Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Reflection on history-making night for "The Natural"

By Steve Sievert

It has taken me this long to pen some words about what occured at UFC 68 Saturday, because, until now, I could utter only one more word than Joe Rogan could come up with in his post-fight interview with Randy Couture - wow!

That was it. That was all I had - wow!

Fortunately, I've been able to cobbled together a few additional thoughts, so I'll dive in and share.

First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I don't claim to be a mixed martial arts historian. As most of you who read this space regularly know, I've been on the MMA beat for the Houston Chronicle for a grand total of something like nine months. Sure, in that time I've gone back in the archives to acquaint myself with some of the action from UFC 1, and I've read up on a number of bouts that have helped shape the sport into what it is today.

However, in that time - limited as it is - I've seen no performance that was more impressive than what I witnessed from press row at Nationwide Arena Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio.

Amazing, unbelievable, spectacular, unparalleled, stunning, brilliant, incredible - where's my thesaurus?

What Randy "The Natural" Couture pulled off against Tim Sylvia may never be duplicated. It was that kind of performance.

Couture owned a fighter 13 years younger, six inches taller and 40 pounds heavier. He beat Sylvia in every aspect of the fight and - most amazingly - initiated the stand-up exchanges in a move that completely befuddled the former champ. It was a fight plan executed to perfection that led to a clean sweep of all five rounds.

Sylvia was exposed as a one-dimensional fighter who was so thrown from his game that he never came close to having a plan "B." How many kicks did he attempt? I counted zero - wow. There's that word again.

Couture was bobbing and weaving like he was 23, not 43. The head movement wreaked havoc with Sylvia and when the 6-foot-8 giant wasn't trying to figure out how to hit Couture, he was on his back under yet another successful Couture shoot.

So, is Couture that good, or is Sylvia that bad?

I'll take the former. Couture is that good.

And, at this point, there's little left to say about Couture, except this - one of the reasons why Randy is such a beloved athlete in MMA has as much to do with his character outside the octagon as it does with his mastery of the sport inside it.

Couture is as class a guy as you'll find in sports - respectful of his opponents, appreciative of his fans, and as grounded as they come.

"I just feel like a regular guy most of the time. Occasionally, regular guys have exceptional things happen to them, and this was certainly one of those nights."

One of those nights mixed martial arts fans will never forget.


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