March 3rd, 2007 is the date that Randy “The Natural" Couture faces Tim “The Main-iac" Sylvia at UFC 68 in Columbus Ohio. That's the date that Randy Couture wants to make Mixed Martial Arts history. Randy Couture is no stranger to the UFC heavyweight division. He won the heavyweight title on two separate occasions. But, that was in 1997 and 2001. In fact, his last two outings in the heavyweight division, both in 2002, ended badly for Randy. His conclusion at the time is that the fighters were too big for him. My conclusion was “now the big guys can fight". Randy was once able to out skill much larger opponents, but as the skill differences lessened, his success did also.
Not to be kept down, Randy Couture came back, reinventing himself as a light heavyweight fighter. Once again, Randy was dominant. He was now an exceptionally strong and skilled light heavyweight and seemed to be in his element. With dominant victories over Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Vitor Belfort Randy seemed unstoppable. That is until his first and second rematches against Chuck Liddell. In those outings, it was Chuck's superior striking, not his size which brought Randy down.
The question on March 3rd will be this. Is Tim Sylvia too big and too strong for Randy Couture? Randy will be 43 years old and if he comes into this fight in great shape he'll likely be around 215 pounds. In contrast, Tim Silvia will be 30 years old and will need to cut some weight to fit into the UFC's heavyweight limit of 265 pounds.
Tim Sylvia is primarily a striker, he uses his huge reach advantage (Tim is 6'8" tall) well. He stays to the outside and picks opponents apart with his jab and waits for one to come into his range, then throws a big right. Tim also has an excellent sprawl and his extreme height makes it difficult for even very good wrestlers, Jeff Monson included, to turn him over. In his most recent fight with Jeff Monson, Tim even showed some decent ground work in almost submitting Monson.
When the cage closes and the fight begins, we can expect the usual from Tim Sylvia. He will stay well on the outside, expecting Randy to shoot and ready to defend against it. Randy is an excellent wrestler with near Olympic credentials. We can expect Randy Couture to throw some long punches, attempting to get inside Tim's range (without getting hit) to take him down.
About one minute into the fight Randy will attempt his first shot, he will throw a two punch combination to confuse Sylvia, then get his underhooks in place. Randy will need to be aware of Tim's knees from this position as his size disadvantage will leave his head in just the right place for a devastating knee strike. If all the stars are aligned properly, Randy will get his take down, but it's too early in the fight for Randy to finish Tim. Tim is just too strong to be submitted, ground and pounded, or kept down for long early in the first round. Tim will either get back up or be stood up by the ref.
Here's where my crystal ball gets a little fuzzy. Randy will now have some confidence that he can keep Silvia down and Silvia will have some confidence that he can get up if Randy does put him down. Look for Silvia to come forward a little more with strikes, even trying a head kick. Head kicks are nice, but Randy Couture is not Tra Telligman and high kicks on Randy Couture might end in disaster for Tim Silvia. I believe Randy will grab a leg on one of these attempts and take Tim down again, this time it will be worse for Sylvia.
As the fight wears on, Tim's lack of cardio will begin to show and Randy will become more and more dominant.
In the final analysis, I don't believe Tim's punches will be coming at Randy as fast or as hard as Chuck Liddell's. I also don't believe that Tim's take down defense is as good as Chuck's. I will predict that Randy Couture will win this fight either late in the first or in the second round by ref's stoppage or submission.
Ladies and gentlemen, the new world heavyweight champion, Randy “The Natural" Couture.
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