via James Law/Heavy.com
Promoted to the Front Page from FanPosts by Matt Bishop
There is a dark chapter in combat sports that no one likes to examine. Fighters long past their prime, looking for one last chance at glory and more importantly one last big pay day, take on an impossible task. The great Joe Louis was savagely beaten and knocked out of the ring by a young, hungry Rocky Marciano. Oscar De La Hoya was beaten into submission by Manny Pacquiao. Most notably, Muhammad Ali stood around for 30 minutes and was used as a heavy bag for Larry Holmes. And on August 28th, James Toney is going to try his hand at MMA against Randy Couture.
Now let’s pretend you’ve been living in an MMA cave for the last six months, and you were blissfully unaware of this matchup. If I told you Randy Couture was fighting this weekend against a guy with no professional or amateur MMA fights, who was purely a striker with only nine months of grappling training, who is 41 years old and is fighting 60 pounds over his natural weight class due to being overweight……….you would laugh yourself silly. You would tell me that it wouldn’t even be a fight, and that Randy Couture would run rough shod all over this MMA neophyte.
But for some reason, when the words "James Toney, former world boxing champion" are added to that description, people become intrigued. They suddenly think that this guy facing Randy Couture has a legitimate chance at scoring a knockout. Never mind that James Toney passed his prime as a boxer before Randy Couture made his MMA debut. Never mind that James Toney isn’t a real heavyweight, who doesn’t really have that much knockout power. People think that because he was a boxing champion, he’s automatically equal parts George Foreman, Earnie Shavers and Mike Tyson. MMA fans who don’t really watch boxing think heavyweight boxers have some sort of soul sapping power, when in reality boxing is much like MMA – not all fighters are created equal. James Toney is a technician. He goes for accuracy and volume over power. While he does have many knockouts on his record, these are not conventional knockouts like an MMA fan would imagine, where the loser is laid out unconscious on the canvas. James Toney’s MO is to grind guys down in the later rounds, get them tired, then get them to cover up and flurry on them until the ref steps in. This would be the MMA equivalent of a fighter achieving mount and raining down punches until the ref stepped in.
James Toney’s boxing career the last several years has been spotty, at best. As Scott Christ points out :
Then the bloom came off the rose. Toney did beat WBA titlist John Ruiz by decision in April 2005. In May, it was reported that Toney had failed his post-fight drug test, and the win was taken off of his record. Toney tested positive for stanozolol, one of the more popular performance-enhancing anabolic steroids. Toney claimed the steroids were prescribed to him to treat an arm injury that he got in the Booker fight, and was also sued by Ruiz.
He beat journeyman Danny Batchelder by split decision in May 2007, but failed another drug test, popping positive for stanozolol and boldenone. He was fined $2500 and suspended for a year, but appealed the suspension by claiming that someone had tampered with his water bottle. The decision was not reversed -- hell, Batchelder failed his drug test, too, for stanozolol and oxandrolone, plus a "high rate of testosterone," consistent with use of HGH.
A rematch with Rahman in July 2008 aired on Fox Sports Net, quite a step down from the glitz and glamour of an HBO fight. The two worn-out heavyweights went three rounds, with Toney appearing to win a TKO-3 when Rahman couldn't continue due to a cut over his left eye. The California State Athletic Commission overruled the result, declaring it a no-contest because the cut had come from an accidental headbutt.
In December, Toney returned to the airwaves on Versus against Fres Oquendo, another never-quite-was of the heavyweight ranks. Toney won a split decision thanks to an eighth round deduction against Oquendo (the fight otherwise would have been a draw). I scored that fight widely for Oquendo, and truly feel he was robbed of a win that night. Toney was highly ineffective. Toney's next fight came in September 2009, a two-round win over an unknown named Matthew Greer. Greer buzzed Toney, with the silver lining of the easy but troubled win being that Toney, at 217 1/2 pounds, looked in much better shape than he had in the last six years.
And that’s what you will be getting on Saturday against Randy Couture, folks. A washed up pro boxer who has gone 4-2-1 and 2 no contests in the last 5 years against meager competition, and has tested positive for steroids twice in that time. In that exact same time frame, Randy Couture has gone 5-4. He submitted Mike Van Arsdale and Mark Coleman, TKO'ed Gabriel Gonzaga, dominated Tim Sylvia and won a close decision over Brandon Vera. He has lost to Chuck Liddell twice in that time, was stopped by Brock Lesnar and dropped a decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Couture has definitely had more success against a higher level of relative competition than James Toney has in the last 5 years.
This is all a moot point though. Anyone who has watched UFC 1 through 10 knows that a one dimensional striker will lose to a grappler every single time. James Toney has not learned anything of note in the nine months he’s spent doing MMA training, and to suggest that he’d be able to thwart anything that Randy Couture throws at him in a grappling context is laughable, at best. Randy Couture’s clinch grappling gives very experienced, well rounded MMA fighters trouble. Brock Lesnar and Brandon Vera, two fighters with wrestling bases, had trouble adjusting to it. Once the fight hits the mat, Randy Couture is a very good submission grappler – let’s not forget that this man went to a draw in a jiu-jitsu match with world champion jiu-jitsu ace Jacare. Once Couture has Toney on the mat, it will just be a matter of how sadistic Couture is feeling that day. He can either ground and pound Toney to a stoppage, or work for a submission. Honestly, I feel that Couture will most likely strike Toney on the ground just enough to get him to open himself up for a basic submission like a rear naked choke or arm triangle, which Randy will gladly take.
Now, there’s a possible opening for Toney to get some offense in. Couture has made it pretty clear he wants to use leg kicks on Toney, and the counter for a leg kick is usually an overhand right. And Toney is a fantastic counter puncher, if anything. The problem? Knowing how to counter a leg kick with a punch takes an incredible amount of practice, and I seriously doubt James Toney was willing to stand around in the gym and let guys kick him while he practiced countering them. Boxers traditionally have hated to get kicked, and I’m sure James Toney is no different.
Now, could James Toney win this fight? Sure. He could land a punch clean on Randy Couture’s chin and knock him out. Randy is 47 years old and really frail. We’ve seem him get dropped in quite a few of his fights the last few years. The problem is, in the fights we’ve seen him get dropped in, he usually at least gets into a clinch before he gets knocked down. Toney has, at best, a 30 second window to knock out Randy Couture. Those odds don’t favor him. Sure, it could happen. Three super models could show up at my door any minute with a briefcase full of cash too, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it.
The bottom line is this – James Toney couldn’t get a fight in boxing, so he trolled Dana White until he could get a fight in the UFC. This is his last big pay day. And much like all those great boxers from the past, he will go out and get embarrassed and embarrassed badly. And people will sit around later and question why the fight was made in the first place, and why we wanted to watch it.
And you know what’s even sadder? After Randy Couture beats up James Toney, we will see him in this same position in a year or so, when he gets a light heavyweight title shot. He will be given one last shot at glory before he retires. And like Muhammad Ali's so called fight with Larry Holmes, it will be hard to watch. But we will all tune in to watch it, and deep down we’ll all think he has a shot too pull off the impossible, even though we will all know what will happen at the end of the night.