A Moment for Chris Leben

Photo courtesy of ufc.com

Photo courtesy of ufc.com

It was oddly poignant watching Chris Leben quit on his stool at UFC 168. His heart and brawling style had made him a fan favourite even through his troubles in and outside the cage so how fitting it was to see him retire “The Crippler” by choice after feeling the sting of Uriah Hall’s counter at the climax of the first round.

The Leben of young would have gladly kept swinging even as his consciousness left him (seriously, MMA fans coined the term “Zombie Leben” for a reason) so his choice to end the fight and now his career demonstrate how much the last few years changed this old warhorse and why now really is the perfect time for him to hang up those worn 4oz gloves.

One of the contestants of the original series of the Ultimate Fighter alongside hall of famers Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, Leben brought an unpredictable and eccentric nature to the TUF house to complement his iron chinned brawling style in the octagon and became an instant fan favourite.

Make no mistake about it though; Leben was much more than that. “The Crippler” was capable of pulling out all the stops to grasp victory and won four knockout of the night bonuses throughout his career as well as two fight of the night bonuses.

His finest hour came against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116 with the two men going to war for three straight rounds and Leben picking up a very late submission victory via triangle choke with only twenty seconds left of the final round.

Sadly the last few years weren’t so kind to the 33 year old with his suspension following a post-fight test showing he used banned substance prior to his meeting with Mark Munoz and two exhausting three round fights with Derek Brunson and Andrew Craig leading to his 168 bout with Hall, both of which Leben lost. Yet “The Crippler” never stopped coming, his heart pushing him forward even as his now battered body just couldn’t keep up with the younger generation of athletes.

MMA fans used to the more polished styles of the next generation of fighters will probably never realise the importance of a fighter like Chris Leben but for older fans his exit is met with anything but indifference. Leben was one of the last gunslingers of a rock & roll generation of fighters and as that influence slowly leaves the sport it’s hard not to get a little upset.

 



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