Now that Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 Is Over, What If Anything Have We Learned?

Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz
Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz Credit: Tom Hogan - Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

Ortiz vs. Liddell 3 told us nothing we didn’t already know, and yet it still feels like there’s a lesson or two to be learned after Saturday night.

Heading into Liddell vs. Ortiz 3, Oscar De La Hoya, promoter of the dubious main event that unfolded Saturday night, said in an interview with MMA Junkie that one should never tell a fighter when to hang up the gloves. “You never tell a fighter to retire. That’s his business. It’s the fighter’s business,” he told the outlet. De La Hoya, a former fighter himself, was speaking from the heart. Unfortunately, it’s the head that’s required when such decisions are being weighed. And realistically, it’s the job of several parties — coaches, commissioners, loved ones — to suggest a fighter call it a career.

It’s a shame none of them told Chuck Liddell prior to Saturday night.

The main event of Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 was exactly what many thought it would be. Exactly what many feared. An aged and obviously slowed Liddell shambled around the cage, awkwardly looking for a way to land on Tito Ortiz. Ortiz, who had not been away from the sport for long, was without question the superior athlete. He beat Liddell at his own game. But in reality, father time beat Chuck Liddell before he ever stepped into the Golden Boy MMA cage.

“I wouldn’t have made this comeback if I didn’t feel like I was in great shape. I made a mistake. I got caught,” Liddell said after the fight. All of that, on the surface, is true. Liddell was in great shape, for a 48 year old man. Yet being in great shape, and being in fight shape, are two different things. Liddell never looked to be in fight shape, as his disastrous open workout proved.

Any talk that Liddell was pulling a fast one at the open workouts, intentionally trying to look bad to throw his opponent off heading into Saturday, went out the window in a heartbeat when Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 got underway at The Forum in L.A. And no one should have been surprised. We’ve been here before, after all. Shamrock vs. Slice was just as farcical. Not that you can blame the athletes. Wanting to keep competing is natural, and in any other line of work, wouldn’t be an issue. In fighting, however, it’s dangerous, and no one really needed to see Liddell knocked out again.

Fighters rarely want to admit time has passed them by. Promoters, however, have a responsibility to watch out for the safety of their athletes (sorry, independent contractors). For once, Dana White got one right, ushering ‘The Ice Man’ into retirement all those years ago. He’ll get an I told you so moment out of this, but it’s doubtful even White wants to brag about this one.

Ortiz, in the four and half minutes or so that it took to put away Liddell with a combination that the Chuck of old would have seen coming a mile away, proved little. Other than that a fighter who has recently competed and stayed in the gym will have a clear advantage over an aging fighter eight years removed from the game. As if you really needed that lesson. Ortiz finally got his revenge on Saturday, but in a victory akin to elder abuse, that’s not really much to celebrate. Worse, he encouraged Liddell to continue fighting. Apparently, the hatchet wasn’t completely buried Saturday night, because Ortiz wants to see his old rival take further punishment.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom on Saturday, mind you. As bizarre as the whole ramp-up to Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 was, as underwhelming as the main event was, the production was top notch. The commentary and analysis solid, outside of Rashad Evans tripping over his tongue once or twice. The house was packed come the main event. Deron Winn, the undefeated prospected matched up against the returning Tom Lawlor in the co-main event, emerged as a potential star. There were some solid submission finishes.

Golden Boy is welcome to stick around MMA. Through all the weirdness, including the Golden Boy himself being unable to pronounce Chuck Liddell’s name, there was some entertainment value Saturday. Of course, whether the promotion tries again will no doubt rest on how Liddell vs. Ortiz 3 performed on Pay-Per-View. But should De La Hoya take a second stab at promoting an MMA event, let’s hope he chooses a main event more relevant, and less decrepit.


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