In just a few days the UFC will showcase two matches that could easily be main events by themselves, one of which is a dream match of two years ago that MMA fans thought they might never see. Ever since Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva sat atop the 205-pound division in their respective organizations, we’ve wanted to see them square off. It seemed like the definitive UFC vs. Pride showdown, and it also began to seem more and more like one that would forever remain a dream. So now that it’s finally happening, why isn’t there a little more excitement in the air?
One answer is that the UFC hype machine is inexplicably asleep on the job. The same organization that got us to believe any number of other underwhelming matchups would yield the fight of the century seems to think their success was assured the day they inked this fight for UFC 79. The truth is, this fight’s ready-made storyline has unlimited potential. Too bad it’s being ignored.
Liddell-Silva is, in many ways, a good old-fashioned ‘Loser Leaves Town’ match. Two fighters who were once icons of the sport, now in what looks to be the twilight of great careers, squaring off to see who still has it and who should look for a new line of work. That’s essentially what this match is about, even if the UFC isn’t saying it.
That doesn’t mean I believe that we’ll never see the loser of this fight in the Octagon again, or that the winner will necessarily have revived his career with a victory. It isn’t bound to produce any result so definitive, at least not officially. But at the same time this match is a career barometer for both men.
Liddell is coming off two consecutive losses in which he looked like a grim shadow of the dominant fighter who once ushered Randy Couture into a short-lived retirement. Silva suffered two devastating knockout losses as Pride took for granted and misused his services in the last days of their empire. That means both of them are standing at a precipice right now. Both of them have to be asking themselves whether those losses were just an unfortunate string of events, or if they were the death knell of a career.
A lot of people have said that Liddell-Silva is a match two years too late. That’s true, but only if you believe that the point of the match is to see who’s the best 205-pounder in the world. The answer is, neither of them. They haven’t fallen off the top ten list, but neither one is a title-holder anymore. Even so, this is still an important fight if you view it through the right lens.
We shouldn’t try to look at this as a battle for supremacy. It’s not about that. Instead it’s a battle to stay in the game. That’s about as high as the stakes can get.