Or we could call this the Battle of the UFC vs IBF since those are the two primary professional titles the combatants have held, Randy “The Natural” Couture being the 5x UFC titlist in 2 weight divisions and James “Lights Out” Toney being the 3x IBF titlist in 3 weight divisions.
Or we could call this the battle of grizzled old veterans with Couture being 47 years of age and Toney being 42. Neither is willing to ride off into the sunset without a fight, so, like my old friend Lyndon used to throw out in the slowest, thickest Texas accent imaginable as he drew himself up to his full 6-3 stature……””Well, C’mon!””
That being said, I must confess that I am not the mixed martial arts go to guy, boxing is my thing. Ground and pound and rolling around in the most unseemly positions imaginable does not strike that higher sense of nobility and honor that boxing represents. I preferred the original mma format when the contestants were specialists in one background, like a kick boxer vs a judo black belt or a wrestler against a jui jitsu blackbelt.
I remember one down home feller from San Antone way that made it to the semi finals against Royce Gracie with no better background than behind the bar scraps in Nuevo Laredo.
But he could fight, which was quite enough. That was interesting.
Now the fighters may come out of one background, but they cross train in all the backgrounds, so there are no “purists” left in the sport unless we want to count Toney.
Couture is a former collegiate wrestling champ having grown into the sport in stages, adding on disciplines as he became a fan favorite and legend. Toney comes from a highschool football background and been a boxer all his adult life. He briefly became boxing’s top pound for pound fighter before moving to infamous after literally eating his way out of the 5 divisions he has fought in not to mention being busted twice for steroid use.
So, here we are, UFC 118, that’s 118 UFC promotions as of the conclusion of tonight’s festivities, Couture vs Toney, so how did we get here?
Dana White and his partners deserve a mention here. They have literally created UFC from dust after seeing the success of early mma events staged in Japan. The US of course had a good but limited background in kickboxing and mma prior, but to promote the UFC into the popular successful cult sport it has become speaks to being in the right place at the right time and making the most of opportunity.
All the while, White has weighed in on boxing, alternately offering his views on various fighters or having a pop at the sport. The demographics suggest that there is little overlap in the types of viewers with UFC being very young and boxing’s viewers being closer to Couture’s age than Toney’s age on average.
Couture and Toney deserve some mention for staying somewhat relevant in their aging years, Couture by his deeds and Toney by his mouth. Last I saw Toney in a fight he was literally dropped like a rock by a Fres Oquendo shoulder and rolled out of the ring like a barrel, one of the funniest ring moments ever.
So the UFC fight has something of a farcical quality to it since Toney has no experience in mma save what he has been adding on in training for this fight. It’s widely assumed Couture will avoid a standup fight, taking Toney to the ground at first chance and quickly submit him. Toney doesn’t have a knockout punch, but he has the puncher’s chance in this fight since he has superior punching technique to anyone in UFC history, but can he land a few to turn the fight to his favor?
Like most of the planet who will bother with this, I strongly favor Couture.
White has set up a win/win for UFC regardless of who wins. Most likely he will rub it in when Couture wins, but if Toney wins, he will only have beaten a much older man well past his best, no big deal. Toney will be moved up the UFC food chain into a bigger promotion where he might be the headliner instead of being cast in a supporting bout. All to ultimately be exposed as a boxing legend not good enough for UFC.
Toney hasn’t been a ranked boxing contender in years, but his rabid fans don’t see it that way, and his mouth don’t see it that way, so the average UFC fan won’t see it that way. He’s legend to all of them which is all that counts to Dana White.
Never say never, so when the smoke clears, we’ll have our answer.