by TC Watts (elusive IWW cohost!)
Randy Couture at the age of 43 is the NEW UFC Heavyweight Champion of the World. I never thought I would hear those words again but on March 3, 2007 in the city of Columbus, Ohio in front of 19, 049 rabid fans, Captain America AGAIN defied the odds.
This is the same man who lost his last heavyweight fight to Ricco Rodriguez in 2002. This is the same man who lost 3 of his last 5 fights by knockout. This is the same man who dropped to light heavyweight at the end of his career. This is the same man who was retired for the previous 12 months. This is the man who DOMINATED former champion and 6' 8" (203 cm) 255 (116 kg) slugbot Tim Sylvia.
Coming into the championship bout, not many thought that the old man Couture could manage the ridiculous reach and height advantage that Sylvia possessed. The odds in the betting world told the same story. Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia (-256) vs. Randy Couture (+236) was the line in Vegas. That simply means you have to bet $256 to win $100 on Sylvia and $100 to win $236 on Couture.
I am sure there were many happy souls in Vegas and the world around come Sunday morning and many kicking themselves that they didn't BELIEVE in Mr. Couture.
Why would you believe?
Sylvia, possibly the cockiest UFC heavyweight champion ever and hated by many, was still a feared striker. With an 84 inch reach he should have had no problem battering Randy's head, right? Sylvia was 23-2 with 15 KO's. One of those KO's was against the man with the hardest head in the world, Wesley Cabbage Correira. I remember watching him pepper Cabbage with shots and Cabbage being out on his feet and thinking maybe Sylvia really is worthy. Sylvia went on to then beat heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez (you know the same one who beat up Couture) for the UFC title, only to have his arm legit snapped at the hands of Frank Mir. He eventually lost to Andrei Arlovski, by achilles lock for the vacant title after Mir nearly lost his life in a brutal motorcycle accident. That didn't stop Tim Sylvia from pushing forward and continuing his trek back to the title.
Training with some of the best at Miletich Fighting Systems, Sylvia eventually went on to throttle Mike Block, Tra Telligman(brutal head kick) and Assuerio Silva (another KO) before his rematch with the 'Caveman' Andrei Arlovski. Sylvia knocked out Arlovski in 2:43 of the first round. He then beat Arlovski and noted grappler and 5’9 Jeff Monson in 2 of the most boring fights known to man. Yet, the Maineiac continued to talk like he was the greatest heavyweight in the world even saying he would handle ANYONE in the world with ease. The temerity of Sylvia to say these things after not being able to put away a hurt Arlovski and a non striker in Monson, the world turned on him.
Right around this time, Randy Couture, who commentated, the Monson/Sylvia, fight went on to say he saw many weaknesses in Tim's game and that he could beat him. Sylvia took great offense to this and Couture signed a 3 fight deal to come back at HEAVYWEIGHT.
So the fight was set and the world began to doubt Couture again. Why not? In the real world 43 year old wrestlers with a 12 inch reach disadvantage against a striker, just have no chance in hell, right? Couture took all this to heart and formulated a phenomenal game plan to dispatch of the brash champion.
As the main event arrived the crowd was electric. I am getting chills just thinking about it again. Chants of RANDY, RANDY broke out before the fight even started and didn't stop until the arena was emptied. As hey both stood in the cage staring at each other during introductions, there was a special feeling in the air. Still though, how could Randy overcome that reach and striking ability? All questions were answered about 15 seconds into the first round.
The combatants came out circled and sized each other up. 15 seconds in Randy threw a leg kick followed by a ROCKY like right hand and dropped the big doofus right on his ass. The crowd exploded bigger than anything I have ever seen in MMA or pro wrestling. Sylvia though was not out, just rocked and as Randy charged he turned his back and Randy kept control of said back, working for a rear naked choke for the remaining 4 minutes of the first round.
The two came out in round 2 and decided to have a kickboxing match. Something Sylvia should easily get the best of, right? Well, Randy had the head and body movement of a polished championship boxer. Bobbing and weaving and circling and making Sylvia miss over and over. Meanwhile while Sylvia was striking out, Couture kept hitting the same combo over and over. Left to the body, right hand over the top, and it was effective. They clinched midway in to round 2 and despite the size and weight disadvantage
(255 to 222) Couture took him down with ease. With 30 seconds left the referee stood them up. Advantage Sylvia, right? Wrong, Couture took him right back down as the bell sounded and the current heavyweight champion of the world looked flustered and beaten.
Round 3 began and Sylvia looked tired. A round full of kickboxing followed, and with a one foot reach disadvantage he was outclassing Sylvia on his feet. The fight was dramatic because everyone knew that one punch or kick from the feared striker could floor Couture and end the fairytale. Sylvia, though, was afraid to kick out of fear of being taken down. The bobbing and weaving this round from Couture was simply a thing of beauty and something to behold. Round 3 ends and both men looked completely gassed and breathing hard. (Sylvia was even BURPING between rounds.)
Randy again took him down to begin round 4 and stayed there until the ref stood them up with 2:52 left in the round. Couture went to work and gained side mount before going for his back. Sylvia being a monster reversed and ended up in north south position. In a moment of genius, Randy left his hands on the ground so Sylvia couldn't knee him. The first 'championship' round ended and it seemed Couture was up 4-0. The crowd was ridiculous at this point, with RANDY chants breaking out more and more. Matt Hughes in the corner of Sylvia (I wonder where Tim gets his cockiness?) looked near tears at the impending doom of his friend big Tim.
Round 5 began and as Sylvia left his corner he muttered, ‘Is this the 5th?’ Not a good sign for the CHAMP. Randy Couture took him down again and went to work, grinding on him and just simply beating on him. Sylvia's left eye was now closed from all the right hands over the top. Couture garnered mount and Sylvia finally got up, only to be dumped back on the mat by the accomplished wrestler. The round finally ended and the chills began as Couture raised his hands in anticipation of the impending announcement.
The announcement came and the HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP of the WORLD was strapped around the waist of 43 friggin year old Randy Couture. In a very fitting moment, Joe Rogan appeared to interview Randy and near tears, said, 'I don't know what to say, there are no words.' Randy simply said in that Captain America style that we all love, 'Not bad for an old man!'
No, Randy, not BAD at all.