UFC 118: Randy Couture Defeats James Toney But What's Next For "The Natural?"
On August 28, 2010 in Boston Massachussetts Randy Couture (47) tackled, pounded and then submitted boxing legend James Toney (42) in the very first round. No one was surprised. Except perhaps some die-hard boxing fans. This was no great victory for MMA or Randy Couture it was simply an introductory lesson for the 40 to 70 year old boxing fans who may have been watching their first ever MMA match. They would have been eye-witness as to the legitimacy of mixed martial arts and their superiority as a combat discipline.
It may have permenantly attracted some boxing fans to MMA and opened the door for legitimate boxers to cross-over. And as a business networking venture, it was a good idea.
But it did nothing to remove Randy's growing status as gate keeper and working ambassador for the UFC. The Natural's fight against Mark Coleman was more of an exhibition between two Hall of Famers. Not the beginning of a title run.
Randy's win over a legitimate Brandon Vera was less than a year ago. Prior to this he went on a 2 wins and 2 losses streak that included a Heavyweight championship victory over Tim Sylvia, a stunning defeat of Gabriel Gonzaga and an understandable loss to Brock Lesnar as well as a to-the-distance decision loss to legendary Antonio Nogueira. And all this for a man in his mid to late forties.
The UFC was not treating Randy as a gatekeeper during this impressive comeback run. Seeing as Randy lost twice in a row and younger fighters have earned their right to step in between Randy and a challenge to the belt I can understand the last two fight selections for the Natural. At his age he can't be kept in the freezer too long so Randy and the UFC may as well make some money off his name.
Again, I see no problems with this strategy. The question remains, what is The Natural's and the UFC's next best move?
At this juncture Randy has 18 months OR 2 fights left on his existing contract with Dan a White's UFC. At the end of this deal will be nearly 49 years old. I know his longevity is unmatched in UFC history, but his days of contention will be over at that point. No matter how much fighting spirit The Natural still has left.
A move down to light heavyweight and a title run would be the best way to finish a storied career. Randy is ranked 8th in this division. A fight against number 7 Thiago Silva would be logical but the UFC probably favours the fireworks that would be generated by a Thiago vs Forrest Griffin (ranked 6th) match up.
"Little Nog" Rogerio sits behind Quinton Jackson and would be suitable legitimate contender for Randy. I would dare even suggest a Randy vs Quinton as "Rampage" now will have to wait for a Rashad Evans vs Shogun title match and also face Machida before accessing a right to challenge for the championship. A Couture vs Rampage match up would be the last truly legitimate match up for The Natural. He could actually beat Jackson and the next 18 months is the last window of true "juice" left in this aging legend's athleticism. The time is now for one final test of his will and fighting intelligence.
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