Captain America. The Natural. He has many names and is known around the world as one of the best fighter’s ever to compete in Mixed Martial Arts. Enter Mr. Randy Couture.
At the age of 33, Randy Couture made his debut into the sport of MMA in the UFC. He faced Tony Halme and Steven Graham in UFC 13: The Ultimate Force. Winning both of his matches. He defeated Halme by rear naked choke and Steven Graham by TKO. Both fights lasted less than five minutes combined.
Then, only one fight later, a victory over Vitor Belfort, Couture faced Maurice Smith for the UFC Heavyweight Title at Ultimate Japan 1 in the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan. Couture won by decision by the end of the fight and at 34 was the Heavyweight Champion of the UFC.
Couture went on to fight in the Rings organization for a few fights and then returned to the UFC to defeat the likes of Kevin Randlemen and Pedro Rizzo twice in a row. After back-to-back losses to Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez at heavyweight, couture decided to drop down to 205 and face Chuck Liddell for the interim light heavyweight Title.
The reason that Liddell and Couture had to fight for the interm title was because Tito Ortiz was avoiding Liddell. While Ortiz fought more competitive competition, Ortiz fought, well let’s just say guys that weren’t as high caliber as the opponents that Liddell were facing. Eventually, Liddell became the number one contender for the light heavyweight title.
Tito claimed to have movie obligations and that he was teaching seminars or helping a fighter prepare for an upcoming fight. When in reality, it was probably just the fact that he didn’t want to risk losing his title to Liddell, who was on a tear through the light heavyweight division of the UFC and was considered to be one of the top fighters, if not the top fighter, in the world.
Presto! Ortiz inadvertently forces the UFC to create an interim title.
Couture and Liddell faced off at UFC 43: The Meltdown at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Couture dominated the fight. He used his boxing and timing to neutralize Liddell’s striking. Couture out-struck the striker. Eventually, Couture took Liddell to the mat and ground ‘n pounded out a victory to become the interim title.
Three months later, at UFC 44: Undisputed, Couture and Ortiz went at it and in the Mandalay Bay arena. Couture did the same thing that he did to Liddell just three months earlier. He neutralized Tito’s striking and out-wrestled him too. Taking him to the amt at will and “Tito-ing” him a little bit by ground ‘n pounding Ortiz into the mat.
At one point near the end of the fifth round, Ortiz got Couture into in a leg lock, but couldn’t crank the leg and put any prsseure on it because Couture was standing.
Couture actually started to “spank” Ortiz at one point near the end of the round and Otiz’s corner tried to claim that Couture was tapping from the leg lock, but anyone that was watching the fight could see that Couture was smiling and laughing and not in any danger or pain. So the spanking was just to mock Ortiz and was a “screw you” if you will.
By the end of the fight, Couture got the nod from the judges and rightfully so. It was obvious who won the fight.
Couture lost the title in his first title defense against Vitor Belfort when the corner of Belforts glove sliced open Couture’s eyelid not long into the fight. The doctor called the fight off due to the fact that Couture couldn’t see. Belfort won the fight by doctors stoppage.
Both men called for an immediate rematch and were given it seven months later at UFC 49: Unfinished Business. As Couture puts it, the second fight was just a continuation of the first one. Couture won by doctors stoppage when Belfort wasn’t able to continue.
Couture lost the title in his next fight. I see a pattern growing here. Couture came in and tried to employ the same gameplan as he had before against Liddell. Unfortunately for Couture, Liddell had done his homework and fixed all the problems that had caused him to lose the first time around and knocked out Couture.
Couture won his next fight against Mark Van Arsdale by anaconda choke. Then he got his third shot at Liddell. At UFC 57, Liddell and Couture went at it for the third time. What no one knew as Couture made his way to the Octagon was that this would be the last time they would see Couture fight for over a year.
That night, after being knocked out for the second time by Liddell, Couture announced his retirement from fighting. And with heavy hearts, we all wished him farewell as he exited the arena.
After a year away, Couture reportedly called Dana White and said that he didn’t think that any of the heavyweights really wanted anymore. So Couture came out of retirement and won the heavyweight title from Tim Sylvia. He then went on to defend the title against Gabriel Gonzaga.
Couture decided to retire as the champion after the Gonzaga fight.
After a legal battle with the UFC and Dana White, Couture came back and fought Brock Lesnar for the title. After a good first round, Brock nailed Couture with a right hand and dropped Couture to the mat and pounded him into submission. Lesnar was the new Heavyweight Champion of the UFC.
After a few months, Couture had an great showing against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria. Couture ended up losing the fight, but showed his much improved boxing and footwork. Which he said he had started working on for the Lesnar fight.
Couture’s next fight was at 205 pounds against Brandon Vera. Couture controlled the fight through all three rounds with Vera landing some hard shots in the second. By the end of the fight, it was obvious that Couture’s clinch game had gotten even better and that he could still hang with some of the top fighters in the division.
Couture eventually got a crack at Ex-Champion, Lyoto Machida. The fight was, unfortunately, Machida’s fight from the opening bell and the Karate expert knocked Couture out with an impressive Crane Kick. Couture announced his retirement after the knockout loss.
Though he no longer fights in the world famous Octagon, Randy Couture will remain present in the sport as a coach and mentor too many fighters. And even though we no longer see him step into the cage, he will always be an icon in this sport. Couture helped usher in the era of powerhouse wrestlers and beat the odds more than once to become the champ.
Gone, but never forgotten.
An icon in true form.