King of the Hill: Randy Couture

By Mike Sloan Oct 9, 2003
Almost two weeks ago, back on September 26th inside the glorious Mandalay Bay Events Center, Randy Couture proved to the mixed martial arts world that he is the quintessential miracle man. His back-to-back destructions of Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz or legendary, of course, but to do it at such an advanced age is nothing short of miraculous.

Let’s not forget about the possible career-ending injury to his eye socket he sustained in a losing battle against Ricco Rodriguez almost one year ago. Add that into the mix and you’re concocting up one hell of a fountain of youth-type serum. Nobody, I mean nobody who is active in the fight game as a fighter should be doing the things Couture is at 40. Yep; 40. Couture is the huge, nasty, dreaded FOUR-OH. And still, he thrashed Liddell and Ortiz so easily, it makes one wonder if those two victims even trained.

When I asked teammate Matt Lindland just what in the world does Randy eat to perform to the utmost of his capabilities, a baffled and amazed Lindland had no answer. Compare Couture to other 40-year-old fighters. Roberto Duran: trounced by William Joppy. Evander Holyfield: Obliterated by James Toney. Maurice Smith: dominated by Rick Roufus. Randy Couture: ate up Liddell and Ortiz (okay, so Couture was only 39. Sue me).

Naturally both Liddell and Ortiz have lost before. The best lose at least once, unless, of course, your name is Rocky Marciano, Ricardo Lopez or Rickson Gracie. But forget those three warriors I just mentioned. Two were great boxers, not MMA fighters, and the other holds a ledger of winning allegedly 300 fights without a loss. Bologna.

Anyway, Liddell suffered a loss via submission against Jeremy Horn with mere seconds to go in the match. Ortiz lost to both Guy Mezger and Frank Shamrock. Since those losses, both Liddell and Ortiz built up massive reputations as near unbeatable figures in the sport, each with a unique fighting style.

As you well know by now, Ortiz was accused of ducking Liddell, some said he was scared, blah, blah, blah. Couture seized the moment and fought Liddell and hardly anybody gave him a chance of winning. Most felt that with Liddell’s sprawl and wicked striking power, Couture would fold, get knocked unconscious and fade away into oblivion. Or, as Mike Tyson once said, “Fade away into Bolivian.”

Couture, like has done umpteen times already in his illustrious career, proved all the naysayers wrong by not only defeating Liddell, he whipped him dearly. Liddell had his ass handed to him on an alloy platter. Couture stopped him in the third round via TKO after thrashing him repeatedly. It was like Liddell stole the rubber tires off of Couture’s slot car racers and flushed them down the toilet. Couture was irate and somebody had to pay. Liddell paid. Oh boy, did he pay.

Liddell took the loss like the true champion he is and openly spoke about the loss like a man. He made no excuses, gave all the credit in the world to Couture and vowed to return with a vengeance. He has since entered the PRIDE middleweight Grand Prix, stopping Alistair Overeem in the first round by virtue of a sizzling first round KO.

Exit Chuck, re-enter Tito, who had been AWOL for many moons, filming the second sequel to The Crow. Okay, cool. He’s out makin’ loot, trying to get his film career rollin’ and that’s fine and dandy. But two things, Tito; 1) Does anybody really care about another Crow movie? After Brandon Lee accidentally died in the first movie, which wasn’t that great in all actuality, the second one was direct-to-Blockbuster. 2) Tito, you’re fame comes from fighting, not acting, and your fans have been left in the shade for a very long time due to personal issues and “entertainment commitments.”

I could be wrong and for Tito’s Hollywood career’s sake, I hope to a higher power that I’m wrong. I want nothing more for Tito than to excel in Hollywood. Aside from ignoring dozens of my calls for interviews, a move that always spells eventual loss to anyone inside the Octagon, Tito’s been one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever chatted with. At every fight card we both happen to attend, he’s one of the friendliest cats on earth. Tito: I hope Crow 3 rakes in billions!

So, Tito finished shooting the film and immediately began shooting off his mouth to the media and to Couture. However, after announcing that he’d fight Couture, he was still dogged by the fans and media. He bellied jive towards Couture like, “You know, when I wake up in the morning, that belt is still there on my dresser and after I fight you, that belt is still going to be there,” or “I’m the true light heavyweight champion of the world. After I smash Couture, Liddell’s next.”

Up until UFC 44, Ortiz has always backed up every word he’s ever barked before a fight. He is one of the rare people in the fight game who can back up the smack talk. All the way until John McCarthy told the two to get it on, Ortiz had won the verbal war hands down.

As he entered the Octagon that fateful night, he stomped inside the fence, jumped up and down and glared probably the sickest glare known to man. This dude was ready and nary a soul was denying that. Across from Tito was the calm and collected Couture, a smile on his face, seemingly at ease with himself.

He just oozed of confidence. Not that Tito didn’t, mind you, but there was a certain glow to Couture as his name was being announced, like as if he already knew the outcome and was simply basking in the glory of a victory yet to be known by the viewers. That night, September 26th, 2003, Couture was perfection personified.

For five rounds, Couture slammed, jammed, bashed and smashed Ortiz into bits. By the third round, Ortiz was befuddled. He had no clue as to what to do. He looked like some college basketball bench warmer being schooled by Allen Iverson. He was lifeless, listless and lost. Nothing he did worked.

Everything he tried backfired. He was taken down for the first time ever in the Octagon, something not even the mighty Frank or Ken Shamrock was able to do. He was pinned along the fence over and over and pummeled with fists, forearms and elbows. He was withered away to an empty shell of the UFC’s most dominant champion ever. In the main event of UFC 44, Ortiz was exhaustion exemplified.
Immediately following the fight, UFC president Dana White had no direct idea as to where both Couture and Ortiz were headed.

Ortiz, fighting back tears and taking the worst defeat of his pro career like a true champion without excuses admitted that, “Man, I trained so hard for this fight. You have no idea how hard I trained for this fight.”

Openly accepting his defeat, Ortiz croaked, “I have never gotten my ass kicked before. Fuck, I hate to lose! I will be back like never before, believe me. I want that belt back. I want to fight Randy Couture again as soon as possible.”

Obviously, Ortiz was broke up about the loss as genuinely anybody else would. Do the fans want to see their beloved Tito in immediate rematch? Maybe. He’s the most popular fighter in American MMA, so wouldn’t the logical next step be an immediate rematch between the two? Not always.

See, here is where things can get tricky and unbelievably fantastic all at once. If Zuffa used their collective noggins, which I’m sure they will, an immediate rematch will be totally out of the question. Here’s a few reasons to those reading this who are about to behead me for typing such rude, ludicrous lucrative runic:

1.) What if the same exact thing happens and Tito gets his head caved in two consecutive times? His luster would assuredly vanquish in the eyes of millions. It’d take eons for Ortiz to overcome back-to-back ass-whippings. Right there, UFC’s proverbial cash cow would probably wither away into nothingness for quite some time. I know it, Zuffa knows it and hopefully you all know it. Bad business sense.

2.) Interest wouldn’t be as near fever pitch as their epic first encounter. Roughly half of the people in attendance at the Mandalay Bay and thousands more at home were praying for someone to come along and shut Tito up. Couture did just that. For some reason, people show up in droves to cheer against Tito. He’s one of those types that is either loved or loathed and as much as Tito has become loathed lately, people won’t be too interested in seeing him lose again so quickly.

3.) Couture loses via the same way he destroyed Tito. If that was to happen immediately following their first battle, it would certainly take away from Couture’s victory. It would impact his impact on MMA. It’d actually be better for Couture to defend his title against, say, Rich Franklin or Vitor Belfort and lose it to either of them. Vitor is better than them all when he’s actually prepared to fight and a showdown between he and Tito would be blockbuster. Franklin is this new kid in town with an undefeated record. They’d be calling him the second coming of BJ Penn if he walloped Couture. A Couture loss to Belfort or Franklin I feasible. A loss to Ortiz spells too many arguments, pontifications and debates.

4.) Those ever-important, always-dramatic interims bouts. Whenever two giants in the fight game square off in a memorable war and a rematch is inevitable, the one or two ‘in-between’ bouts with each are crucial and usually always spectacular.

With that said, the next step in each fighter’s career is crucial. Couture has the pick of the litter in terms of his first defense and you just know Zuffa will arrange one helluva mega fight. Will it be Belfort? Doubtful. Zuffa is still priming him for the perfect time to re-unleash him. Franklin? Not a chance in hell. Too new and unknown. Ortiz? Probable, but not quite. The only logical answer to the burning question is the winner of PRIDE GP in November.

White claims that Liddell will easily clean house and take home PRIDE’s title. If that’s true, Liddell will have completely redeemed himself of the Couture mauling with wins over Overeem, Rampage Jackson and either Vanderlei Silva or Yoshida. If Liddell can pull that off, a rematch between him and Couture is a lock.

Now if Rampage, Yoshida or Silva win the GP, things get sticky. Rampage has allegedly been growing ill of PRIDE’s behind-the-scenes shenanigans and if he wins it (Our very own Greg Savage claims he’s a sure bet to win), he would be more than willing to avenge teammate Tito’s loss. That fight won’t be too difficult to arrange.

Yoshida? Forget it. Never will happen. That leaves Silva. Would he return to the UFC to challenge Couture? Of course he would. But the question is whether PRIDE will allow it or not. Just imagine Couture, the UFC light heavyweight champ, taking on Silva, the PRIDE middleweight/light heavyweight champ. Damn, that’s one of the greatest New Year’s gifts anybody can receive.

As for Tito, he only fell slightly in terms of rank and popularity. Zuffa will probably toss him in with the likes of Renato Sobral, maybe Horn or even Franklin. A win over anybody, actually, and Tito is launched back at the front of the line for the title. Tito shan’t worry too much about missing a shot at redemption.

However way anybody looks at it, the light heavyweight division in the UFC is frighteningly astonishing. Anybody can be champion on any given day. Unbelievable matchups can be made in endless combinations. Franklin vs. Ortiz, Belfort vs. Couture II, Horn vs. Franklin, Ortiz vs. Belfort, Horn vs. Liddell II, Liddell vs. Franklin, Evan Tanner vs. Sobral, etc, etc, etc.

Will Couture remain dominant six months from now? Will he successfully defend his belt against whomever Zuffa tosses his way? His last two performances were nothing short of masterpieces. Can Couture three-peat with yet another age-defying battle? It’ll be awfully hard, though, to perform the perfect fighting trifecta.

No matter whom Couture locks horns with next, he will certainly push The Natural to his limits, forcing him to mystify the MMA world again. After all, in his last two outings, Randy Couture was magnificence magnified.
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>