Wow, now that is a statement. I know that most (if not all) his fights for his title were rematches, but I hardly think he was 'protected'. He fought at a time where Pride was a legit competitor, and a lot of fighters were loyal to that organization. Chuck was loyal to Dana, and fought where he held a belt. Guys like Jeremy Horn, Babalu etc. were no tamato cans for sure. They were the best that were available, and for sure very tough guys.
The fact is Chuck was a LEGIT beast, anyone who says otherwise should watch his bare knuckle fights in Brazil as a small example. Chuck was a warrior who fought anyone Dana could sign, and is one of the main reason's the UFC is what it is today.
And for the record, henderson could have attached a baseball bat to his 'H' bomb and hit Liddell with his hands down, and would not have come close to KO'ing him. That isn't even debatable. In his prime, Liddell couldn't be knocked out.
The fight would have been entertaining for sure, but if anyone was KO'ed it would have been Hendo.
A 'unhealthy' lifestyle hurt Liddell more than anything
He was stopped by Randy with strikes and Rampage beat him to the point his corner threw in the towel, and in between both Rampage fights he didn't fight anyone whose known for knocking people out, Vernon White, Tito, Bablu, Horn, and Couture were his "prime" and they all played into his style, they couldn't take him down and they couldn't threaten him on the feet. Dan Henderson could have.
Put Liddell in Pride and he's on the same level as a Lil' Nog or Arona, not Shogun, Rampage, or Wanderlei.