Juiceboxing101: Can James Toney Kill the Legacy of Randy Couture?

Justin OrelCorrespondent IMay 12, 2010

PORTLAND, OR - AUGUST 29:  UFC fighter Antonio Nogueira (L) battles UFC fighter Randy Couture (R) during their Heavyweight bout at UFC 102:  Couture vs. Nogueira at the Rose Garden Arena on August 29, 2009 in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

A legend is a legend no matter how that legendary career ends. A strikeout following 1,000 home runs will not kill that legacy or make the fans forget about those home runs.

However, if that last strikeout is bad enough, the fans tend to remember that first, and the career second.

Horrible baseball analogies aside, we’ve had quite a few instances of this in mixed martial arts. Ken Shamrock was a killer in his early years, but lost seven of his last 10 fights. Of those seven, six were knockouts.

We no longer think of Shamrock as a legend. He’s that old guys that gets knocked out all the time.

Chuck Liddell is another, less glaring example of a fallen hero. Chuck was perceived to be unstoppable for a few years, but even the immortal Iceman started eating the mat on a consistent basis.

That brings me to one of the most beloved and idolized figures in the history of MMA—Randy “The Natural” Couture.

The 46-year-old “Captain America” has defied the odds throughout his career, which included 15 title fights, title wins in two divisions, and a spot on the UFC Hall of Fame. These accolades will never be forgotten, and will no doubt still be impressive feats 20 years from now.

On top of that, Randy’s not getting smashed like Shamrock or Chuck was. He’s taken the low road and fought guys such as Mark Coleman and Brandon Vera, as opposed to guys like Shogun Rua and Rashad Evans, who aged Chuck in dramatic fashion.

Point is, Randy’s played his cards right, and even in the wee hours of his career, he’s found himself on a two-fight win streak and he’s a win away from a light-heavyweight title shot.

Randy Couture is the legend that will not die!

The problem is, there’s a bigger, younger, stronger guy out there that intends to transform that next win into a nightmare. The UFC heavyweight (or maybe light-heavyweight?) division’s newest asset, James “Lights-Out” Toney.

At just 5’9”, Toney would have been a rather unassuming character, had he not been as strong as an ox and gone on to win more boxing title fights than Randy’s had MMA bouts.

When Dana White announced Toney’s arrival in the UFC, he was almost universally panned for it. An ex-boxer in the UFC? What a tragedy! Yet we readily accept a pro wrestler as our heavyweight champion, and some of us actually like Forrest Griffin. Different strokes, I guess.

I personally would like to see more boxers make the jump to MMA, but Toney is the one who has seemed the most serious and intent on transitioning, and that’s why he’s been awarded the contract. We’ve all seen what a right hand can do when wearing a 5oz. Glove.

This guy’s done it with pillows on his hands.

Toney may not know what to do in the clinch. He may not be able to avoid double-underhooks, and he may think a “butterfly guard” is something grown men shouldn’t do to each other. I don’t know how much preparation he’s putting into his ground game, or how effective he think he can be up against the cage.

I do know that James Toney has the ability to send Randy Couture’s head flying across the TD Arena in Boston.

I’m positive that Randy’s going to avoid straight-up boxing at all costs, and there’s no reason not to. There’s no way in hell Randy wants to take any shots from Lights-Out. But all it takes to end a fight is one big punch; we’ve seen in a million times before. It’ll be interesting to see how Randy approaches Toney from the feet. He can’t just rush in there and try to clinch, because he’ll end up taking a dirt nap.

It’s like getting too close to a woodchipper. He should probably just stay away.

But Randy took this fight, which tells me he doesn’t think James Toney has a prayer of beating him. He’s going to be in for a rude awakening at UFC 118.

Randy has been lucky in avoiding the “fallen hero” moniker in his career thus far, and we all admire him for it. That’s why it’s going to be so heartbreaking to see this roly-poly boxer storm the Octagon and rip the wings off of our MMA angel.

His accolades will never be forgotten. His ability to win against the odds will forever be remembered and revered. However, by accepting this fight with Toney has sealed the fate of one of the greatest warriors our sport has ever seen, and Randy’s last impression on the fans may end up being James Toney turning the lights out on this legendary career.