Tito Ortiz has finally exacted revenge against Chuck Liddell.
More than 14 years after their first fight and 12 years past their rematch, Ortiz finished Liddell with a brutal first round knockout in their trilogy showdown at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. on Saturday night.
The throwback trilogy came together thanks to Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions, who jumped into the mixed martial arts game specifically to put together this matchup between two UFC Hall of Famers.
While Ortiz fought last January when he defeated Chael Sonnen in Bellator, Liddell had been out of action for the past eight years following his retirement from the UFC. Judging by what unfolded on Saturday night, it’s tough to imagine Liddell lacing on the gloves again.
As the fight got started, Ortiz was the aggressor as he took the center of the cage and started to look for boxing combinations and not even looking for the takedown.
Liddell looked slow on his feet and even slower in his reactions whenever Ortiz would leap forward with punches or the few leg kicks he landed. Still, Liddell stood with his powerful right hand cocked just waiting to unleash it but that moment never came.
Instead, Ortiz continued to press forward and even lowered his hands, pointed to his chin and taunted Liddell to hit him at one point during the first round.
All fight long, Liddell was on his back foot and that finally backfired when Ortiz pressed forward and started launching punches at him in succession with the 48-year old former champion trapped against the cage.
That’s when Ortiz blasted “The lceman” with a right hand to the chin and Liddell’s eyes rolled back as he crumbled to the canvas. Ortiz followed up with a couple of more punches but Liddell was already laid out on the mat unconscious.
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Referee Herb Dean rushed into stop the contest with the end coming at 4:24 into the opening round.
Ortiz erupted in celebration after twice falling to Liddell while both fighters were in the prime of their careers competing in the UFC. The victory might ring somewhat hollow considering Liddell didn’t look anywhere near the same fighter who earned those two knockouts more than a decade ago but Ortiz definitely gained a sense of redemption in what is likely the final fight of his legendary career.
“The whole game plan was never to do a takedown,” Ortiz said about his lack of wrestling during the fight. “I wanted to box Chuck. I wanted to test his skills. You’re not taking eight years off, coming back in my cage and trying to stop me. Hell no.”
While Ortiz was obviously elated about the victory that helped him exorcize the demons of Liddell that haunted him for most of his career, he did pay homage to his greatest rival after the fight was finished.
“I’ve gotta be respectful. Chuck Liddell, thank you for taking this fight,” Ortiz said. “You gave me an opportunity to show my skills. You gave us an opportunity to start something great with Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions. Chuck, thank you. You pushed me hard, dude. You made me work super, super hard.
“At the end of the day Chuck, I’m a respectful man. I appreciate what you gave me the opportunity to do. You’re a f–king true champion, brother.”
For his part, a bruised and defeated Liddell didn’t really want to address the future, although it’s tough to imagine a scenario where at nearly 49-years old he’s going to compete again after this fight.
“I came back. I got in great shape. I was ready for this fight,” Liddell said after the loss. “I got out there and I got caught. I made a mistake and it is what it is. I don’t think it was my best showing for sure. I got in shape, I was ready for this fight. I have no excuses.
“We’re going to have to sit back and think about it. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Ortiz had said prior to this card that his trilogy with Liddell would be the last time he stepped inside the cage. He didn’t exactly address that after the fight but if this really is the end, he seemed to close out his Hall of Fame career on a high note by finally earning a win over Liddell.
As for Liddell, it was hard enough seeing him compete on Saturday night and it would be even tougher to imagine a scenario where he fights again following the loss to Ortiz in their third and seemingly final confrontation.
MAIN EVENT: Tito Oritz def. Chuck Liddell by knockout (strikes) at 4:24, R1
Deron Winn def. Tom Lawlor by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Gleison Tibau def. Efrain Escudero by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Ricky Palacios def. Walel Watson by knockout (punches) at 3:56, R1
James Barnes def. Alberto Morales by submission (armbar) at 4:09, Round 3
Jay Silva def. Oscar Cota by technical submission (arm-triangle choke) at 2:13, Round 3
Johnny Cisneros def. Dave Terrel by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-26)
Fernie Garcia def. Joe Roye by submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:48, R1
Francisco Estrada def. Jose Huerta by submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:47, R2