When drinking the kool aid, a person has to careful to look and see what color it is, and how bad it smells.
With the announcement that the first fight the UFC is going to promote with James Toney, is to be Randy "The Natural" Couture, I have to say that I "get" it, but do not like it.
I have to start by saying that James Toney is easily one of my favorite boxers of all time. Mind you so was "Smokin" Bert Cooper, and Jesse "The boogeyman" Ferguson. In my case, as it pertains to fighters, I prefer character to talent. In mma I would rather watch the entire career fight collection of Tank Abbott, over two rounds of a Jake Sheilds match. It isn't that I don't appreciate the nuances of MMA. It's that I know what I like, and find entertaining.
I like a good fight. Punches. Kicks. Anger. Aggression.
Two guys who do not like each other, literally, going all out to pound the other's mouth shut. All fight fans have different tastes.
I was a boxing fan, long before I had ever heard the words, MMA, UFC, Dana White, striker, or ground and pound. I actually have been a boxing fan for the better part of my entire life and at 38, that sure seems to be a long time to me. My family used to sit and watch boxing matches, in the same vain as we would watch a pro football or hockey game. Boxing was important to us, and my folks would wax poetic about the greats of their day, in guys like Shavers, Foreman, Ali, and Frazier. Boxing, particularly the heavyweights, when I was a kid, had an importance in daily life. It was on every week in the papers and on the minds of the common sports fans.
You may like or dislike James Toney. But, the facts are, that given his prime years, James Toney is one of the greatest boxers to ever walk the earth. James is a multi time world champion holding both major and minor titles, and beating countless up and coming fighters in several weight classes. He was an absolute terror, in the early part of his career, and has basically been a success of some description everywhere, and in every class in which he has ever boxed.
And, I am all for James coming to the ufc along with other notable professional boxers, with the exception of three things:
Firstly, I worry that he is too far past his athletic prime to just hop into the octagon and have any level of hope. Cardio is just such a major part of today's MMA game. So is general athleticism, and at James current age, he simply is beyond what he was and ever will be again athletically. He simply isn't as fast, flexible, young, or mobile, as he was on his best day.
Second, how many true strikers avoid getting taken down in MMA? The answer is not many. Even the best, including Bas Rutten, Mirko CroCop, Jens Pulver, Ray Mercer, and many others, have been beat by being taken down. In most cases, opponents gameplan around simply not standing with them. At his age is he a bit late in this undertaking? Defending the ground and takedown game of Kimbo Slice is a tad easier that that of a Randy Couture.
Third, I find myself wishing that James wouldn't be so...I dunno..."Lights Out".
James is a guy with a tremendous belief in himself and his own abilities. James is someone who without a doubt believes that there is no man on this planet that he cannot throw knuckles with and beat. He would tell you all day long that he could go 45 rounds in the boxing ring with 5 different fighters, and still prevail. He is crazy enough to actually try if the money is right. James has a winning mindset and supreme confidence in his abilities.
The MMA community recently has been treated to several interviews with James, talking junk and throwing down the gauntlet at "name" MMA fighters and champions. In the interviews he continually uses his high level background and experience in the single mma discipline of boxing. He has held nothing back, whatsoever, including throwing out challenges at any MMA fighter in the world.
And that, I am thinking is why Dana White has decided on a first opponent for him in Randy "the Natural" Couture.
See, in doing so, James, as always has pissed off anyone and everyone who has helped build this sport to what it is today. Given his limited experience, I question the decision.
The U can make you or they can break you as you enter the ranks. Styles make fights, and for James, obviously, he should be looking for a Houston Alexander, a Kimbo Slice, a Matt Mitrione, or hell, even a past his prime, Mirko CroCop.
"The Natural", or "Captain America" is not somebody that anyone is looking to fight as an octagon debut. He is a decorated wrestler and a pioneer, hall of fame mixed martial artist. He truly is, like James to boxing, one of the all time greats. He is still at his past his prime age in fantastic physical condition. He helped build this sport to what it is today. He is extremely intelligent and will follow a gameplan to perfection. He has recent victories against younger, faster, and highly talented guys, like Brandon Vera. He also held his own in a good fight against the monstrous Brock Lesnar.
And Dana has recruited him, to help silence the yap of "Lights Out".
This is not your run of the mill, welcome to the UFC, introduction to the Octagon. I would say that at this weight there are only maybe 6 or 7 worse guys that Dana, and Joe Silva, could have picked. There are literally dozens that I would give James a chance against. This is not a boxing ring.
This is Randy's world.
But, this fight will be highly publicized, and with Randy, you know that win or lose, both pre or post fight, you will get an intelligent, humble, quiet, and hardworking man. This is to the casual mma fan a true "face" vs "heel" match.
This fight is not going to be a stand up war. This fight is going to look similar to Velasquez vs. Kongo, or GSP vs. Dan Hardy. Randy is not going to even look to stand and bang with James. He is going to pin him up against the cage, lean on him, and take him down. There are dozens of ways for Captain America to win this fight. For once I do not think dirty boxing will be a big part of the gameplan of Captain America.
And for James there is but one gameplan. Small Gloves, on hands that are used to finding the perfect spot to take a guy out. Do the math.
I would recommend that you watch Ray Mercer vs Tim Sylvia if you are looking to find the gameplan for James. A lot of people online have indicated that Ray's quick win was a fluke, against the former UFC heavyweight Champ.
However, it says right here, that there are no flukes in MMA. "Merciless" Ray Mercer has KO power in both hands and has a long history of knocking people out, and beating people that the experts said he could not. Ray hit the magic spot on Sylvia, and Sylvia went "nighty night". Has or will Ray win em all this way? Of course not. But the hands on these guys are lethal, and hopefully as it happens more people will begin to understand. A one punch KO is a possibility, when in the ring with an excellent boxer, wearing 4 ounce gloves.
And the "punchers chance" clause certainly changes infinitely when you are talking about somebody who has literally sparred thousands of rounds, rather than weightlifting, running, and training. James trains by sparring and learning how to move and react to every situation live and in living color. If this fight goes, I would tell you that given how motivated James is, he is going to spar thousands of mma rounds, against fighters that are emulating the Natural. He is going to show up looking to land the big one on the jaw of Randy Couture. And he may. James has made a career of winning when it seemed improbable. James trains to fight by fighting.
But Randy is someone who will not fight towards Toney's strengths. The Natural is a guy, who will also come prepared against boxers of Toney's current, past his prime calibre. He will come with dozens of ways to thwart the only legitimate strength that Toney has. The "lucky" punch. (which comes as a result of training until the money shot is a reflex action...hardly lucky, but a common term nonetheless)
Randy, whether willing or not, aware or not, is the hired gun of the UFC.
Should Couture win Dana will be standing in the background smiling like he always does. Happy that mma and one of his gladiators beat a legend of the ring inside of the octagon. Dana had dozens of fighters to choose from, and instead chose a legend with a wrestling pedigree. This is not a coincidence.
Should James win, most will be surprised. You will also get to see that while confident, James knows how to win and be a champion. He will talk, and he will challenge people. But in the end should he win or lose he will be respectable to Randy. Toney understands how to hype a fight, and angle to the public for more money.
The fans will watch and "pay to watch", which is what the U is actually about. Ultimately, the ppv buy rate will take a big jump and beat other high level matches that also were on ppv. This, in MMA has become the "Lesnar", or the "Mayhem" factor. People watching you and buying the ppv to watch you because they hate you is still the same as putting butts in the seats. People will pay to watch the UFC legend "shut up" the ultra confident Boxing legend. Boxing fans will pay to watch a former great, take out one of the biggest names in the history of the UFC.
I would only say this from the behalf of a lifetime boxing turned MMA fan. Toney does not represent all of the boxers that will be brave enough to cross over. He only represents being brave enough to be one of the earliest. This is going to happen, as the popularity of boxing dwindles further. You won't see the Klitschko's. But you may see Floyd Mayweather jr., Jermain Taylor, or Ricardo Mayorga. And if we are talking about "the best" fighting the best in the world, I would say it is a must.
Boxing, it has to be noted, is a huge part of MMA. Boxing like wrestling and BJJ, is a main base discipline in MMA. These are sports that can co exist.
And some of the greatest boxer's in history, in Ali, Johnson, Jones Jr., Holyfeild, Tyson, Holmes, Hearns, Hagler, Whitaker, Chavez, Duran, and LaMotta, were great fighters. (gotta have the bull in there) Had MMA been as big then as now, I would guess these guys would have wanted a fight against somebody too. They would have had lethal striking games and deadly movement in the stand up. They would have adapted to the rules, and learned the multitude of fighting arts that it takes to win in MMA. Fighters are fighters. Truly great fighters would be great fighters in any discipline, or competition.
They, like James Toney might not have won them all. But they would be a threat in every one.
Like him or not, James "lights out" Toney, represents what is to come. He may be one of the first, but win or lose, he won't be the last. Don't let the UFC convince you that this is a bad thing.