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Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva: What’s Next?

The end of the year extravaganza of events brought about a historic matchup that had been fantasized about by many mixed martial arts fans. Chuck Liddell fought Wanderlei Silva on Saturday evening to finally determine which of the two dominating strikers was better skilled in fight that was supposed to never go to a decision. Unfortunately for many fans, the fight didn’t end in a catastrophic knockout that rocked the arena with a shockwave from the impact. Instead, we saw a fantastic display of determination and heart from both fighters.

Eventually, Liddell’s reach advantage and better overall striking technique bested the looping mechanics of Silva’s standup skills. Although Silva hung his head in shame, it was evident that his intense training regiment of a snorkel, closed off nostrils, and heavy circuit work had increased his abilities to recover and hardened his chin. Liddell even stated after the fight that he was surprised by Silva’s chin. Both fighters exhibited improved skills and cardio, so to an extent, both fighters helped each other gain something from this fight. Where will these guys go next?

Liddell looking up to the top

Liddell showed us that he is still very dangerous at the ripe age of 38 years old. Many fans were giving up on Liddell’s one-dimensional skillset, but he showed that he could at least show his wrestling skills in order to eat up time and lock in the win. His reach advantage was obviously a factor, but punching with straight loaded punches was the key to beating Silva’s attempts to get inside with his looping haymakers. With the win, it seems that Liddell’s popularity may propel him back to the top very quickly much. This may be much to the dismay to hardcore fans who have been waiting to see some of the current talent near the top get a title shot.

With that said, who’s in the mix to face Liddell next? Let’s go straight down the list of names. Griffin and Rampage are both facing each other in what was said at the UFC 79 post-event press conference as sometime in August. The most talked about names are “Shogun” Rua, Lyoto Machida, and some fans have even suggested Rashad Evans as a filler fight before a title shot. Interesting choices indeed.

Rua may have some significant problems against Liddell. Liddell’s striking is very good, and Rua’s power has never been enough to really knock anyone out with a solid punch. His power lies in his knees and clinch much like one of his former training partners, Wanderlei Silva. It is definitely a matchup that gives Liddell more boost in his ranking and definitely could legitimize a title fight. Shogun did after all beat Rampage in PRIDE.

Machida is an interesting fight that would be surprising for the UFC to make. If their intention is to build Liddell back up into a champion, Machida is not the type of fighter that you want to fight. His tactical strikes and counter striking skills would be frustrating for Liddell to deal with. Even more frustrating, Liddell is also a counter puncher. This could make for a very boring bout, or a bout that Liddell makes a big mistake getting caught up in the crowd’s booing when Machida simply waits out Liddell. Machida doesn’t budge and is patient. Liddell is definitely more likely to make the mistake.

Evans just defeated Michael Bisping, but it wasn’t in any type of dominating fashion. We are all very used to seeing Rashad dance in the cage and win close decision battles, but that won’t solidify him as a top fighter. Chuck may get an easy win fight in Rashad Evans, and that type of matchup doesn’t present anything overly tough for Chuck to overcome. Does that matchup really have a chance of happening? Rua is a more likely opponent. Soukoudjou is always in the mix as well.

Silva is still dangerous

The UFC will most likely be looking to get Silva some wins and hopefully down the line promote a rematch of the two strikers. In the end, Liddell does seem to have the advantage, and it will be up to Silva to improve enough to defeat Liddell’s reach and good striking. Who can the UFC put up against him to begin the trail back?

Will they relegate Jardine to taking on “The Axe Murderer”? It’s always possible, but unlikely due to the fact that Jardine did just beat Liddell in his last fight. Rashad is more realistic of a matchup for Silva, but Soukoudjou is now in the mix and could provide an epic war of two more strikers. Does the UFC want to risk losing their investment on Silva? Its doubtful, but Joe Silva may feel that it is stylistically better for Wanderlei. Soukoudjou has longer reach however and some of the same type of striking as Liddell.

Silva vs. Thiago Silva? Two strikers. Silva vs. Houston Alexander? Two strikers. The UFC has a plethora of striking opponents that would be thrilled to face a top notch striker like Wanderlei Silva. Unfortunately for those fighters, Silva’s cardio techniques seemed to have enabled him to recover from heavy blows very well. We could see a run through some opponents for Silva and if Liddell happens to be stopped on his way to the top, we could see a clash of the two legends again.

Outlook for Silva and Liddell

As dominant as Wanderlei Silva was in PRIDE at times, he has some problems. Technically speaking, his striking isn’t exactly tactical or strategic in any way. He tries to capitalize on his opponent moving in and missing a strike or he moves in with such a quick pace that it surprises his opponent. The problem with that type of style is that it does open you up to the flash knockout and is more susceptible to leaving yourself open to defeat. He’ll have to prove to us that he can really become surgical with those heavy looping punches.

Liddell, on the other hand, has a very good outlook. Rua is a matchup that should definitely benefit him if it happens, and there really isn’t a battle near the upper-echelon that Liddell doesn’t have a great chance at winning. Rampage is really his only huge obstacle. Look for Liddell to get another win and begin moving up the ladder again.

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