The Natural Returns to the Octagon in UFC XXVIII
by Chris Onzuka – Chris@Onzuka.com
Randy "The Natural" Couture opened the minds of a lot of fighters and introduced them to what Greco-Roman wrestling had to offer the NHB community. Using these skills to climb to the top of the UFC, he destroyed the Phenom, when people thought Belfort was invincible and avenged wrestlers everywhere by beating the grappler killer, Maurice Smith. Right at the pinnacle of his career, negotiations broke down with SEG and the undefeated UFC heavyweight champ was stripped of his title. Couture has just gained two big victories in the RINGS King of Kings tournament, advancing to the tournament finals. Couture’s training partner, Dan Henderson, won the first King of Kings tournament last year. It is now time for The Natural to re-enter the octagon and face non other than "The Monster" Kevin Randleman for the UFC title on November 17th. This will pit a Greco Roman wrestler, in Couture, against the freestyle wrestler, in Randleman, arguably two of the UFC’s best champions. This is an excerpt from an interview I did with Randy Couture. The full interview featuring Couture’s thoughts on his two losses, possibly competing in Abu Dhabi, and why he left the rAw team will appear in the next issue of Full Contact Fighter.
FCF: A lot of people, myself included, are excited about your fight with Randleman. It will be Greco versus freestyle, UFC champ versus UFC champ. How do you think your Greco skills will match up with his skills in freestyle?
RC: Well, I think we’re both wrestlers, first and foremost. We both have similar backgrounds in college and we’ve obviously diverged. He hasn’t had much Greco experience to my knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know how to pummel and know some of those positions. I think that I would probably have an advantage in the clinch position. I’m confident that I can keep him off balance and either take him down or land good shots from the attached position. But you still have to get attached [laughs] and get into that close, clinched range and that will be interesting and the test. I have never fought another wrestler, it will be interesting to test myself against another wrestler, to try and maintain a good dominant position on top or in the standing position. He’s a good athlete, explosive, and he is a very good wrestler. That makes it very interesting.
FCF: Randleman is not a very large man, but has pretty much dominated his opponents. How do you plan to counteract his power and aggressiveness?
RC: Well, he may not be very tall, but he is certainly large.
FCF: He says that he dips down to about 210lbs because he trains so hard.
RC: Well, that’s smaller than what I have seen him compete before at, unless they fudged his weight. Last time I saw him he weighed around 230lbs. I don’t know. He’s a good athlete, very aggressive and explosive and I have to be prepared for that. I also have to be in good position and not get overly aggressive and extend myself. I need to make him work as hard as possible because the later rounds, I think, will be in my favor. My conditioning has always been a good tool.
FCF: You just mentioned that the conditioning may be a factor, but can you share any weaknesses that you see in Randleman?
RC: I think that he’s explosive and athletic, but he’s not a real technical fighter. I think that he relies heavily on his athletic ability and has not spent a lot of time on his submissions, so I’m not real worried about him submitting me from any position. And as I watch him box, he doesn’t throw a lot of kicks. He’s quick and powerful, but he’s not real accurate or real dynamic with his striking. I don’t know if those are outright weaknesses, but I think that those are some areas that I might have an advantage.
FCF: What weight are you planning on coming in at?
RC: About 100 kilos, which is about 220lbs.
FCF: How do you see the fight going?
RC: It’s hard to say, it’s a fight. I don’t generally make any predictions, it could go the distance or it could end early. There’s no way of knowing. That’s the nature of fighting. I’m prepared to go as long as I need to go and to fight as hard as I can.
FCF: How do you feel about first facing Randleman, then Rizzo, and now Randleman again?
RC: It didn’t really matter to me because I was just anxious to compete. I’m pretty excited about getting back in there. It wasn’t that big a deal who it [my opponent] was. I imagine that I will wind up fighting Rizzo at some future date, so one or the other, it didn’t really matter to me, which it was, as long as someone stepped in there. [laughs]
FCF: Did the change in opponents affect your training at all?
RC: Not a whole lot. My strategy would pretty much be the same for both fighters. Stay in your areas of strength and operate in those areas. And that really doesn’t change that much from fighter to fighter. Obviously there are other things that you have to watch out for. If you’re dealing with Rizzo, he likes to throw some pretty heavy kicks and has a pretty good right hand. He’s a little more skilled in the submission area, so you have to watch when you are rolling around with him. They are both real good fighters and have a lot of experience and are pretty composed.
FCF: The last time you left the UFC because of negotiations broke off right? Why did you choose to come back to the UFC?
RC: They actually called me and asked if I would be interested. I was a little leary about getting involved again. But decided that as long as they would allow me to compete in Abu Dhabi and the King of Kings RINGS tournament, I would be willing to fight. The UFC is still probably, the most prestigious event in the United States to fight for. And therefore it’s good for me as a fighter to get back in there and compete.
FCF: Is there anyone besides Randleman in the UFC that you look forward to facing?
RC: It doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t really have a particular opponent that I would like to face. I’m open to anyone that wants to get in there. Nobody in particular comes to mind.
FCF: A lot of U.S. fight fans have not seen you fight since your last appearance in the UFC, what can we expect from Randy Couture’s re-entrance into the UFC?
RC: I think that I’m a lot better fighter than I was back then, even than in the Maurice Smith fight. I’m more well-rounded now. I’ve added more submission ability to my fighting style. I have learned a lot of new striking capabilities and learned how to take advantage of my wrestling background better than I did before. Hopefully that will show, I trained and prepared for this fight and I’m just going to go out and let it go.
FCF: Thanks again and good luck.
RC: Okay Chris, thanks.