The greatest trilogy in all of MMA—at least in terms of interest generated—has got to be Randy Couture vs. Retirement. And as of now, "The Natural" seems to be an unblemished 3-0.
Knocked out twice by Chuck Liddell? Take a year off, then move up a weight class and kick some ass there.
Locked in a court battle with your boss? Just kiss and make up. Who needed that chubby Russian dude anyways when you have the guy who headlined last year’s “Wrestlemania”?
Then a few days ago, Couture dropped the bomb. Again. Again, again. Third career dropping of the bomb overall. Just so we’re clear. This time the classy (and cryptic) announcement came on Twitter, of all places. And the latest “retirement” lasted as long as it took Randy’s lawyers to shoot this rumour to sunshine.
So if Couture vs. Retirement really were an MMA trilogy, it would be like Shamrock/Ortiz—each instalment is shorter, each saying less and less about those involved while seeming to be more decisive and final.
But hey, why the hell am I complaining? Randy’s back in the fight game! Over-the-hill, morbidly obese former boxers of the world in need of a payday—beware!
Regardless of what any of us say, Randy is back (or never left, whichever) and as long as he keeps winning, he has every right to fight into his golden years. Are YOU gonna tell someone who carries the name "Captain America" without any scorn or doubt what he can and cannot do?
No, you're not, and neither am I.
There was really only one question regarding Randy continuing an MMA career: do you intend to make another, seemingly improbable title run or do you just want fun, “safe” fights to ride out the twilight of your career?
In light of his recent silver screen success ("The Rock" vs. Randy in a Scorpion King spinoff is coming any day now, mark my words) Couture isn't gonna keep fighting just anyone. Chubby former pugilists need not apply anymore, it would seem. According to Randy's people, "The Natural" only wants two people: "Shogun" Rua, or Lyoto Machida.
Well Rua is definitely out. A fight with No. 1 contender/wrestling powerhouse (in a good way!)/wrestling powerhouse (ok also in a bad way) Rashad Evans looms. That's assuming the LHW champ is victorious in MMA's second greatest trilogy—"Shogun" Rua vs. Lost Potential and Time, due to recurring knee injuries.
That leaves Machida.
Which, if I do say so myself, is a hell of a fight. When this news broke some fans and media heaped scorn on the idea of Machida vs. Couture. Call me crazy, but I'm going to call YOU crazy right back and say this fight is a perfect next step for either man.
For Machida, its the ultimate rebuild fight. While the Karate Kid remains a viable draw and interest at LHW, his stock has dropped somewhat from the heady, towering days of the "Machida Era" (read: a year ago) following back-to-back losses. He needs a win—a solid, convincing win over an opponent with a "name"—to launch himself back into the title picture. You couldn't ask for a better offering to fill that role than Randy Couture.
For Randy, this fight is a fitting "last hurrah". It's not a gimme fight, which the UFC doesn't like giving out. It's not some irrelevant dust-up between aged has beens. It is a relevant meeting of two of the most marketable LHW fighters with title implications and then some. It's a PPV worthy main event without tying up a world title. It's a logical next step for either man. It's also, to restate, a hell of a fight.
If Machida wins, he rebuilds his reputation and moves on, while Randy has the dignity of going out on top, against the best, like he deserves. Randy "does it again" and pulls of another upset? Then he gets a title shot for his going away present—not to mention another huge payday.
It's too perfect. It makes too much sense. MMA's great riddle against the sports best game planner. The "on the comeback former champion" against the livest 'dog in all of MMA. Cash registers would ring and everyone—Dana White, Lyoto, Randy, the fans, everyone—would win, no matter who ACTUALLY won.
From a matchmaking perspective, it doesn't get much better then that. Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida makes too much sense not to happen in 2011.
By Elton Hobson