|ESPN.com: Mixed Martial Arts||[Print without images]|
BOSTON -- The next time a professional boxer with no mixed martial arts experience considers stepping into the Octagon, he should take a look at what happened Saturday to James Toney at UFC 118.
Toney received a rude welcoming to the MMA world at TD Garden courtesy of former UFC heavyweight/light heavyweight champion Randy Couture.
Less than a minute into the fight, Couture (19-10-0) easily took Toney to the ground and never let the boxing champion get back to his feet.
Once Toney was on the ground, his inexperience was evident. He was unable to prevent Couture from posturing up and landing strikes.
The image of Toney (72-6-3, two no-contests) at 0-1 in MMA and getting mauled by a cage legend had the 15,575 fans in attendance on their feet, screaming excitedly.
Things would get much worse for Toney. The more he tried to squirm from under Couture, the easier it became for the UFC Hall of Famer to apply an arm triangle.
Toney had no clue how to defend himself on the ground, and for the first time in his professional fighting career, he was finished early. At 3 minutes, 19 seconds, Toney had enough and tapped.
No boxer can walk into MMA without spending significant time learning at least one other fight discipline. Toney learned this lesson the hard way -- by having his lights put out.
"James Toney picked this fight, and he got a fight," UFC president Dana White told ESPN.com. "Toney lasted longer than I thought he would.
"It's unfair to put a guy in there with one discipline, even if he's trained for several months."
Couture did what no boxer had ever done: prevent Toney from landing a single punch.
|James Toney was stopped for the first time in his fighting career.|
"I wanted to give James Toney the total mixed martial arts experience," Couture said.
Landing a punch squarely on Couture's chin was Toney's only chance at shocking the MMA world. Couture made certain no such chance would come.
In the months leading up to the fight, Toney spoke repeatedly of being able to fight from his back. He told anyone who'd listen that he would knock Couture out, standing or on the ground.
"You will see how James Toney boxes. You will see that James Toney hits hard," Toney told ESPN.com recently. "You will see why James Toney hardly ever gets hit.
"As far as takedowns come, I welcome them. If he tries to take me down, it's going to be a short night for him. A very short night."
It was, but not the way Toney envisioned.
Toney truly believed that punching power alone would carry him to victory Saturday night. He continued to mention that wearing 5-ounce MMA gloves rather than 12-ounce boxing gloves would increase both his hand speed and power.
If this were a boxing match, Toney would have been in his element and destroyed Couture within a round. Couture has enough respect for boxing not to venture into that arena. Toney didn't share the same respect for mixed martial arts. He likely does now.
Whether mixed martial artists are the best fighters in the world? That debate will continue.
Toney's loss in an MMA fight proves only that a boxer must dedicate himself to learning the sport.
Many of today's best mixed martial artists have better-than-average boxing skills, such as: UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who successfully defended his crown in the main event Saturday night, Kenny Florian, Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and B.J. Penn, to name a few.
Most, if not all, train regularly with professional boxers. Only Silva, who boxed briefly, has expressed interest in entering the boxing ring.
Franklin McNeil is a contributing mixed martial arts/boxing writer for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which now airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.