Welcome to the first installment of Fight Fiction™, where any fight is possible... regardless of weight class, fighting style, time alive, monetary requirements, logistics, etc. These are the fights that we would all pay ridiculous and copious amounts of money to see happen.
The rules here are simple. The fight takes place in an Octagon, under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (UFC rules). Weight classes are not enforced, so no pre-fight weight cutting occurs. Both martial artists are assumed to be in their "prime," whatever age they are generally considered to be at their physical peak.
Additionally, in these fantasy scenarios, both fighters are given exactly three months to train and work on styles of fighting that might be new to them.
In this case, we have...
Legendary Boxer Mike Tyson vs. Legendary MMA Boss Chuck Liddell
I think there's no better fight to kick off this series with than Chuck Liddell vs. Mike Tyson. Both men packed a serious punch and were physically imposing in their respective primes. Of course, Tyson has the clear advantage in striking - as a professional boxer - but Chuck Liddell's ground game and ability to be comfortable in the Octagon would help him tremendously.
The Case For Tyson
Mike Tyson could have the edge in this fight for four reasons:
1. He would likely knock out Chuck Liddell with relative ease, as long as he didn't get taken to the ground. Liddell has a strong chin, but it's far from rock solid. 6 of his 8 losses have come via KO or TKO... and Tyson is easily one of the hardest hitting men to ever grace combat sports. Nearly half of Tyson's wins came in the first round, and that's while wearing the more heavily-padded boxing gloves.
2. Liddell is not typically known as a "smart fighter," a fact that guys like Randy Couture and Keith Jardine have used to tactically out-fight him (Couture with short straight punches, Jardine with leg kicks). Liddell is a very effective martial artist overall, but outside of his power hooks and takedown defense, he does not often demonstrate a great ability to improvise. His losses are generally against more precise, technical fighters.
3. Even if Tyson ends up on the ground, we have to consider the fact that he would have time to work on his BJJ skills, and with his already naturally athletic frame, he'd be no easy prey on the mat. This is especially true when you consider that Liddell had exactly zero submission victories during his UFC career.
4. Tyson also has a significant weight advantage, typically weighing in at around 240 lbs. Liddell fought in the UFC at 205 lbs (although it's worth noting that since Liddell is not cutting weight for this fight, the difference is not quite as extreme as it may appear).
The Case For Liddell
Chuck Liddell could win this fight for four reasons:
1. Even with a month to train, the grappling edge is still entirely Chuck Liddell's. He's a former NCAA Division I wrestler, and began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu very early in his MMA career. While he mostly used this experience to prevent takedowns, his ground game will still be miles ahead of Tyson's
2. Liddell would likely be able to hold his own on his feet, as long as he fights smart. While Liddell is no championship boxer, he does have professional kickboxing experience, and a significant 8 inch reach advantage. He could potentially use both of those factors to maintain his distance until he can get the fight to the ground. Plus, he's more familiar with striking using MMA gloves, while Tyson spent his career fighting with much bulkier boxing gloves.
3. Many boxing analysts believe that Mike Tyson's biggest weakness was his heart and resolve in a fight. In his bouts against fighters like Evander Holyfield, Kevin McBride, and Lennox Lewis, Tyson was unable to dominate the fight early, and became visibly demoralized. His inhuman KO power also allowed him to avoid long fights, which would end up costing him against particularly resilient opponents. Almost every single one of Tyson's losses came after the fourth round. While his cardio was not great either, Liddell was notoriously tenacious, once defeating Tito Ortiz with both a torn MCL and a popped tendon in his hand. If Liddell could pull Tyson into the championship rounds, he may have a significant advantage.
4. The biggest and most obvious advantage though is the fact that Chuck Liddell is a UFC fighter. He's not especially extraordinary in any particular martial art discipline, but he has proven that he can connect it all into an extremely fight-ready system. Tyson meanwhile has spent his entire career training for a sport without kicking or submission fighting, which means he's built up habits which are going to be difficult to break.
Overall, I think it'd be a tough fight to call, but gun to my head, I'd put my money on Mike Tyson.
Chuck Liddell has consistently proven that he has a difficult time adapting his fighting style to specific opponents, and when faced with a striker as agile and powerful as Tyson, I don't think he'd be able to absorb that punishment.
Most of Liddell's biggest victories came against grapplers, due in large part to his phenomenal ability to nullify takedowns. However, in his fights against guys like Alistair Overeem and Rampage Jackson, we've seen that he struggles to find a rhythm against more technical boxers.
If Liddell could get it to the ground, he would certainly have the advantage, but he's rarely demonstrated an ability to submit his opponents, or even maintain dominant positions. I think with the right training, Tyson's pure physical strength would be enough to either nullify Liddell's submission game... or let Tyson pull a Liddell himself, and avoid the takedown altogether with counter-striking.
What do you think?