There has been a lot of speculation about what Randy Couture will do following his fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 102.
Although he will have one fight remaining on his contract, some are speculating about the possibility of retirement. Others are very confident he will continue to fight.
I believe he will continue fighting. If he does, the major question then becomes: Who will he fight next?
I have worked it down to three possible scenarios...
The three outcomes have as much to do with Strikeforce as they do with the UFC. The UFC will have a say in Randy’s future and be sure (if they need to) they will do what they can to defend themselves against a Couture/Fedor appearing on a Strikeforce card.
In order to do this the UFC will look to have a deal in place before Randy fights out the last fight on his contract. Those negotiations will ultimately be vital in determining his next opponent as well.
Scenario One—Couture Beats Nogueira and Agrees To Re-Sign with the UFC
If Couture re-signs with the UFC, he will have more freedom in picking his direction.
The UFC wouldn't have a problem with pushing him for another shot at Lesnar, even at 46 years old Randy is still one of the biggest names in the organization. Fans still love to watch him fight and he is still a very competitive fighter.
A victory over Big Nog followed by a victory over the winner of Mirco Cro Cop/Junior Dos Santos would be enough for the UFC to justify a title shot. This scenario obviously makes the most sense if he beats Nogueira.
Scenario Two—Couture Loses to Nogueira and Agrees To Re-Sign with the UFC
A loss to Nogueira would hurt any argument Couture wanted to make for a shot at the heavyweight title. I truthfully think that argument would be all but dead. That being said, Couture’s career would still have life. All it would take would be Couture dropping down to fight at light heavyweight and make a run at Machida.
How quickly would Couture get a shot at the light heavyweight title? It is hard to say. If Rampage beats Rashad Evans, Rampage should be the No. 1 contender. If Rashad beats Rampage, this leaves an opening…
Scenario Three—Couture Won’t Re-Sign with the UFC (Win or Lose)
This is where things get really interesting...
If this happens, the UFC will start playing defense. A refusal to re-sign would most likely be based on a desire to fight Fedor. While the UFC would not want this to happen, they can’t prevent it. Keeping this in mind, if they believe Fedor vs. Couture is inevitable, they would like to see Randy’s stock drop as much as possible first.
How can you do this though? How can you give Couture a loss with minimal risk? A couple of fights come to mind that could spell disaster for Randy. Both fights that have been mentioned as potential future matchups, but Randy’s refusal to re-sign might necessitate a move in that direction.
The first potential matchup is Randy Couture vs. Anderson Silva in a catch weight fight.
If the UFC sets up this match, they would have to be supremely confident in Silva’s abilities. Couture walking away with a victory over their pound-for-pound king would not be good for business. At the same time, sending Couture away with a loss to the UFC’s middleweight champion would seriously remove the luster from any battle with Fedor. If Silva were to put on a show (like he did against Forrest Griffin) it would be an even more powerful statement.
From the UFC’s perspective, both the risk and reward of this fight would be large and it might be too much of a gamble.
The other potential matchup would be Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida for the LHW title.
You may wonder why the UFC would give an exiting fighter a chance at the light heavyweight title, but in this situation they would have nothing to lose. If Machida won (and he would be favored) Couture would be coming off a loss to a smaller fighter. This would once again remove some of the luster from a battle between Couture and Fedor.
On the flip side, a Couture victory comes without risk as well, this is due to the UFC’s “championship clause”. If Couture was to beat Machida (however unlikely), he would be a title holder and therefore unable to leave the organization. This is a much safer fight in terms of PR should Couture pull off an upset.
Both fights would be very entertaining and both fights would sell a lots of PPV’s. Are they likely? It is all speculation at this point, and obviously Machida and Silva will have to defend their titles before we get to that stage. All that aside, you can be certain whether or not Couture re-signs will have a lot to do with who he fights…