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"We've heard [Floyd] Mayweather and others kind of run their mouths about it, and he's the first one that's actually had the courage to step up and fight and stand behind what he's talking."
That's the quote from Randy Couture addressing a possible fight in August with James Toney. Couture told MMAWeekly Radio that the bout could be signed within the next few weeks. It's a ridiculous idea, obviously, with no real diesel engine behind it. Toney is a fading boxer, and Couture could become completely ineffectual any day now.
That doesn't mean it will be boring. I'm almost ashamed to say the fight actually has something going for it: two sharply contrasted styles that have very broadly defined limitations.
Because Couture is more of a clinch fighter than a kickboxer, a match with Toney that stays on the feet isn't going to be that dynamic. Toney will have an honest shot at catching him without getting brain freeze at the potential of a foot in his face. If the fight hits the ground, Toney won't be getting back up. Pretty simple story.
That kind of fight promotion has largely been pushed aside because of evolution. Fighters with obvious strengths are still capable-to-dangerous in other facets of the game. But when the differences are this sweeping, it becomes interesting. Instead of nullifying an opponent's strength, you have to be proactive in forcing your own. Pure boxer versus pure wrestler at this level of celebrity hasn't been done in decades. (And ignoring Ray Mercer's logging of Tim Sylvia, boxing hasn't had a name puncher against an MMA fighter since Francois Botha fought current UFC middleweight Yoshihiro Akiyama in 2004.)
The most intriguing question is whether or not the UFC can do what boxing couldn't by making Toney a dependable attraction. (It's utterly bizarre that a fighter with the style of a narcoleptic in John Ruiz has been involved in more pay-television attractions than Toney, a gifted self-promoter.) My feeling is that the UFC's marketing machine coupled with his mouth will be an impressive, if not exactly runaway success.
And if Toney wins? Argh -- not because of Toney's attitude, but because of the ammunition it would create for men like Mayweather and Bob Arum, devoted deniers of MMA's level of technique. Couture is at a point where no fight is a must-win for him, but this one might be a must-win for his sport.