Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - On Saturday, February 6th, five-time UFC champion Randy Couture returns to the Octagon to take on fellow Hall of Famer Mark Coleman in a showdown nearly 12 years in the making. With the UFC 109 main event just weeks away, it’s the perfect time to remind everyone just why this matchup is so historic. So read on for Couture’s “Magnificent Seven” victories.
By Thomas Gerbasi
On Saturday, February 6th, five-time UFC champion Randy Couture returns to the Octagon to take on fellow Hall of Famer Mark Coleman in a showdown nearly 12 years in the making. With the UFC 109 main event just weeks away, it’s the perfect time to remind everyone just why this matchup is so historic. So read on for Couture’s “Magnificent Seven” victories. Watch how Couture is training for 109
Vitor Belfort I – October 17, 1997 – UFC 15
Result – Couture TKO 1 Watch
Entering this bout at UFC 15 in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Randy Couture was virtually unknown in MMA, with two UFC wins under his belt and an impressive resume as a world-class wrestler. Belfort was another story completely. The 20-year-old wunderkind had three UFC victories under his belt, but each of his wins were frenetic displays of Tyson-esque speed and power. Belfort was ‘the Phenom’, and no one expected him to lose anytime soon, let alone to the soft-spoken 34-year-old. Couture threw a wrench in the works that night though, stopping Belfort at the 8:16 mark and changing the face of MMA forever.
Pedro Rizzo I – May 4, 2001 – UFC 31
Result – Couture W5 Watch
Facing another Brazilian with heavy hands, ‘The Natural’ was seen by many as the underdog against Pedro Rizzo, an underachiever with spectacular natural talent. Once the bell rang though, it was Couture’s will and heart that ruled the day as he pounded out a close but well-earned unanimous decision over ‘The Rock’. Want to know how much heart he showed that night? Ask anyone who was at the post-fight conference about Couture barely able to walk to his seat on the podium after eating Rizzo’s hellacious leg kicks for five rounds.
Chuck Liddell I – June 6, 2003 – UFC 43
Result – Couture TKO 3 Watch
Talk about a trial by fire. In Couture’s first bout at 205 pounds, he gets matched up with Liddell, a fighter who hadn’t lost in four years. But then he goes out and not only beats ‘The Iceman’, he stops him. It was one of the great comeback stories of the game, only to be surpassed by…
Tito Ortiz – September 26, 2003 – UFC 44
Result – Couture W5 (Unanimous) Watch
…a win over the sport’s acknowledged superstar at the time, Tito Ortiz. Accused of having sidestepped a match with Liddell, Ortiz knew that a win over the man who beat ‘The Iceman’ would settle a lot of arguments. Couture wasn’t playing along though, and ‘The Natural’ went from elite fighter to icon over the space of his 25 minute domination of ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’, who had no answers for Couture that night.
Tim Sylvia – March 3, 2007 – UFC 68
Result – Couture W5 (Unanimous)
When Couture announced he was coming out of a one year retirement following his 2006 rubber match loss to Chuck Liddell, not only to fight as a heavyweight, but to fight the biggest heavyweight of them all in 6-8, 260 pound Tim Sylvia, many sighed, hoping that ‘The Natural’ simply wouldn’t get hurt. But the second Couture landed a right hand in the first round that floored Sylvia, the packed house at Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Arena stood and cheered and barely sat down for the ensuing 24 minutes of action. Couture dominated Sylvia from bell to bell for five rounds, and when it was over, as the fans roared, the 43-year old Hall of Famer simply said “Not bad for an old man.”
Gabriel Gonzaga – August 25, 2007 – UFC 74
Result – Couture TKO3 Watch
Sure, Tim Sylvia was big and could punch hard, but he didn’t have the ground game of Jiu-Jitsu ace Gabriel Gonzaga, and ‘Napao’s power was no joke either, as he was coming off a frightening head kick knockout of Mirko Cro Cop. This was going to be the man to end Couture’s storybook run at the top of the heavyweight division, right? Wrong. Couture turned back the clock again, fighting even more impressively than he did against Sylvia as he broke Gonzaga’s nose, and controlled the bout until the end came in the third round. Oh yeah, he also did it with an arm broken by one of Gonzaga’s deadly kicks. The lesson learned here – if you still count Randy Couture out of any fight, you’re just not paying attention.
Brandon Vera – November 14, 2009 – UFC 105
Result – Couture W3 Watch
This was far from Couture’s most exciting victory when it comes to fistic fireworks, but in his return to light heavyweight for the first time since 2006, Couture showed why he remains one of the most dangerous fighters in the world – and it all has to do with his mind and attention to detail. Against another younger, faster, more explosive opponent in the ultra-talented Vera, Couture knew what he had to do – close the gap, avoid incoming fire, and make it a war of attrition. ‘The Natural’ did just that, and while the margin of victory was razor-thin, on the record there’s no column for close wins, just wins, and Couture added number 17 to his ledger on that night in Manchester, England.