'Axe Murderer' ready for Liddell

Chuck Liddell (left) and Wanderlei Silva will face each other Sat., Dec. 29 at UFC 79. (UFC Photo)

Chuck Liddell (left) and Wanderlei Silva will face each other Sat., Dec. 29 at UFC 79. (UFC Photo)

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 12:49 PM ET

It should come as little shock that one of the strongest weapons in Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva's arsenal is a good solid soccer kick to the melon.

He is, after all, Brazilian.

But the relentless Silva, who has ended more than one fight with a swift boot or head stomp while his opponent is down, will have to amend his game plan for his much-anticipated showdown with Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell later this month.

Unlike Pride, where Silva has spent the last seven years, the Ultimate Fighting Championship doesn't allow kicking or kneeing an opponent while he's down.

"I'm going to change my game a little bit because I have to fight within the rules," said the 31-year-old Silva, who had his first pro fight at 20 and holds a 31-7 record with 21 knockouts.

"I'm going to miss it, but maybe in the future they're going to change the rules here."

Silva hasn't fought in the Octagon since losing a decision judgment to Tito Ortiz at UFC 25 in April 2000.

Silva says he's in the best shape of his life and will substitute solid boots to the body and head in for his head stomps and soccer kicks -- while his opponent is standing, of course.

The former Pride middleweight champ has been training at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas with the help of Canadian coaching sensation Sean Tompkins.

The pairing of Silva and Liddell has been in the works for some time, but Liddell's title loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and a subsequent loss to Keith "Dean of Mean" Jardine delayed the fight as the light-heavyweight pecking order underwent a major facelift.

Still, UFC president Dana White said fans should wait no longer to see the two superstars clash and booked the fight for UFC 79: Nemesis.

Like Liddell, Silva is coming off two straight losses for the first time in his career, to Dan Henderson and Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic before Pride was dissolved and its marquis fighters shifted to the UFC.

The differences -- and similarities -- in styles between Silva and Liddell should make for an explosive scrap.

Both are excellent strikers, though Silva is more likely to be an aggressor, while Liddell has chalked up most of his wins with his unorthodox counter punching.

Both have a strong ground game. Liddell possesses the best sprawl in the sport, while Silva is arguably its most tenacious fighter.

For both fighters, UFC 79 has the potential to be a turning point in their careers. Silva will become a top contender for Jackson's belt with a win, while a loss for the 38-year-old Liddell could spell the end of his Hall-of-Fame career.

White said the day he signed Silva was the greatest of his life and has worked more than a year to make the match happen. On Dec. 29, mixed-martial arts fans will see if it was worth the wait.


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