“The Lessons learned in UFC 1 Still apply in 118” Joe Rogan, after Randy Couture’s submission victory over boxer James Toney.
James Toney entered the world of MMA with a massive chip on his shoulder. He strangely felt insulted by the perceived notion that a simple boxer could not compete in the world of mixed martial arts. However the MMA community has not stated this as an arrogant taunt to boxing, it’s just stating the facts. MMA fans also show a degree of self awareness as they understand a cage fighter would struggle in a boxing ring e.g. Andrei Arlovski.
Never the less Toney pestered UFC President Dana White for months, picking a fight until eventually he got one. White offered him UFC Hall of Famer Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture (one of the fighters on Toney’s ‘hit-list’).
Dana immediately admitted that the fight was a “freak show” and that this was purely to prove a point to James.
The pre-fight hype played out like a WWE storyline with James as the’ Heel’ and Randy as the ‘Face’. Toney was the invading enemy with the purpose of bringing down MMA. Like a virus that had infected the sport or a bomb that had to be defused or risk the downfall of the sports credibility. Toney was in the lion’s den. Randy on the other hand had the job and pressure of defending the fundamental principles and core beliefs that the sport hold dear.
The fight had great crossover appeal as well as interest to mainstream audiences who would be intrigued more than anything about the outcome and the offshoot implications. However most hardcore fans understood how predictable the fight would be.
The fight itself played out as was expected as Randy immediately took James down with the rarely used low single leg takedown and then easily moved up to the full mount position where he softened him up with strikes before attempting a submission. He never quite got the first choke attempt but Toney never learned and moments later the fight was finished by arm triangle. James was humbled, helplessly flailing his arm about accompanied by a verbal tap out. He couldn’t even quit right.
It never was UFC versus boxing though, just a side show, but more importantly it was an exemplar warning to any cocky boxers looking to make the move over. Randy had said before hand that he wondered if James honestly believed his boxing skills alone would be enough to get him through- and by what we seen of his ground game it would appear that that was the case.