Couture Says He'd Unretire If Ortiz Beats Liddell

The following is from the Houston Chronicle website:

December 21, 2006

Couture outlines fight plan for Ortiz, eyes return to octagon if Tito succeeds

To hear Tito Ortiz tell it, he didn't get a fair shake in his April 2004 showdown with Chuck Liddell.

After a first round in which Ortiz held his own against “The Iceman,” a finger from a Liddell strike clipped Ortiz in the eye, and it was literally lights out for the former light heavyweight champion. His vision was impaired, and Liddell capitalized with an onslaught of blows that ended the bout at 38 seconds of the second frame.

At UFC 66, Ortiz (15-4) gets his long-awaited chance to prove that the loss to Liddell was an aberration. Trainer Saul Soliz commented yesterday on Brawl Sports that Ortiz is on track to enter the fight in the best shape of his career. The challenger also comes into the bout riding a five-fighting winning streak, although he hasn't faced the same caliber of competition that's been in front of Liddell (19-3) since the '04 face-off.

Style-wise, Liddell-Ortiz 2 is straightforward. Liddell wants to find his range, pick his shots, trade with Ortiz and drop his right-hand bomb. It worked the first time around, and his last eight victories have come via knockout or TKO.

For perspective on the Ortiz fight plan, we turn to a guy who knows a thing or two about beating both Ortiz and Liddell – “The Natural” Randy Couture.

“Tito has to be willing to step in and exchange and get Chuck to throw enough punches to try and hit him and then be able to protect himself, slip and move and then execute the transition and takedown off of that engagement.”
“I don't think the knockout (by Liddell) will come through that engagement. I think the knockout will come if you stand around in front of Chuck and try to stay out of range. He's long and rangy and uses his long jab to set up his right hand. He likes that slower tempo where he can place his shots and get to you that way. I think it's a lot riskier to stay outside and not engage. No way around it, you're going to get hit, and Tito's got to make friends with that. If he stays outside and lets Chuck use his range, he's probably going to get knocked out.”

Couture believes the more Ortiz can press Liddell, utilize his cardio edge and extend the fight into rounds three, four and five, the better chance he has at upsetting the champion.

“Absolutely … the more he makes Chuck work; the more he makes Chuck swing and miss and swing and even if he hits him … in those flurries of engagement, I don't think you'll see the knockout shot. You'll see Tito then be able to transition through that flurry of engagement and take the fight to the ground, which again, is ultimately going to make Chuck work to get back up to his feet, which he does very well. Tito's going to have to do that repeatedly; round after round.”

That's the blueprint Couture employed to beat Liddell at UFC 43, when Liddell was frustrated by the constant pressure. However, Couture couldn't duplicate that success in two rematches. Liddell's takedown defense and freakish ability to get back to his feet once pinned or cornered is legendary.

If “The Iceman” brings his “A” game Dec. 30, he'll likely make it 2-0 against Ortiz, and Couture picks the champ to repeat. However, the hall-of-famer might just be pulling for Ortiz to spring the upset.

“If Tito finds a way to beat Chuck, I'm going to have to come out of retirement and give Tito a whack.”

Asked if he was serious about lacing up the gloves again to fight Ortiz, Couture responded with an emphatic “absolutely.”

How about Couture-Ortiz 2 as an encore to the Liddell-Ortiz rematch?