Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia
Event: UFC 68
Date: Mar 3rd, 2007
It's hard to remember a time when Randy was such a dramatic underdog, especially against the much maligned Tim Sylvia, but back in 2007, in the lead up to UFC 68, Randy Couture, the unlikely challenger to the heavyweight championship held by Tim Sylvia, was quite the underdog.
The reason for the doubt in Couture's abilities (though many a sheepish fan who chose Timmy will question it now), was the result and aftermath of his performance against Chuck Liddell in their meeting a year prior. That loss was a big deal for Randy, which was most evident in the immediate interview after the fight, when a bloodied Couture announced his retirement. So when it was announced less than a year later, that Couture would be challenging for not the light heavyweight title, but rather the heavyweight title again, against a tested champion, people not only doubted Couture's resolve, but also whether he realltt deserved the honor.
The bottom line is, as we have seen time and time again, the MMA community is a fickle bunch. People give in to the hype of up and comers who may not deserve it, and then equally throw shit at quality fighters who have hit a rough patch in their careers. Anyone who actually watched Couture's three fights against Liddell, knows that the two times he lost, he was simply caught by a power striker. He had an unusually bad game plan in both fights, and played into Liddell's strengths. However, unlike many a veteran getting demolished or outpointed later in their careers, Couture wasn't truly tested to see if he actually still had what it took to hang with the best. From the get go, Couture has been in a constant state of education in the fight game, and anyone who knew the fighter and the wars he had had leading up to his fight with Sylvia, should have known that Couture was FAR from being an underdog.
This isn't to say that Sylvia wasn't a threat. Tim is probably the most disrespected fighter in MMA history, mainly due to his lack of athleticism, and complete dependence on size to get the win. Leading up to this fight though, Tim was on a 6 fight winning streak, and a defending champion. Back then, the heavyweight scene was the weakest it probably had ever been, but realistically, even in PRIDE, there were only a handful of elite level fighters who had a chance at beating Tim Sylvia in the cage at the time.
Once these two finally entered the cage, and the first round started, it wasn't until Randy landed probably the most exciting punch ever thrown in MMA, that instantly revitalized a beleaguered Couture fan base, and began filling up his war wagon once again. The rest of the bout was complete dominance. While not a barn burner, or a technical grappling chess match, it was impressive to see Sylvia get picked apart by an "old" retiree who people had written off, and expected to go quietly into the night.
Couture became champion that night, and would carry on for 4 more years fighting in probably the best fights of his career, and to become the most respected fighter in MMA history. Perhaps most of all though, this win marked a dramatic transition in the heavyweight division, that would raise it to the level of all the other divisions.
Rating: 8/10 (not for the dramatic action, but for the sheer excitement of 90% of the crowd who wanted something new)
Warglory's Winner: Randy Couture