It looks like we have seen the end of Randy Couture in the UFC after the knockout at UFC 129. It appears that the career of the King of MMA Upsets is over. That said, I wanted to take a quick look back at some of Randy Couture’s best fights and memorable moments.
While it has been a few years, Randy Couture has given fans some of UFC’s most memorable moments and upsets. The only fight Couture couldn’t win was timing as Couture’s prime came before UFC became the juggernaut it is today.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]The irony in looking back at Couture’s UFC career is that as popular as he is today, he was never meant to be a superstar. Couture was regularly booked in fights to lose. If the UFC needed a sacrificial lamb for Tim Sylvia, Chuck Liddell, Vitor Belfort, or Kevin Randleman, they called Couture. Randy Couture was the last guy that the UFC ever expected to become an MMA superstar.
So today I look back at five of Randy Couture’s greatest moments. As always, these are purely subjective but I don’t think that anyone could deny that we have seen some great Randy Couture moments in the octagon. Between big wins, huge upsets, and exciting fights, Randy Couture will always be remembered as a fighter that arguably was at his best when the odds were stacked against him.
1 – Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo UFC 31: Locked and Loaded. In my opinion, this was the most exciting fight in Couture’s career. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter named this the 2001 Fight of the Year and was ranked number 38 on the UFC top 100 fights of all time list. This was Couture’s first UFC heavyweight title defense after beating Kevin Randleman several months earlier.
The fight barely got past one round as Couture looked like he had Rizzo finished with an onslaught of ground and pound. The only thing that saved Rizzo from being stopped was the bell. Rizzo recovered and obliterated Couture with kicks throughout the fight to Couture’s body and legs that reportedly left Couture walking weird for weeks. Couture barely escaped a standing assault from Rizzo in the second round. Couture’s conditioning paid off as Rizzo was beyond exhausted in the later rounds. Couture scored some takedowns in the fourth round that some would argue won the fight. However, Rizzo mustered up a late flurry in the fifth round that almost ended the fight at the bell. Couture would eventually win a unanimous decision in an absolute classic!
I know the word “war” is often used to describe a sporting event or game but this fight was truly a war as both men fought hard for five rounds through pain and fatigue. This was a tremendous fight and arguably should have ranked much higher on UFC’s top 100 list.
2 – Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia UFC 68: The Uprising. When I wrote my blog about Couture retiring I referred to this fight as overrated. I still think some people look back at this fight as more monumental than it really was to the overall history of the UFC. However in terms of Randy Couture, it was certainly one of the biggest nights of his career and arguably the most memorable.
The fight is one of those fights that you will never forget if you watched it live. At 44 years of age, Couture came in as an underdog, although not as big as history would like you to believe. Couture was in retirement and coming off of knockout losses in his last two of three fights. He had not even fought at heavyweight for five years. The champion Tim Sylvia had 12 years, 7 inches, and about 100 pounds on Couture so the visual was quite an intimidating picture.
Couture dominated Sylvia in the fight and took down the big man like he was James Toney. Couture rocked Sylvia with a punch early and the place just went wild. The crowd went into an absolute frenzy with every takedown and Couture just continued to school Sylvia for five rounds. As a fight it was fairly one-sided although the crowd reactions made this a very exciting fight. It was a huge win and a tremendous comeback for a guy that was ready to ride off into retirement a few months earlier.
3 – Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell UFC 43: Meltdown. Chuck Liddell had been blowing through the competition and was due a UFC light heavyweight title shot at Tito Ortiz. Instead of fighting Liddell, Ortiz left the UFC as champion to make a movie. Needing a big name and an easy win for Liddell, the UFC looked to Randy Couture. Couture moved down for the first time in his career after it appeared that the heavyweights were just too big for Captain America. With Ortiz in limbo, the UFC set up an interim title match and what was supposed to be the official crowning of the Iceman.
This fight was set up for Chuck Liddell to win and I don’t think anyone in their right mind expected Couture to even hang with Liddell, who had accumulated 10 straight wins. The Iceman was coming off a first round knockout win over Renato Sobral against Couture’s two straight losses at heavyweight. Couture was also just days away from his 40th birthday.
Couture did what no other man was able to do in the UFC against Liddell and that was take him down at will. Couture would smother the Iceman with takedown after takedown frustrating the heavy handed light heavyweight. Couture also won the striking battle against Liddell. Whether it was frustration or exhaustion, Liddell was getting just as outclassed on his feet as he was on the ground. The Natural eventually opened up an onslaught of ground and pound on Liddell in the third round that wound up ending Liddell’s 10-fight win streak
4 – Randy Couture vs. Tito Ortiz UFC 44: Undisputed. For a lot of MMA fans, this was the night that Couture turned the corner and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest fighters of his eras. The fight was a unification bout between the interim and champion. Couture would wind up winning the five round unanimous decision over the Huntingdon Beach Bad Boy and the UFC light heavyweight title.
What you have to remember about this time period is that Tito Ortiz was considered arguably the best light heavyweight fighter of the time period. Ortiz was coming off a record five successful title defenses against a guy who just dropped down in the division and just turned 40 years old. Once Couture defeated Liddell many believed that Tito came back because he thought he would have an easy win over Couture.
Couture dominated the great Ortiz for five rounds. Like the Liddell fight, Couture appeared to take Ortiz down at will and smothered him with ground and pound. It wasn’t the most exciting fight if you are looking for strike fests, but from a technical standpoint it was a thing of beauty. By the end of the fight Ortiz looked confused and frustrated at his inability to do anything against Couture. This was a big win and the beginning of a new era for Couture as undisputed light heavyweight champion.
5 – Randy Couture vs. Kevin Randleman UFC 28: High Stakes. Randy Couture returned after one of what would be several UFC departures to take back the UFC heavyweight title he relinquished in 1998. This was also the first UFC event to be sanctioned in the state of New Jersey and held under the new “Unified Rules of Martial Arts.”
[adinserter name=”366 right”]What makes this match so memorable was the storyline going into the fight. Like most of Couture’s fights, he was a big underdog. Kevin Randleman was a beast at this time and a very accomplished wrestler. On paper, Randleman was arguably the first opponent who could match or even outwrestle Couture. Randleman was younger, stronger, and faster. I sound like a broken record here but the odds were not in the favor of the Natural coming into this fight.
The fight started out as most predicted with Randleman taking Couture down at will and smothering him on the ground for two rounds. Couture had to fight off of his back and had very good defense during the onslaught. This appeared to frustrate the champion while Couture appeared to get stronger and more confident as the fight progressed.
Couture had Randleman completely confused and exhausted by the third round. Couture finally took down the champion with a trip and went to town. Couture unleashed his signature dose of ground and pound which ended the night and title reign of Kevin Randleman. Randy Couture regained the title he never lost and scored what would be the first of many upsets in championship fights.