Before I get into the debate (and it‘s a good one), let‘s consider something for a moment:
At UFC 129 in Toronto, Randy Couture will square off with Lyoto Machida in a fight that could easily be it’s own PPV headliner. Instead, it’s not even the co-main event.
It’s the co-co-main event. The swing fight. The “piss break” fight before the main event gets underway.
Neither of these former champion’s faces even graces the UFC 129 event poster. If I had told you a year ago (in the heady days of the “Machida Era”) that Couture would fight Machida and not even get a shout out on the poster, you’d have called me crazy. But there it is.
That’s what I call a stacked card, ladies and gentlemen.
But before you dismiss this as just another fun fight—or worse, as a “gimme” match for Machida—let me go ahead and blow your mind. Or royally piss you off. Either or.
If Randy Couture is victorious, he will be getting the next shot at the light heavyweight title. Yep. I said it.
We could be one fight away from Captain America standing across the cage from Rashad Evans or Jon Jones, with UFC gold on the line.
Oh, the humanity!
Yes, I can already hear the smoke pouring from the ears of red faced MMA ‘net fans as they read that last part (that’s right folks, I can hear smoke. Also pudding, Homer Simpson style). I’m guessing it sounds something like this:
“Randy Couture can’t fight for the title! He’s older then Abe Vigoda! He hasn’t beaten anyone good in forever! He looked like crap against Brandon Vera! Jon Jones killed Shogun, he’d murder Randy! Are you crazy!?!? WAR FANBOY RAGE!!! HULK SMASH!!!!!”
Hear me out now. A Couture title shot is coming because from a business standpoint, it just makes too much sense. In fact, properly marketed, this could be one of the biggest UFC PPV’s of 2011 (assuming it happens, that is).
Think about this scenario. Couture “does it again” at UFC 129, and pulls out another miracle upset (not like he hasn’t done it before) over Machida. At this point, he’d be on a four-fight win streak.
Sure, some of those wins were over less then elite level competition. But it’s still four fights, four visible, highly promoted, UFC PPV main event wins.
Name one other main event level contender at LHW that is riding four wins right now. It’s an awfully short list.
And assuming he wins, his popularity would surely be at an all time high. At the biggest UFC event in history, at the absolutely astounding age of 48 years old, Couture manages to upset a top contender in front of the whole world and 55,000 rabid Toronto fans.
And he was in a movie with Stallone (and it’s sequel now, too)! That’s got to mean something! Admit it—Randy would be king of the freakin’ world at this point.
Then you promote Randy vs. Jones/Evans as Randy’s “last hurrah”, possibly even his retirement match if “The Natural” is amenable to it. He has expressed a declining interest in MMA in recent interviews, and probably only has two fights left in him anyways. What better way to send off “The Natural” then one last dance for a UFC title?
Win or lose, a Couture retirement after this fight would be classy, dignified and significant. It would be a fitting end for “The Natural’s” career, one way or the other.
But any retirement talk aside, this fight would be an absolute monster on PPV. You know it would. Don’t lie.
It’s either Randy/Jones, “the young phenom versus the old legend, the master of game plans” or it’s Randy/Rashad, “the most hated fighter at LHW versus the biggest hero in MMA history.” Tell me either of those fights wouldn’t draw.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Couture is getting a title shot should he prevail over Machida at UFC 129. I realize that’s a tall order. Randy is the underdog for a reason, and it’s clear the UFC brass (and most fans, for that matter) see this as a rebuilding fight for “The Dragon.”
But like always, the UFC is hedging their bets, and a Couture title shot is their ace in the hole.
Just ask Vitor Belfort, Kevin Randleman, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Tim Sylvia or Gabriel Gonzaga how being favoured over Couture worked out for them.