Chris “The Crippler” Leben (22-11), one of the most popular fighters in the history of the UFC, announced his retirement earlier this week. Leben was loved by many for his “knockout at any cost” style. While Leben never wore UFC gold, the longevity and entertainment value of his career should merit consideration for the UFC Hall of Fame. Join us as we take a look back at the five career defining moments for Chris Leben.
5. Winning the WEC Middleweight Title Against Mike Swick
It was January 16th, 2004. The WEC was a little known promotion that aired on HDNet, Chris Leben was described as a wrestler, Mike Swick was unknown, and Josh Rosenthal still had hair. To say things were different would be an understatement. What took place that night would end up becoming the budding point in Leben’s career. After a close four minutes, Chris Leben absolutely rocked Mike Swick with a hard left hand. It was a surprising moment for all in attendance as Leben was thought of as only a wrestler and Mike Swick was supposed to be the kickboxing expert. Swick was able to make it out of the first round but was clearly not all there going into the second. Things looked to get better for Swick in the second but he became the first to find out that when you hurt Chris Leben he doesn’t go down; he puts you down. After being buckled by Swick, Leben came forward with a left hook that put Swick out cold. This was the birth of “The Crippler” we all know and love.
4. The Starching of Alessio Sakara
In my opinion this is the quintessential Chris Leben fight. Leben and Sakara met in the middle of the cage and began to throw leather immediately. Each fighter rocked the other before Leben put Sakara against the cage and turned his lights out with brutal punches. Whenever Chris Leben was thrown on a card the fans would expect to see a fight exactly like this. Both guys going for it until the one of them goes to sleep. If you were to teach a class on Chris Leben, this is the fight you would show on the first day.
3. The Comeback Versus Terry Martin
After likely being down 20-17 on the judges scorecards against Terry Martin, Chris Leben needed to do something spectacular to save his UFC career. Boy, did he ever. With one minute and fifteen seconds left in the bout, Martin clocked Leben with punches that made “The Crippler” stagger back towards the fence. Martin went for the kill but Leben had other plans. Before Martin could land the finishing blow, Leben stormed forward and put Martin out with a huge left hook. Leben showed that he was not a fighter that quit when things got rough. Instead, he was a fighter who could never be counted out of a fight. The finish also gave him that cool “Zombie Leben” moniker that would follow him to the end of his career.
2. Two Wins In Two Weeks
With a record of 1-2 in his last three bouts, Chris Leben was in desperate need of a win against Aaron Simpson. Simpson was able to out-class Leben in the first round, taking him down multiple times and beating Leben in the stand-up. The second round was much different. Simpson began to slow just as Leben was beginning to heat-up. After eating a series of hard left hands, Simpson tried to scamper across the cage only to fall flat on his face giving Leben the TKO victory. This fight signaled a new era in Leben’s career as he had finally strung together back to back wins for the first time since 2008. Even thought this seemed like a storybook ending, Leben was far from done in 2010. He then agreed to fill in against Yoshihiro Akiyama just two weeks after TKOing Simpson. Akiyama and Leben put on a fight of the year caliber performance where Leben scored another come from behind victory, submitting the Japanese superstar in the third round. 2010 was by far Leben’s best year inside the Octagon and further solidified his place in the UFC history books.
1. Knocking Out A Legend
At UFC 132 Chris Leben was matched up with his personal hero and mixed martial arts legend Wanderlei Silva. Most fans expected the bout to be quick and violent but the result still left many in awe. Silva came out guns blazing and rocked Leben just fifteen seconds into the bout. Leben fired back, grabbed a single collar tie clinch, and uncorked multiple left uppercuts that left his idol unconscious. It took just twenty-seven seconds for Leben to destroy one of mixed martial arts most feared fighters. This was by far the best moment in Leben’s career as he proved to himself and the world that he was one of the best to ever compete inside the cage.
The entire staff here at SciFighting would like to congratulate Chris Leben on his amazing mixed martial arts career and wish him the best in all of his future endeavors.
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