie-Shamrocks or Ortiz-Bonnars. I’d tell the readers not to expect much, but I’m assuming that’s what they’re doing anyway…?


David: How tough was that run on the concourse?

Phil: The concept of analyzing X-Factors in Tito vs Chuck in 2018 is perverse. It ain’t right I tell you!


David: Liddell looked good in a fight he was knocked out in the first round of ten years ago. Tito looked okay in victory one year ago. As ridiculous as this fight is, the math of age seems consequential. Tito Ortiz by KO, round 1.

Phil: Ortiz looks like he’s physically still present, and Chuck definitely doesn’t. That’s good enough for me. One more for the Huntington Beach Bad Boy. Also, whether he wins or not, someone tell Chuck that the Rampage rematch is a terrible idea. Even in their primes Quinton was a nightmare for him, and he’s still pretty much as tough and strong as he ever was. Tito Ortiz by TKO, round 2.

Share this story

About the author
David Castillo
David Castillo

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories