If you ask any mainstream MMA fan to name three fighters, the chances are pretty damn good that the names Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture will routinely come up.
If you ask MMA historians about great rivalries and series of matches, the trilogy between Liddell and Couture will definitely come up, a trios of bouts that completed just as the crest of the UFC tidal wive was crashing on pop culture around the globe.
For quite a long time, I had an idea jotted down to do a column on the perfect fight, one that would successfully conclude two careers and do so in a way that tipped a cap to the sport's past while making some good money in its present.
That fight was Chuck Liddell -- Randy Couture IV, a bout which would be the final one for both fighters. With Liddell's retirement made official Wednesday, it seemed like a great time to tap the fingers on the keyboard.
On the surface, some would hate this fight because of the stages both guys are (were?) at in their careers. But put titles, rankings and all that aside for a minute. Can you imagine the hype and buzz for a double-retirement match with two of MMA's most well-known assets? Are you kidding me? Who wouldn't watch that?
While it's possible that every fight could be a guy's last, I can't remember an MMA scenario when someone knew and verbalized ahead of time that their next fight would be their last. If Liddell and Couture were to agree to that stipulation, that would have made for incredible drama and a fitting conclusion to two incredible and important careers in the sport.
Just look at these resumes:
- 1-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion with four successful defenses of the title
- Key Wins: Couture (twice), Tito Ortiz (twice), Alistair Overeem, Wanderlei Silva, Renato Sobral (twice)
- Key Losses: Couture, Rampage Jackson (twice), Rashad Evans, 'Shogun' Rua
- 2-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, 3-time UFC Heavyweight Champion
- Key Wins: Liddell, Ortiz, Kevin Randleman, Tim Sylvia, Vitor Belfort (twice)
- Key Losses: Liddell (twice), Ricco Rodriguez, Josh Barnett, Brock Lesnar
The two first fought at UFC 43 in June 2003 as Couture won via 3rd round TKO to earn the interim Light Heavyweight title. They would rematch two years later following the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC 52 in April 2005. Liddell got his revenge by downing Couture by 1st round TKO to win back his belt.
Liddell and Couture met for the final time in February 2006 at UFC 57 and Liddell completed the trilogy by winning by 2nd round KO. Couture would go on to defeat Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, while Liddell defended his belt two more times before going 1-5 in his final six fights.
But he was on Entourage, so that counts for something.
Two of the most influential and popular figures in MMA history going fist-to-fist one last time in the Octagon would have made for amazing drama, mainstream press and an emotional 15 minutes of action. The cliche of leaving it all on the line? Yeah, I think that would have happened here for sure.
With Liddell's retirement to the UFC front office and Couture alluding he also might be near the end, it's a shame we'll never see the fourth battle.
But as we've learned from a certain quarterback, no retirement is ever official.
Josh Nason is a New England-based freelance MMA journalist that covers live events, has written for FIGHT! Magazine and frequently does radio/podcast appearances. He asks for your "like" for ESPN Boston to cover MMA. Follow him on Twitter.