UFC 129: Reliving Randy "The Natural" Couture's 5 Greatest UFC Fights

Nick ColonSenior Analyst IApril 21, 2011

UFC 129: Reliving Randy "The Natural" Couture's 5 Greatest UFC Fights

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    Randy Couture is retiring after UFC 129. Will he retire with a win over Lyoto Machida?

    Throughout Randy "The Natural" Couture's career, nothing has been more evident than his dedication to the sport of MMA.

    Known as an ambassador and of the sport, Couture's legacy precedes itself. As if wins over MMA legends Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Vitor Belfort weren't enough, Couture will step into the Octagon at UFC 129 one last time to try to add one more legendary veteran to his list of who's-who he's beaten when he takes on Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida.

    It has been confirmed that Couture is planning to retire after his fight with Machida win or lose, which inevitably will have fans reminiscing about the man they call "Captain America."

    Let's take a look back at the five most compelling, memorable, career-defining moments in the career of Randy Couture

5: Randy Couture vs. Tito Ortiz

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    At UFC 44 in September 2003, Randy Couture squared off against arguably the sport's most controversial hated fighter in Tito Ortiz. 

    "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" was on a tear, coming off six straight wins, including a win over hated rival Ken Shamrock. The bout between Ortiz and Couture was a title unification bout, with Ortiz being the champion and Couture the interim champion. Ortiz was ready to derail a legend in the making. Or so he thought.

    Couture used his superior wrestling and striking skills to dominate, frustrate, confuse and embarrass Ortiz for all five rounds, winning the title unification bout with a convincing unanimous decision.

    Towards the end of the fight, Ortiz had grabbed a hold of Couture's leg for an apparent submission attempt, but failed to do anything with the leg. As a result, Couture felt the need to irk Ortiz by spanking him in the rear much to the dissatisfaction of Ortiz' corner, who felt Couture was tapping out.

    "It was definitely a spanking," Couture recalls of the moment in the Youtube video.

    However, it was perhaps Joe Rogan with the comment of the fight, saying, "Randy Couture has defied the odds and once again completely dominated a much younger opponent."

    That statement remained true for much of the rest of Couture's illustrious career.  

4: Randy Couture vs. Ricco Rodriguez

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    Couture battles with Rodriguez at UFC 39. Photo courtesy of en.susumug.com
    Couture battles with Rodriguez at UFC 39. Photo courtesy of en.susumug.com

    Perhaps the grittiest fight of Couture's famed career was his five round brawl with former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 39. 

    Unlike Nelly's popular song, "Number One" that says "Two is not a winner," Couture's fight with Rodriguez was very telling of Couture's character, heart, skill, and tenacity, which made him a winner in every sense of the word.

    Couture was winning the fight on the judges scorecard throughout the fight, with Rodriguez battling back in the later rounds to make it interesting going into the fifth and final round.

    Rodriguez turned it on in the final stanza, landing vicious ground and pound and a pinpoint elbow on Couture, breaking Couture's orbital bone in the process, forcing Couture to verbally tap out in the last round. Chances are if Couture continued on, the fight may have been ruled a split or majority decision in his favor. But "The Natural" doesn't pride himself on what-if statements, and I'm sure he'd be the first to tell fans he lost the fight that night.

    What can be viewed easily as a tough loss was turned into fuel, as Rodriguez went on to lose his belt six months later to Tim Sylvia while Couture moved down to the light heavyweight division, capturing the title and defeating Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz in the process.  

3: Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort III

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    The third fight between Belfort and Couture went according to plan for "The Natural."

    The trilogy of fights between Randy Couture and Vitor Belfort was a set of exciting fights which culminated at UFC 49 in August 2004. 

    Couture was 1-1 against Belfort prior to this fight, but was left with a sour taste in his mouth after their previous meeting was stopped due to a cut Couture had suffered very early into the first round. This third fight would determine who was the better fighter was and for all.

    As the fight went on, Belfort's frustration with Couture could be seen, as Couture grinded down "The Phenom" throughout the fight. Wrestling was Couture's bread and butter, which clearly befuddled Belfort for all three rounds of the fight, and the end was nearing.

    After the third round, and more specifically, after Couture brutally ground and pounded Belfort against the cage, the doctors called a stop to the fight, securing Couture the win over Belfort, and spawning intrigue about a possible fight with Wanderlei Silva to merge titles.

    Unfortunately that was a fight never to occur in Couture's career, but that night Couture held his head high, knowing that once again he dominated a fighter more than 10 years younger than himself. 

2: Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia

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    Big Timmy and Randy tangle at UFC 68
    Big Timmy and Randy tangle at UFC 68

    The fight which returned Couture from his brief hiatus outside of the UFC was for the UFC heavyweight championship against 6'8" Tim Sylvia. 

    Sylvia, a genuinely good man who has always showed respect to the UFC and its fans, was not the fan favorite in this fight, which goes to show the faith MMA fans have come to show in Captain America.

    Their faith would not go unrewarded this night, as Couture began the fight as his career can be defined, by defying the odds.

    Only seconds into the fight, Couture punched Sylvia square on the chin, flooring Sylvia and any chance he had of retaining the title at UFC 68. The next five rounds were completely immaterial, with Couture dominating Sylvia from a variety of positions on the mat, frustrating the giant utterly throughout. 

    After being crowned the UFC's first three-time heavyweight champion, there were no more questions to ask of Couture. Time and time again he continued to defy the odds, and was the UFC's oldest fighter to hold championship gold, let alone three times in one division.

1: Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell Trilogy

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    The epic trilogy between Chuck and Randy will live on in the memories of MMA fans forever.

    After his fight with Lyoto Machida at UFC 129, Randy Couture will retire from the sport he loves so dearly.

    After his fight with Rich Franklin at UFC 115, Chuck Liddell reluctantly retired from the sport he loved so dearly.

    Yet, it is hard to imagine talking about one of these great Hall of Famers without mentioning the other. The reason I suppose, comes from their three fight saga that entrenched fans into the sport of MMA; something along the lines of what Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar did for the sport and around the same timeframe.

    And yet, here we are again on the cusp of the end of Couture's career, reminded of the career-defining moments that made up one of the greatest UFC fighters ever.

    In their first meeting at UFC 43, Couture came into the bout a heavy underdog (as usual), and was thrown into the fight mainly because of Tito Ortiz' reluctance to fight Liddell. In the book "Total MMA" by Jonathan Snowden, Snowden masterfully details the struggle, noting Liddell's frustration with Ortiz and Couture's stance on the fight.  

    Early in the fight, Couture nullified Liddell's heavy punches with a good combination of punches and ground and pound. He eventually took down Liddell handily, and eventually defeated Liddell in the third round via TKO, throwing the MMA world into mass confusion when the older, supposedly less-skilled Couture defeated the younger, heavy-handed striking Liddell to win the UFC light heavyweight championship. This marked the first time a fighter had won UFC gold in different weight classes.

    The rematch between the two, much like the rematch Couture had with Belfort, didn't go The Natural's way, as Liddell knocked out Couture after Couture rushed in with a few ill-advised punches. The win set up what would be at that time the UFC's highest grossing gate and PPV buys at UFC 57.

    The third fight between the two ended anti-climatically in the second round, with Couture once again being knocked out by a right hand from Liddell. After this fight, Couture announced he would retire from MMA for the first time.

    Even though Couture lost two out of the three bouts with Liddell, it was because of fights like these why no one will ever question the will and endurance Randy Couture has shown in his career.

    From the bottom of every MMA fans heart, you will truly be missed Randy Couture.

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