Randy "The Natural" Couture is one of the most decorated champions in UFC history and in the sport of MMA after holding the UFC light heavyweight title twice, and winning the heavyweight title a record of three times.
At 47-years-old, Couture has stood head and shoulders above many of his fellow peers and has still been able to compete at a high level in the sport.
Whether you're a fan of Randy or a hater, you can't deny that he's one of the pioneers of our sport and has paved the way for many athletes.
As Randy faces his last bout in the Octagon, we'll take a trip down memory lane to the look back at the fights that will now be etched in stone.
Defying father time, the Randy Couture story.
"The Natural" was born in Everett, Washington, in 1963 to parents Sharan and Ed Couture.
While Randy had been conceived in Everett, the Couture family lived in Lynnwood, Washington most of his young life. It didn't take long for "The Natural" to find his passion for athletic competition, as Randy began wrestling for Lynnwood Middle School and then Lynnwood High School.
Before leaving for the U.S. Army in 1982, Couture would finish Lynnwood High School and would capture a State Championship for his team.
Randy spent six years in the army before being discharged, and during this time, Couture sharpened his wrestling and boxing. After being discharged, Couture would go to Oklahoma State University, and become a three-time NCAA Division-I All-American and a two-time runner up. Later, Randy would become a three-time Olympic team alternate in 1988, 1992, and 1996 in Greco-Roman wrestling.
After becoming a highly respected amateur wrestler, Couture was settling down as a wrestling coach for Oregon State University until he saw tape of the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
On May 30th, 1997, an MMA legend was born at 34-years-old and Couture won the UFC 13 Heavyweight Tournament in under five minutes, having defeated Tony Halme and Steven Graham. (Couture defeated Halme by submission via rear naked choke at 1:00 into round 1 and then he would defeat Graham by TKO via strikes at 3:13; also in round 1)
Couture's first real big step up in competition came at the hands of the dangerous striker Vitor Belfort. Most people at the time, expected Belfort to handle Couture, but "The Natural" dominated Belfort and would win via TKO due to strikes at 8:17 in the first round.
In December of 1997, Couture captured his first UFC heavyweight championship after defeating Maurice Smith via majority decision in just his fourth fight in mixed martial arts.
From there Couture would hit a bump in the road, as Couture would suffer his first loss after succumbing to a first round armbar to Enson Inoue at Vale Tudo Japan 98 and in his next fight, Couture would lose to journeyman fighter Mikhail Illoukhine via kimura in March of 1999.
The true test of a real champion is how he deals with adversity, and Couture vacated his UFC heavyweight title after the losses, and felt he should earn it back. In 2000, Randy Couture would defeat the UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman after losing the first two rounds, and then sweeping Randleman and landing several unanswered punches that Randleman had no answer for.
In 2000, Couture entered the Rings King of Kings tournament, and although he'd come up short handed in the semifinals to Valentijn Overeem, Couture defeated the likes of Japanese legend Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and submission specialist Jeremy Horn.
After dealing with another setback in his career, Couture would engage in an all out epic battle with heavyweight contender Pedro Rizzo. The first fight between Couture and Rizzo was a back-and-forth fight that some felt Rizzo should've been awarded the decision and in the fight, and to this day, Couture still has a knot in his right quadricep from the leg kicks he sustained during the fight. Since the fight was so close the first time around, Couture had to make a statement, and a statement he did as he finished Rizzo in the third round via TKO that left no doubt this time in the minds of MMA fans.
At UFC 36, in 2002, Couture would face another setback in his career as he lost to the young and dangerous fighter Josh "The Baby Faced Assassin" Barnett via TKO in round 2. After the bout, Barnett tested positive for steroids and Couture would meet the much larger submission specialist Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 39 for the vacant UFC heavyweight title. At UFC 39, it became apparent that size mattered and Rodriguez was able to break Couture down and then ground n' pound Couture in the fifth round.
Many people at the time felt Couture should consider retirement following the back-to-back losses to Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez. During this time, the UFC management felt sick of Tito Ortiz not defending his title against Chuck Liddell and decided to grant Randy Couture an opportunity to drop down to light heavyweight for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title.
Most fans and pundits did not give Randy Couture a snowball's chance in hell when they discussed Randy Couture taking on Chuck Liddell the first time. But, the former two-time UFC heavyweight champion (at the time) defied father time and defeated "The Iceman" by out-striking him and landing several takedowns. It was in the third round of their fight, Couture would end up taking Liddell down again and end up mounting Liddell. Couture would continuously punish Liddell with punches that had no answer, and Couture would become the vacant UFC light heavyweight champion.
Back in 2004, at UFC 46, "The Natural" would defend his light heavyweight strap for the first time when he met Vitor Belfort in a rematch from UFC 15. The fight would not last long as Belfort was able to quickly cut open Randy's eye with a grazing shot in the first round. Since the fight was so short and the cut was accidental, the UFC granted Couture a rematch for the title, and this time around Couture was able to win back his title by dominating Vitor Belfort by utilizing an effective clinch to control Belfort and then Couture would land shots that opened up a huge cut and the doctors would have to stop the fight before the fourth bell sounded.
In 2005, many people were calling for a rematch between Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell and Randy Couture. At the time, Liddell was coming off devastating KO victories over Tito Ortiz and Vernon White. But before the fight, the two opponents would coach against each other on "The Ultimate Fighter", where Chuck Liddell's team was able to take it in the finals. After "TUF", Liddell and Couture would be surrounded by a huge buzz prior to the fight and back at UFC 52, Liddell would defeat Couture by KO in the first round.
Randy would not let the KO loss to Liddell deter him from recapturing his glory, and the UFC decided that "The Natural" earned rematch with Liddell by defeating Mike Van Arsdale at UFC 54 via third round anaconda choke.
At age 43, Randy would take another crack at the UFC light heavyweight title when he met "The Iceman" for the all-important third and final bout. Couture had trouble finding his rhythm, but still managed to get a takedown in the first round, and Liddell just seemed much faster. In the second round, Liddell would put the crowd in awe as he knocked out Couture for the second time.
After the bout with Liddell, "The Natural" told MMA fans that he would retire and hang up the gloves. But after witnessing then UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia coast to victories, Couture could remain retired no longer. So in 2007, Randy Couture would look to defy father time once again at 44-years of age and at UFC 68 he would do so by dominating the much larger and younger fighter in Tim Sylvia by winning a lopsided decision in a fight that nobody gave him a chance in.
In Couture's final appearance in the Octagon, he just couldn't get it going against the much faster and younger Lyoto Machida and moved his record to 19-11. But Couture wouldn't go down without a fight as he did land a hook that snapped Machida's head back momentarily. But Machida sent Couture out on a loss to end a legendary career and it will be hard pressed to find anyone who defied the odds as long as Randy did.
And so the final bell has sound and one thing is for clear, the sport of mixed martial arts was lucky to have Randy Couture as a champion and role model.