Wednesday, February 21, 2007

UFC heavyweight champion Tim (The Maine-iac) Sylvia says bring it on

By Neil Davidson

(CP) - While the UFC beefs up its heavyweight division with the likes of Randy Couture, Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic and Heath (Texas Crazy Horse) Herring, Tim Sylvia waits and watches.

The reigning heavyweight champion says he welcomes the competition. Come and get me, says the six-foot-eight, 255-pound man-mountain. "I think my next couple of fights are going to be my legacy," Sylvia told The Canadian Press in an interview from his prized UFC special edition Hummer.

First up is the 43-year-old Couture, a Hall of Famer coming out of retirement after a year out of the mixed martial arts game. Couture has owned both the heavyweight and light-heavyweight titles in the past and is considered an icon in the sport.

So does Sylvia want to test himself against the best?

"Well, one of the best," Sylvia corrects the questioner. "I wouldn't say the best. I consider myself THE best."

Sylvia and Couture face off March 3 at UFC 68: The Uprising in Columbus, Ohio. It's widely expected that Filipovic will take on the winner, once he disposes of Gabriel Gonzaga.

Couture could have his hands full against Sylvia, who is 13 years younger - and much bigger.

"If I have to look at it objectively, I don't see how Randy Couture is going to win," says UFC commentator Joe Rogan. "I see a young, hungry, gigantic man who has vicious knockout power and he's fighting a guy who's in his 40s, who has always had a problem with big men. And this is the biggest man he's ever fought. And the most dangerous.

"Tim Sylvia is a very under-rated man. He just doesn't look that dangerous, because he's got a body that looks like the average person's body. He doesn't have this muscular shredded six-pack body. . . . He doesn't look like this dynamic powerhouse alpha male champion. But he is. I think people get confused.

"That guy's a very dangerous fighter. He wants to win and he's willing to put in the work to win. He's constantly improving. He's a scary guy."

And this coming from an unabashed Couture admirer.

But middleweight Dean Lister, who has been helping Couture prepare, sees it differently.

"I think Randy Couture's game plan and his experience are going to pull through," Lister said. "Even though Tim Sylvia's bigger, Randy Couture, I feel, is going to grab him and it's going to be very hard for Sylvia to stay away from him."

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