http://www.fighters.com/08/14/ufc-1...d-defeat-james-toney-at-ufc-118?submit_foot=fA lot of people are offering their predictions on the upcoming UFC 118 battle between former UFC champion Randy Couture and boxing champion James Toney. Of course, anything can happen when two elite athletes enter the Octagon, even if both are on the downside of their careers (or at least we think the 47 year old Couture has finally begun to embark on his downside). That said, a prediction is really just an educated guess, and luckily when it comes to MMA we have a 17 year history to call on.
But here’s the funny thing: We don’t need all of that history. Nope, to offer the most likely outcome to this fight, we really only need to call on the first few UFC events. Heck, you might even be able to simply look at UFC 1. If you managed to dust off that old DVD (wait, VHS), here’s what that event would tell you.
When a striker has limited to no ability to stuff a takedown, the grappler pretty much always wins.
For reinforcement, let’s look at UFC 1. Patrick Smith was an outstanding stand up fighter. We’re talking about a highly ranked kickboxer here with current black belts in Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, and Kenpo Karate. Then he entered the Octagon with shootfighting expert, Ken Shamrock. In less than two minutes, he was writhing on the ground in agony from a bone crushing heel hook put on him by his grappling adversary. Not enough for you? Then there was the fight between Brazilian Jiu Jitsu wizard Royce Gracie and Kyokushin Karate/Savate champion Gerard Gordeau in the UFC 1 finale. Once again, it took the grappler (Gracie) less than two minutes to take him down and submit him via rear naked choke.
Why did stand up fighters fail in early UFC’s? That’s simple. How many boxing or kickboxing matches have you watched where one of the first three punches ended the fight? Exactly, it’s hard to recall even one. How about one of the first 20 punches? Still a rarity. Then add in kicks from a distance, clinches, and the ability to duck under where boxers/kickboxers normally punch to grab leg style takedowns, and the problem becomes even more clear. Beyond a very fast superhuman punch at the exact right time and angle, it’s near impossible to avoid a clinch situation or an attempt at a leg style takedown. It’s the striker’s burden, if you will. Without takedown defense, they’re easy prey.
Which leads us to Couture and Toney. Sure, people will say that James Toney is an elite athlete, and that makes things different than back at UFC 1. Yes and no. Sure Toney is an upper echelon athlete, which would’ve set him apart in those early UFC’s; but so is Couture. Remember, we’re talking about a three time NCAA Division I All American wrestler and three time Olympic team alternate here.
Then there’s the argument that Toney has been training in grappling, which changes things. Well, sure. That said, does anyone here really believe that nine months of work will amount to much on the ground against “The Natural”? Let’s state this a different way. Couture has been training stand up for a long time now. Heck, he even did some boxing while in the service. That equates to more time than Toney has put in grappling, for sure. Now how do you think Couture would do in a boxing match against him?
But wait, there’s more arguments against Couture’s chances that must be refuted. For example, there’s the idea that Chuck Liddell knocked him out twice, so a champion boxer like Toney should destroy him on his feet. But here’s the problem with that argument– “The Iceman” may have the best takedown defense in the history of the UFC light heavyweight division. Without that, he wouldn’t even have gotten the chance to defeat “The Natural”. It wasn’t just about his stand up and power, it was also about his ability to combat what Couture brought to the table in terms of grappling, something that Toney is unable to do. Same thing with Brock Lesnar, of course. There would have been no TKO victory for him on his feet against Couture if he had not been able to stay on his feet to begin with.
And then there’s the final argument for Toney. Simply put, some believe that Couture’s Greco-Roman background, which is about upper body clinches, won’t allow him to duck under Toney’s punches for a takedown. These people think that the height of his attacks will lend to him getting hit. To answer that one, all you have to do is remember that Couture wrestled in high school and college, where leg attacks are allowed (did more than okay, too). What’s more, he has certainly hit leg takedowns before (Tim Sylvia, anyone?). And finally, it’s not like his clinch skills are going to hurt him here. In fact, he’ll have the stand up advantage there, as boxers are used to being broken up when in the clinch.
In sum, it’s not that James Toney doesn’t have a chance against Randy Couture; he does. An elite boxer has a chance against anyone, it’s a formidable art. But the good money takes us back to UFC 1. Odds are Couture will be able to bring this fight to the ground fast. And if he does, things will almost certainly end in his favor soon after.
Randy Couture should win this fight because he’s smart enough to execute the right game plan against an adversary with little grappling skills in comparison. Enough said.