A Tribute To Chuck Liddell


When it comes to the style of sprawlin’ and brawlin’, Chuck Liddell stands as the quintessential representation of this style. While the Iceman has since retired, at one point he was the hottest thing on the scene. While his name no longer escapes the lips of the casuals, those of us who were around in those days still remember the reverence and respect  that the invocation of Liddell’s name would bring. But first, let’s define the ‘Sprawl and Brawl’ style. Wikipedia accurately summarizes this style of fighting:

Sprawl-and-brawl is a stand-up fighting tactic that consists of effective stand-up striking, while avoiding ground fighting, typically by using sprawls to defend against takedowns.

A sprawl-and-brawler is usually a boxer, kickboxer, Thai boxer or full contact karate fighter who has trained in wrestling to avoid takedowns to keep the fight standing. Often, these fighters will study submission wrestling to avoid being submitted, should they find themselves on the ground. This style can be deceptively different from traditional kickboxing styles, since sprawl-and-brawlers must adapt their techniques to incorporate takedown and ground fighting defense. Chuck Liddell, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Mark Hunt, and Junior dos Santos are examples of sprawl-and-brawl fighters.

What is the sprawl?

A sprawl is a martial arts and especially wrestling term for a defensive technique that is done in response to certain takedown attempts, typically double or single leg takedown attempts. The sprawl is performed by scooting the legs backwards, so as to land on the upper back of the opponent attempting the takedown. The resultant position is also known as a sprawl or sprawling position.

Ideally, the sprawling athlete should arch his back as much as possible and keep his knees off the mat. His options here including attempting to gain leverage on the lower back by hooking underneath the elbows; throwing in a headlock; and grabbing his opponent’s ankles and trying to get behind his opponent.

Chuck Liddell grew up studying karate from the age of 12, leading to his unorthodox striking style, particularly his overhand right, which earned him numerous knockouts. At 13 Kos, The Iceman holds the record for the most knockouts in the UFC. His unique overhand right, widely copied but never truly emulated, was an almost vertical strike, chopping through his opponents’ guards and takes advantage of the lack of peripheral vision. A powerful and invisible strike.

liddell overhand

Despite his striking background, Liddell was also a skilled wrestler, having wrestled Division 1 in California Polytechnic State University. Despite his wrestling skills, Chuck preferred to keep the fight on the feet, using his wrestling skills to avoid the takedown and his unorthodox striking to end it. He was also a pioneer of cage walking techniques, using this skill to get back to his feet when his almighty sprawl failed.

liddell sprawl liddell wrestling

Check out his higlights here:


Chuck Liddell Trivia:

  • When Chuck Liddell was 10 years old, he was an extra in the movie “The Postman Always Knocks Twice”, starring Jack Nicholson. Since then, he has had 18 more movie and TV parts.
  • He’s an author, having released the book Iceman: My Fighting Life in 2008
  • He majored in accounting (no doubt the boredom that is accounting drove him to MMA)
  • He was a four year starter on his high school football team, which no doubt contributed to his athleticism and physicality (I try to emulate this by lifting weights and consuming a ton of protein; I check out The Protein Investor for my protein purchasing decisions).
  • He was the coach on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter against Randy Couture, who he would knockout only a few months later to become the UFC’s Light Heavyweight Champion.
  • He was a contestant on Season 9 of Dancing With The Stars, coming in 11th place at Week 4.

 liddell book