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Breaking down UFC 118: Randy Couture vs. James Toney

Fight promoted as boxing vs. mixed martial arts, but rarely seen that way to those involved


Associated Press

In this photo taken Friday, July 9, 2010, former boxer James Toney is shown at a Mixed Martial Arts training facility in Los Angeles.

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BOSTON — If this weekend's heavyweight fight between Randy Couture and James Toney truly is boxing against mixed martial arts, everyone is being pretty nice about it.

While the marketing campaign for Saturday's UFC 118 focused on the idea of the two sports competing against one another, the reality is few on either side are viewing it that way.

During an open workout Thursday at the Hynes Convention Center, Toney fit right in with the traditional mixed-martial-arts crowd.

Boxing journalists fraternized with MMA journalists. Couture's boxing coach, Gil Martinez, ran over to crack a joke to Toney while he was in the middle of an interview.

According to Couture (18-10), yes, there is a little animosity between the sports — but barely.

"I've heard the comments from (Floyd) Mayweather, and I just don't understand it," Couture said. "I see no reason why both can't operate in the combative-sports genre.

"We're apples and oranges in a lot of ways."

Even Toney (0-0), the man who always has something polarizing to say and supposedly the culprit for picking this fight in the first place, admitted he's a fan of mixed martial arts and the athletes who compete in it.

However, he went on to add the reason he's here is because of a comment once made by UFC President Dana White.

"I have respect for the MMA community, even though everybody says I didn't," Toney said. "But when Dana went out and said MMA is better than boxing, I got a problem with that. If you approach me the wrong way, of course, I'm going to attack with my fists."

The ironic thing about the fight that's being called "boxing vs. MMA" is that it is only likely to add fire to the argument.

Should Couture defeat Toney, which he is a 8-to-1 favorite to do, the battle won't be complete until a mixed marital artist steps into the boxing ring.

"There's always going to be those kind of questions," Couture said. "Depending on how the fight goes, it's going to lead to questions about MMA in boxing if it goes his way or the other way around if it goes my way."

At the end of the day, UFC lightweight Kenny Florian says the fight should be looked at for what it is — a legend in mixed martial arts going against a fighter making his debut.

"Does the Toney-Couture fight intrigue me? I'll be honest and say no," Florian said. "Just because I think Randy is going to go out and take care of business within two minutes.

"It's not about boxing vs. MMA. It's about two mixed martial artists in the cage. We're going to find out what we already know — that James Toney probably should have worked more wrestling and jiu-jitsu."

Quick Hits:

Unless we've all been fooled, Toney has one way of winning this fight, and that's on his feet.

Couture has said all along he obviously will refuse to stand and bang with Toney.

According to Couture, even if he's able to rock Toney with one good punch and wobble the boxer's legs, his very next thought will be "takedown."

"You have to make decisions in a split moment, and you hope you make the right one," Couture said. "That's been the game plan through the whole training camp — not to stand and trade with him no matter what the circumstances are.

"I think in the fight, I'll stick to what I trained to do and we'll see him on his back."

Some have said Couture's tendency to get in the clinch may give Toney more of a chance to land that devastating punch.

But as Couture says, the wrestling clinch he uses is very different than the one Toney is used to.

"I'm aware of boxers' ability to create openings and land punches in the clinch, but I think it's completely different with wrestling," Couture said. "The kind of clinch wrestlers bring tends to frustrate (boxers) because it's much different.

Last Time Out:

Couture: Second-round win over Mark Coleman at UFC 109.

Toney: Toney's last professional fight was a boxing match against Matthew Greer on Sept. 12, 2009. He won by a second-round knockout.

The Lines: Couture, minus-800; Toney, plus-500

Final Words:

Couture: On the chance of "spanking" Toney as he did against Tito Ortiz at UFC 44: "That was such a unique situation with Tito. I could have never imagined ending up in that circumstance in the last 30 seconds of the fight and have that pop into my head. It was just one of those things that the light went off. I don't expect that to happen again, but you never know."

Toney: On knocking out Couture: "It's still vintage James Toney. Everybody says what am I going to do because he's a wrestler. That works to my advantage, because I like being inside. If he stands with me, he's getting knocked out. If he gets inside with me, he's getting knocked out. Only way he's not getting knocked out is if he runs.

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at LVSunFighting

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