Sunday, March 4, 2007

Couture Pounds Sylvia!!!

By: Brady Crytzer
Photos: Ed Mulholland

In what will be forever known as one of the greatest night in mixed martial arts history, 43-year-old Randy "The Natural" Couture came out of retirement to dominate Tim "The Maine-iac" Sylvia for five rounds to become the three time heavyweight champion of the world and the first fighter in UFC history to become a five-time champion between two weight divisions.

The Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio felt like Christmas morning as the largest North American MMA audience in history cheered in excitement for the main event of the evening. For most of the fans in attendance, The Uprising would be forever remembered as their very first experience with a UFC live event. But for those practiced in the fistic festivities, UFC 68 would be etched in their memories as the return of one of the sport's greatest fighters.

Accompanied to the Octagon by Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle," it was clear that Couture was taking this fight as serious as every other fight in his illustrious career. As he stepped into the Octagon, he was met by cheers of adoration by the sold-out venue.

Their hero had returned, but was he truly back?

The ovation that heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia received was much different. Though he has knocked out 17 opponents and has earned every title he has ever picked up along his path of destruction, he was still the man across the ring from the eternal champion . . . and you think your job is stressful?

The tension in the air was palpable. The seconds were out. The Octagon door had been closed. More than one year had passed since Couture had his last fight with Chuck Liddell. All questions would be answered tonight.

As the men touched gloves Couture charged the giant, landing a hard overhand right that sent the champion sprawling onto the cage floor. Nineteen-thousand-plus fans chanted the Hall-of-Famer's name in unison as he grabbed the 268-pound Sylvia by the waist and nearly suplexed him to the floor.

Scorned for illegally grabbing the fence to stop the throw, Sylvia released the cage and was thrown to the mat. From there, Couture secured the back of "The Maine-iac" and the roller coaster ride began.

As Couture tried from all angles to get his forearm around the neck of Sylvia, the champion deciphered every move, but could not get the 43-year-old Couture off of his back. The two men battled for wrist control for nearly four full minutes until time ran out. The world had witnessed that the old dog still had a few tricks.

With a fresh round underway, Sylvia was ready for anything. Using his long jab, he set up a nice straight right that forced Couture to clinch. In the clinch, Sylvia landed hard uppercuts to create space. Trying to use his reach for all it was worth, Sylvia shot out a weak double jab that was countered hard by a Couture right. Sweat flew from the impact of the punch that allowed "The Natural" to slam the champion into the fence and down to the mat. Once on the floor, Sylvia kept Couture in his long guard, forcing the challenger to stand and try to land shots from the top. Couture kept Sylvia's head in the fence and dropped hard punches to the prone champion. Sylvia offered little offense from his back in response to Couture's incredible pressure and pace. After a stand up by referee "Big" John McCarthy, Couture continued to press "The Maine-iac" with hard punches, and even a slick foot sweep at the bell.

The third round was as epic a round as the UFC has ever seen. Not content with going for the takedown, Couture stood in the face of the giant and traded punches. Onlookers gasped at every exchange as visions of the aftermath of Sylvia's brutal power danced in their minds. As Sylvia reached in with long shots, Couture slipped, ducked and dodged each punch, returning two of his own. With each shot delivered by the former champion, the arena came alive in support. Each blow that landed could be felt by every person in the arena. Time after time, the champion would stalk his much smaller prey only to be chopped down by hard rights and lefts.

The fourth round saw a chess match with the fighters on their feet continue, until Couture shot in for a takedown that was defended nicely by Sylvia. After each reset, Couture was back in his face right away, catching the champion off guard and taking him to the mat. In the center of the Octagon, Couture dropped punch after punch to the face of Sylvia. McCarthy ordered the stand up at the half way point and the men prepared for fistic war yet again. As Sylvia tried to drop his monstrous right, Couture slipped and returned fire ten-fold. After a brief Thai-clinch by Sylvia, Couture scored another tremendous takedown that put the champion on his back. Couture advanced to sidemount where he immediately went for an arm. With no luck, Couture mounted the champion. Sylvia patiently waited for his chance and reversed the position getting back to his feet. The round ended with a tired and aged CoutureƑbut he was still throwing punches.

With the fight completely in his favor on the scorecards, Couture prepared for what could be the most important round in his 20-plus years of fighting. He was lifted off his stool by the thousands supporting him and was ready to go to war for one final time. Couture began to close in on the champion but was met with anger and fire as Sylvia blasted him with a left. Going after the legs, Couture exploded with all of his might, sending Sylvia to the mat. After a submission attempt by the champion, Couture advanced to sidemount and began to work. Knee after knee thudded against the big body of the giant champion who now lay on his back. Couture moved to mount as the seconds ticked off of the clock. With exactly one minute left, Sylvia attempted to stand back up. It was then that the Nationwide Arena rose to its feet at once as their hero dumped the champion down for one final takedown.

Three... Two...One...

"AND NEW!" was all that was left to be said as mixed martial arts had witnessed its greatest night.

Scores read 50-45 on all three cards in favor of the challenger Randy "The Natural" Couture.

"Not bad for an old man," said the 43-year-old Couture.

"At my age I think I will be an underdog for the rest of my career so watch out. Time is very tough, very long and very strong."

"I like to think of myself as a regular guy. On some nights, regular guys have extraordinary things happen to them."

"Tonight was one of those nights."

1 comment:

trapmimble said...

well deserved