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Randy's UFC Return: A Losing Proposition

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

An interesting thing happened a few nights ago while I was channel surfing. I got a chance to watch Rocky IV for the 11,378th time.

What made it interesting is not the fact that I could recite the dialogue verbatim (that's more sad than interesting), but that it was early in the movie, when Apollo Creed had a moment of clarity.

Sloshing around in his pool, still buff and light on his feet, Apollo watches a hulking menace named Ivan Drago clomp around and slander the name of American boxing. The former champ decides he's still got it, despite retiring after a decisive defeat, and that he has the experience to overwhelm the much larger opponent.

He even takes the time to get on his soapbox and explain why a fighter can never walk away, even at his age.

I wish Randy Couture could have taken time off from his training to watch this. It's not often I compare real life to a fictional story, but in my mind Randy Couture, like Apollo Creed, cannot win.

It just isn't in the script.

I call it a script because we've seen it over and over. Not just in mixed martial arts but in all sports. And we know how it ends.

If Ken Shamrock had retired after knocking out Kimo Leopoldo at UFC 48, we would probably regard him with a certain amount of esteem, even adding the "Hall-of Famer" title to his name without sarcasm.

Instead he's become a punchline, synonymous with everything that's wrong with the UFC of yesteryear.

Randy Couture, on the other hand, went out on top.

Despite being handily defeated by Chuck Liddell in their last two encounters, Randy still gets a hero's welcome at personal appearances and in the commentator's booth.

In fact, he's so beloved, his reputation as a fighter and as an ambassador to the sport will grow to near mythical proportions. Well, it might have anyway, had he not come out of retirement to remind us he's still mortal.

This is why I consider Zuffa to be even more foolish for wanting this fight than Randy Couture. The popularity of the UFC has exploded. There is no denying that.

Pay-per-view (PPV) buys are through the roof, and fighters from competing organizations are defecting to try their luck in the land of milk and honey.

And why not?

What was once considered an organized freak show is quickly becoming the pinnacle of mixed martial arts. One that is starting to pay very handsomely for the sport's top fighters.

I would warn Dana White to put down his wine glass for a brief moment to consider a phrase that no person or business wants to hear when they've finally made it big:

Proceed with caution.

The UFC owes a lot of its success to its hit television show The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). It has been responsible for generating an entirely new fan base that has business booming.

What percentage of these fans that are here today that will still be here tomorrow I cannot say. Casual fans, and the UFC has them, are only loyal if they're able to connect with the product.

TUF fans know Randy Couture. He won their hearts through his stint as coach on the reality show and his subsequent fight with Chuck Liddell.

The marketing team at Zuffa was quick to highlight his age-defying wins over Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell back in 2003. What they decided to omit, however, were his beatings at the hands of Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez in 2002.

The casual fan has neither the desire nor the know-how to pursue a fighter's history, save for the occasional YouTube highlight reel that only show the best of times.

This claim does not require that I cite references, for my local watering-hole provides a first-hand account before and after every PPV.

To them, Randy Couture has become a place they can hang their hat. He is one of the first fighters they saw courtesy of TUF Season 1, and his appearance in the commentator booth during PPV's renews that connection.

They shared his heartfelt walk to the locker room after retiring, when he was gracious enough to stop and take pictures and give autographs with fans in attendance.

Now Zuffa, in a time when they need every soldier on the front line, wants to sever that bond.

Randy Couture has not fought at heavyweight since 2002. His last two fights in that weight class were TKO losses. There is a reason "The Natural" moved down to light-heavyweight.

At his age, every pound counts towards conditioning and mobility. It was undeniably a successful transition. But as his ability continued to decline, Liddell's improved, and the results were inevitable.

Now, he looks to return to the weight class that originally failed him, to take on a goliath of a man who can hit as hard as anyone in the UFC, Liddell included.

Randy Couture cannot knock Tim Sylvia out. Can he submit him? Possibly, but that's assuming he can take him down. How well can Couture shoot at this stage of his career? Well enough to take "The Maine-iac" off his feet?

The best thing that can happen to Randy is a boring five-round decision. Tim has been known to fight tepidly as evident in his contest with Monson and his third time (which was anything but a charm) against Arlovski.

And if Couture can upset Sylvia, then what? A rematch? A title defense against Cro Cop?

I find it hard to believe that Dana White spent all that money on Mirko Filipovic to watch him behead Randy Couture with a left high-kick.

But I'm probably getting ahead of myself.

Zuffa will get the extra PPV buys they're looking for from this fight (despite it costing them more in the long run). Randy Couture is going to stick to the script and likely be defeated by KO or TKO.

While he won't face the same fate Apollo Creed did, his legendary status might.

TUF fans will have one less thing they can relate to, like they did when Anderson Silva annihilated fan favorites Chris Leben and Rich Franklin (so much for proceeding with caution).

To the purist, Randy Couture will always be held in high regard. He was the first guy to silence the chronically loud-mouthed Ortiz (first to silence, not first to defeat) and the last man to stop the near-invincible Liddell.

But for the casual and sometimes fleeting fan, instead of remembering Randy for his storied walk to the locker room, he'll be remembered as just another guy who should have stayed retired.

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