UFC 118: Despite Claims, Boxing vs. MMA Is No Debate

Brandon HinchmanCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2010

PORTLAND, OR - AUGUST 28: UFC heavyweight fighter Randy Couture weighs in at UFC 102: Couture vs. Nogueira Weigh-In at the Rose Garden Arena on August 28, 2009 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

The UFC 118 ads have inundated television with the title Boxing vs. MMA. The trouble? The debate has already been tried and MMA has won.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship was developed to determine the most efficient fighting style by pitting opponents of different styles against each other in a round robin tournament.

Boxers were involved in these first tournaments, and of course everyone knows they were beaten by grapplers, as were all strikers who had no ground experience.

Grapplers demanded a new breed of fighter, and strikers learned basic takedown defense and this Vale Tudo-inspired, tournament-style fighting evolved for the first time.

Strikers became dominant, and the grapplers in turn learned to strike, and before we knew it, it was the man who was most well-rounded that was the best fighter.

Sure, there were wrestlers who learned to work a takedown from the clinch and strikers who learned to keep distance and work on submission defense, but he who was most well-rounded often performed the best.

This debate was settled in the 1990s, though the term MMA hadn't yet been coined when people first realized that strikers with no knowledge of the clinch and ground phases of combat were at a disadvantage against a wholesome fighter.


Cue James Toney.

When recently asked in an interview how he will react to Randy Couture's wrestling during UFC 118, Toney said, "In my world, if someone comes at...me, it's lights out for them."

His world of boxing? No, we know that takedowns aren't allowed in boxing.

Is he referring to the clinch? In boxing, the referees break that apart.

He must be referring to bar fights, where men often fight only after their judgment and coordination are affected by alcohol.

There's been no record of an expert level wrestler, or any wrestler for that matter, ever having tried to take Toney down, yet in his world, "it's lights out for them."

Enter Randy Couture.

Couture requires no explanation to MMA fans. He's ageless, and his wrestling experience is second to none. He began as a boxer and did a bit of freestyle wrestling before spending a decade at the top of the heap of Pan American Greco-Roman wrestlers.

After making the shift to MMA, he won his first tournament ever by defeating two heavyweights in one night at UFC 13. Couture continued, being the first man to outstrike and defeat the seemingly unstoppable Chuck Liddell.


Couture has been the underdog in other matches as well, such as against Pedro Rizzo, Vitor Belfort, Tim Sylvia, and Gabriel Gonzaga, yet he beat them all.

Couture has faced all kinds of well-rounded fighters. He's beaten strikers, wrestlers and grapplers from many different countries and backgrounds, and now he's getting ready to fight James Toney.

A lot of people seem to forget a lesson already learned in the 1990s, and it isn't that boxing is bad.

It's that one-dimensional fighting doesn't last long against wholesome fighters because a well-rounded fighter can always change the dynamic of the game to suit his strength and his opponent's weakness.

Toney has no shot of controlling the layout of the match. He has one choice: try to expertly strike a guy who can expertly strike, grapple and wrestle. Not only that, he plans to walk in and knock Randy Couture out cold.

Toney is banking on chance and blind hope that Couture will fight stupidly. He's a good promoter of fights, sure.

But he wants to create the biggest amount of irony possible, and that's made by talking as much as possible and hoping for an outcome in your favor, which basically puts weight to everything you said.

Toney is about as talented as a boxer gets, but he's past his prime and any level of one-dimensional expertise is still one-dimensional. Couture is still in as good of shape as he's ever been, and he's immensely more skilled at real fighting.


Not only that, Couture is a master strategist, and he has planned for Toney. Toney, though, only has one plan, and it's obvious: to stay off the mat and outstrike his opponent.

Toney is the kid you knew in school who was never good at math but decided he wants to go to Harvard, so a week before the SAT he decides to cram as much as possible.

"I can use a calculator," he says to reassure himself. What happens when exam day comes? He fails.

Although I'm intrigued by this fight and give Mr. Toney credit for being the first boxer to put his money where his mouth is, get ready to see him fail. Not only that, get ready to see him fail miserably.

A puncher's chance in the UFC is similar to a swimmer's chance after being stranded in the middle of the ocean. It's possible to make it to an island before drowning or being eaten alive, but it's highly unlikely.