"You can never count out Randy Couture."
A sentence that once accurately described the dangers of overlooking a legend has since become an almost zombie-like response from fans around the globe.
Once upon a time, however, Randy Couture more than deserved such a reputation.
It's not that he didn't lose—he lost 10 times. It's that when he was supposed to lose, he often found ways to win.
Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Tim Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga were all favored over Couture, but Couture managed to beat them all. A man this successful in the underdog role perhaps should have never been in that role at all.
However, nothing lasts forever. Even Couture's fountain of youth shall eventually run dry.
It's been almost four years since Couture upset Gabriel Gonzaga—that's a long time for an athlete in his mid-40s.
In his fights since, we've seen some signs of Couture's decline.
"Minotauro" Nogueira is without question one of the most accomplished fighters in all of MMA, but he's also one of the most shopworn.
Even so, a shopworn Nogueira was able to win all three rounds against Couture, knocking him down twice, securing two near-submissions and hitting two sweeps to dominant positions.
Had another fighter been in there against Nogueira, the narrative would have been about Nogueira's dominance. Instead, the narrative was about two legends going the distance.
After the loss, Couture dropped back down to 205 pounds to fight Brandon Vera, where he won in a lackluster and controversial decision.
After that, the UFC seemed to recognize Couture's proper place, and put him on a sort of novelty retirement tour against Mark Coleman and James Toney.
Couture won decisively in both cases, but the wins were hardly meaningful.
Coleman was only barely granted a licence to fight, while James Toney's complete lack of grappling skills would have rendered him helpless against any fighter worthy of the UFC.
The two wins were gifts straight from the UFC to Randy Couture's bank account.
That's not to say that Couture had lost his fighting spirit, however.
On the contrary, Couture longed for a real fight and pursued the match against Lyoto Machida, even as people like myself thought him only interested in entertaining novelty fights.
Even so, for all his will and courage, I can't believe he has much of a shot at winning.
It's been four years since Couture fought Gonzaga and Sylvia—Machida is far better than either of those two.
Dana White has reason to believe that Couture can win, and fostering that belief is a lucrative proposition.
For the rest of Couture's believers, you're four years too late.
This time Randy Couture has bitten off more than he can chew.