Randy Couture is at a point in his life and fighting career where he has nothing to prove to anyone. Even his harshest critics would concede that Couture has overcome the odds so many times that to question him now is simply foolish.
While the 46-year-old UFC Hall of Famer shows no signs of slowing down, one cannot underestimate the importance of this fight for Couture. Despite being in numerous title fights and main eventing pay-per-views, his bout with Brandon Vera on Saturday may be the most important fight of his career.
On the surface it would seem Couture holds a decided advantage over the much younger Vera. The experience edge will heavily favor Couture. Couple the experience with all the big fights he has been in, along with being the smartest fighter in the UFC, and it's easy to see why Vera needs to have the fight of his life in order to come out victorious.
So without overlooking Vera, let's take a look at what may be in store for Couture, win or lose, after his fight this weekend.
What happens if Couture wins?
A victory over Vera could vault Couture to the top of the light-heavyweight standings. Dana White could easily decide to give him a title shot with an impressive showing. While a Couture-Lyoto Machida fight may not be the best fight possible in the division, it's hard to imagine a fight that would have better numbers on pay-per-view and make more money for the company.
If White decides on a Machida-Shogun Rua rematch, there could still be several possible opponents for Couture at 205. He could fight the winner of the Forrest Griffin-Tito Ortiz bout. Either fighter pitted against him would generate a ton of interest among avid and novice MMA fans.
Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans will fight at UFC 108. A Couture-Evans fight for the chance at a title shot could also be built up as a huge draw. A match with Thiago Silva wouldn't be as appealing to the general public, but it's a match that could provide unique challenges for him.
Another big-money fight Couture might pursue would be against Rich Franklin. Both are wildly popular among fans, and one would think a fight between the two would be must see television.
Couture could throw a curveball at everyone and move back to the heavyweight division after this fight. Brock Lesnar's immediate future his up in the air due to illness, and Dana White could decide to crown an interim champion like he's done in the past.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira against Cain Velasquez has been confirmed for UFC 108. White could set up a Shane Carwin bout against Couture having the winner of the two fights meet for the interim title. This would keep interest in the heavyweight division high until Lesnar returns to meet whoever the champion may be at the time.
What happens if Couture loses?
A loss to Vera could be devastating for Couture, and it may put him on the fast track to retirement. Vera isn't even a top-10 light-heavyweight in the UFC, and a loss would move Couture far down the list of title contenders.
As noted above, the move back to heavyweight is a possibility, but that too would be very difficult for Couture to find any measurable success. He's been beaten by Lesnar and Nogueira, and he would probably be a big underdog to Velasquez, Carwin, and Frank Mir.
Couture could decide to keep fighting even if titles would no longer be in his future. There are numerous fights that would keep his name in the spotlight and in line for several huge paydays.
It's hard to speculate what Couture may or may not do after this fight. He is a proud man that may have to learn to swallow his pride and walk away from the sport he loves should he lose to Vera.
Staying in the game too long may tarnish Couture's legacy, but it is legacy to tarnish if he feels the need to continue fighting. Very few would find fault with Captain America continuing his quest.
While a win or loss may change the course of the rest of his career, one thing is certain: Couture is the most beloved fighter in the history of the sport. No single win or loss will ever change how fans view him outside the Octagon. The best thing for fans to do is enjoy what is left in his career because the sport will never see another fighter with the heart and will to win like The Natural.
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