BOSTON - AUGUST 28: Randy Couture reacts after defeating James Toney in the first round of their UFC heavyweight bout at the TD Garden on August 28 2010 in Boston Massachusetts. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Randy Couture is without a doubt, one of the most decorated and beloved fighters MMA has had in it's short lifetime. The man truly reached the pinnacle of the sport. Forget your silly pound for pound rankings, and all that "Greatest of All Time" chatter. Here are the facts:
Not bad for an old man at all, Mr. Couture. Most fighters would be hard pressed to accomplish even half of what Couture has by the time they reach 47 years old. Now, with UFC 129 fast approaching, Couture is set to take on former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida, in what will likely be Couture's last fight. Machida has fallen on rough times since the beginning of "The Machida Era", with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua avenging his decision loss to him in a rematch, and a hard fought split decision loss to another former champ in Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. That said, Machida was game in both fights, putting on an exciting match with Shogun before getting dropped and finished, and nearly finishing Rampage in their fight. Machida may be one of the most dangerous men on a two fight losing streak in the sport right now, and Couture surely knows this.
Before Machida had ever lost a fight, some believed that Couture could be the man to solve the "Machida puzzle". Being a savvy veteran and great strategist are definitely two of Couture's greatest strengths as he's aged, but now, the blueprint has been roughly laid out before him. Smart foot work, cut off the cage, clinch to tie him up, and fire away on the exit. I never would have thought Rampage Jackson of all people would put on such a smart fight against Machida. That's not a knock on Rampage, it's just that his boxing/counter punching style didn't seem to fit against Machida, and he actually made the adjustments needed to succeed in winning the fight. Now, Couture will surely look to use a similar style to frustrate and defeat Machida.
A few questions cross my mind looking at this fight. Can Machida adapt now that the world has seen that he's a mere mortal? Can he also avoid getting clinched by Couture long enough to not give away two rounds? Will Randy be able to catch Machida and impose his will long enough to be effective? What kind of surprises do each man have up their sleeves going into this bout? My curiosity alone makes me want to watch the fight. No matter the outcome, it will be a historic moment if Couture does retire (again).
On paper, I see this as a winnable fight for Couture. Should he be able to avoid any mishaps when closing the distance, I think he could easily steal two rounds out of three. What an achievement it would be. Couture would love for this to be his victory lap in MMA, to go out on a great win over a great fighter. Machida won't go away without a fight, and has certainly been working on the very things Couture will look to exploit in the fight. It's going to be a scrap. Whether it's an exciting bout filled with striking exchanges and scrambles, or a drawn out clinch-fest, fans will eat it up, and it will be a fight. Machida will most certainly not want to allow himself to be Couture's final victory, and it may very well bring out the beast in him. Although criticized for the lack of finishes in his career, Machida pressing forward with strikes will hurt you, ask Rashad Evans. If Machida turns this into a shootout, Couture's boxing might not be enough to trade with the Brazilian. Yes, this fight has potential, and is a great addition to the massive event that is UFC 129.
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