Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010 | 1:37 a.m.
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Two mixed martial arts legends walked into the octagon for the main event of UFC 109 on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
One of them proved he's still a scary contender in the light heavyweight division. The other may have proved the division has passed him by.
Randy Couture (18-10) walked right through fellow Hall of Fame opponent Mark Coleman (16-10) Saturday night, beating him to every punch before taking him down and submitting him via rear-naked choke in the second round.
It was Couture's second win in less than three months and all but erases a two-fight skid he had in the heavyweight division prior to moving back down in weight late last year.
"Randy Couture is one of the best light heavyweights in the world — period," said UFC President Dana White. "He proved it again tonight."
Couture, who entered the fight as a 3-to-1 favorite, put on a striking clinic in front of the sellout crowd.
The 46-year-old fighter worked seamlessly from jabs to uppercuts to effective Muay Thai knees. When Coleman went down and gave up his back early in the second round, it didn't take long for Couture to put the finishing touches on his terrific performance.
"I'm very happy. I couldn't have mapped it out better," Couture said. "Mark's style hasn't changed in awhile; he's going to look for a way to get you on your back. I wanted to make that difficult for him.
"I felt like if I could get him in the clinch I would have the advantage with my Greco-Roman background. Once he hit the ground, Neil (Melanson, jiu-jitsu coach) had me headhunting. I ended up in mount and he went to the turtle position and gave me his back."
New life has been breathed into Couture ever since he made the decision to drop down in weight from the heavyweight division after suffering back-to-back losses to Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
According to White, Couture never was made for that weight class and only made the jump up because he saw the division was weak in 2007.
"The one thing about Randy Couture is he's a smart guy," White said. "He saw an opportunity at the heavyweight division. He watched the championship fight between Tim Sylvia and Jeff Monson (in 2006) and called me that night and said, 'I want to move up to the heavyweight division.' I told him, 'I don't blame you.'
"It was smart. He went in there and won the heavyweight title because he knew it was weak. Now he's back where he belongs in the light heavyweight division."
Couture also has benefited from a string of three fights in the past seven months, which he says has allowed him to roll one training camp into another.
With basically no time in between fights, Couture's progress has grown steadily under Melanson and boxing coach Gil Martinez, and he's been able to continue to grow even as one of the oldest fighters in MMA.
"My standup is phenomenal," Couture said. "I've had three camps in a row and it has been really productive. You have everything compounded having camps that way."
On the other side of all this is the 45-year-old Coleman, who, unlike Couture, is showing the effects of his age, according to White.
While describing Couture as an experienced old man in a young athlete's body, White said Coleman's performance Saturday night may be an indication that his time as an elite fighter is over.
"I think tonight was probably Coleman's last fight in the UFC," White said. "I'm not taking anything away from Coleman. He's always been a standup guy with me and he'll always be part of this organization.
"I just think he'll have a hard time competing with the guys at the top level."
It will be interesting to see how Coleman reacts to White's comments, as he told the fans in attendance and watching the pay-per-view that he would not be quitting and he'd be back despite the loss.
There's no question that after one of the most dominating performances in his career, Couture will be back on a UFC fight card soon.
And according to White, it's possible that a shot at regaining his belt isn't far away.
"We have to find out what's going to happen at the (Lyoto) Machida, (Mauricio) Shogun Rua fight (on May 8) first," said White. "Randy falls somewhere in the middle of that."