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|No one doubts that James Toney can take a punch. But can he stay upright against a grappler?|
"There are a lot of guys in the UFC who can take me down, but I'm learning how to defend the takedown. I'm not even worried about that. They've got to worry about that when they get in with me -- how are they going to take me down? They've got to take risks when they take me down. They're taking a risk that they're going to get knocked out. … It's all hand-to-hand combat."
Here's how I know MMAFighting.com's Michael David Smith is a professional: There's no evidence he burst out laughing when James Toney offered him the above quote over the weekend.
Toney, the former heavyweight champion of the alphabet soup of boxing, signed with the UFC last week in the promotion's attempt to head off any geek shows being assembled by Strikeforce. Toney is a force on the feet, but his attitude is eerily similar to the kind conveyed in letters that poured into Black Belt magazine when open-arena fighting became popular in the 1990s.
Paraphrased: "Gracie is tough, but he'd never take a Tang Soo Do fighter to the ground. I would punch/kick/knee him first."
We expect this kind of delusion from traditional artists who were confused by the earliest days of the sport, but Toney has 15 years of footage he can look to proving that when an Olympic-caliber grappler wants your ass on the ground, it's going to the ground. One-dimensional strikers can sometimes betray this rule by using athleticism and a seriously expedited level of anti-grappling: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic spent the better part of the past decade destroying people, despite his lack of a wrestling background. Whatever he did, he should bottle and sell it to Toney.
It's strange that the first, most obvious question for Dana White on this issue has yet to be asked: Before signing this guy, did you request to see him spar with takedowns and kicks integrated as part of a scouting report? My guess is no. Don't ask, don't tell.