Nathan Denette / AP
Sunday, May 1, 2011 | 1 a.m.
TORONTO — Anyone who’s familiar with Randy Couture knew he wouldn’t go out like this.
The 47-year-old Couture was on the wrong side of a flooring front kick from former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre on Saturday night. Machida landed the strike a little more than a minute through the second round to score a knockout victory over Couture, who announced before the bout he would retire.
Couture lay on the ground motionless for a few seconds before working his way up. Many fighters would walk backstage with their heads down in a daze.
Not Couture. He rose with a smile and addressed the record 55,000 fans in attendance. As UFC commentator Joe Rogan conducted his standard post-fight interview, Couture managed a joke.
“I think the last time we had this conversation, I had all my teeth,” Couture said.
Indeed, Machida took more than a win away from the five-time UFC champion. The 32-year-old Brazilian also knocked out one of Couture’s front teeth.
UFC President Dana White saw it for himself.
“I went up into the octagon to talk to him,” White said. “I say, ‘Are you alright?’ He says, ‘Yeah, he hit me in the tooth,’ and it fell out while he was showing me.”
Couture went to the hospital to have his head checked following the loss, but only after receiving the loudest wave of applause of the night and a standing ovation from the crowd.
It was a moment White described as “amazing” and one where everyone seemed to join in. Even Machida paused from the celebration with his team to salute Couture, who he said he respected since he was 18 years old.
“It’s completely well-deserved for everything Randy has accomplished in this sport and everything Randy has done for the sport,” Machida said through a translator.
But Machida had no bittersweet feelings. This was his moment, and he had a $129,000 Knockout of the Night bonus check to show for it.
Couture encountered Machida at the most inopportune time. Machida, who used to be considered unstoppable at 16-0, said he had a lot to prove after dropping his last two fights.
“I felt a lot of pressure, because I was coming off of back-to-back losses,” Machida said through a translator. “I was very anxious in wanting to get out there and show the best Lyoto Machida the world has seen.”
It was only the second time in UFC history that a fight ended with a front-kick knockout. The first came less than three months ago when Machida’s Black House teammate Anderson Silva finished Vitor Belfort at UFC 126 using the method.
Silva and Machida both learned the kick from famed martial artist and actor Steven Seagal. Like he was when Silva used the kick, Seagal was cageside for Machida’s victory.
“I trained this kick a lot,” Machida said. “I had it in my arsenal, and I just had to wait for the right moment to pull the trigger and utilize it.”
Machida was already ahead in the fight following a first round in which he used his quickness to hit Couture with punches on multiple occasions. Machida also shook out of takedown and clinch attempts by Couture.
Other than informing fans of his missing tooth, Couture only had one other message afterward. He said he was officially done and, despite rumors to the contrary, he would never fight professionally again.
Earlier in the week, White suggested he didn’t believe Couture would actually retire. Couture said he thought White would try to lure him back, but even that sounds doubtful after Saturday.
“It’s a perfect time to retire,” White said. “He went out on a high. He went seven minutes with Machida. That’s still a big deal when you’re 47 years old. I was just signing autographs with the fans and my back is killing me, man, and I’m 42.”
White said he thought Couture never got quite the amount of attention he deserved. Despite his legendary status in mixed martial arts, White said, Couture didn’t receive much mainstream coverage for his athletic achievements at such an advanced age.
That’s why White came away overwhelmed from the support that flooded in after the defeat.
“To go out to that ovation was pretty special,” Couture said.