“Who Was the Greatest American Fighter in MMA History?” (ctd.)
From May 30, 1997, when he first stepped into the Octagon, until a few days from now when he will presumably step out for the last time, Tito Ortiz has kicked more ass and done more to build this sport than any fighter America has produced. The “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” had his own trading cards when Jon Jones still thought girls had cooties. Though Tito never got the chance to make Dana White his bitch in their proposed boxing match, the recently-anointed “People’s Champ” has punished many world-class fighters over his career (ask the Lion’s Den), and gained millions of loyal fans along the way.
The list of records and accolades for Tito Ortiz is massive. His 26 career UFC fights are the most all-time. He defended his UFC light-heavyweight title a record five times, and has fought in nine title fights with a 6-3 record. He has defeated eight former UFC and PRIDE champions, including Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, and Ken Shamrock. Ortiz has 15 UFC wins, and perhaps one of his most influential was his devastating power slam KO of Evan Tanner at UFC 30. Why so influential? Well, UFC 30 was the first UFC event under the Zuffa banner, and guess who was the Main Event and the sole fighter featured on the promotional poster. Tito Ortiz. Since then Tito has gone on to sell millions of PPVs, including holding the record for most PPV buys in UFC history at UFC 66, until it was broken by the stacked UFC 100.
Not only was Tito Ortiz the Zuffa poster boy, but Ortiz, along with Mark Coleman and Randy Couture (who debuted the same night as Tito) was one of the pioneers of the “ground and pound” fighting style — he used his aggressive wrestling to put his opponents on their backs, then unleashed a fury of strikes on the ground, leaving many men helpless while Tito rearranged their faces. This strategy that Ortiz helped develop has now become a very popular and effective technique used by fighters everywhere, and he’ll be looking to use it one last time against Forrest Griffin this weekend. Win or lose, he’ll walk out of the Octagon as an indisputable legend, and the greatest American fighter of all-time.
What can I say about Don Frye that other writers on this site haven’t already? Seriously, I’m asking. Go ahead and search his name at the top of page real quick, I’ll wait…You see what I’m saying; all those other articles have all but made my point for me. What I do know is that no list of awesome American fighters is complete without the man. To truly appreciate just how Americanly great this man is, one needs to look at the ideals of America, and how Don so awesomely personifies them.
In a country that values freedom of speech like we do, Mr. Frye is arguably the poster child for the freest of speech. Just check out any interview the man has ever done. Like this one where he calls Fedor a bald headed commie/waffle house chef, or something. Hey, freedom of speech doesn’t have to make sense all the time. That’s the beauty of it being free. Then there are other interviews that not only showcase America’s affinity for slang, but also our crass, yet honest ways of telling it like it is. Case in point, when Frye was asked whether or not he brings it every fight, the man replied with the straight-forward, even if somewhat crude, answer of “A couple of times I didn’t pull it off. I screwed up, but I’m not like Brock Lesnar where there’s a trail of piss from the locker room to the cage. I come to fight. I’m not walking in there looking for a soft spot to land.” That’s hitting the nail on the head if I’ve ever seen it. I could spend all day dissecting the gems that come out of Mr. Frye’s mouth, but I think you get the point.
Beyond the persona, the man’s actions speak volumes. A ferocious competitor since he won three fights at the UFC 8 tournament in a combined time of 3 minutes and 10 seconds, Don is still fighting at 46 years of age. Why? Because he’s an American damn it, and no one tells us what to do. And if you look to the checklist of what makes an American an American, you can see that Don gets the perfect score. Rocking American flag shorts? Check. Talking mad shit, while being willing to back it up? Check. Having a mustache that simultaneously puts Wyatt Earp, Burt Reynolds, and Magnum P.I. to shame? You bet your ass. Honestly, Don Frye couldn’t be more American of a fighter if his parents had conceived him on top of an American flag while bald eagles soared overhead and the National Anthem played in the background, then immediately after conception his dad knife-fought a bear. So ladies and gentlemen, that is why Don Frye is the best American MMA fighter.
Who is the best American Mixed Martial Artist ever? Well that narrows the field down to a couple dozen prospects, right? However within that group of prospects one has always stood above the rest — one who was always willing to throw caution to the wind and do what had to be done! I’d love to say that this man needs no introduction, that a nickname like “Captain America” would say it all. Or even with a career full of awards (medals?) and title fights it’s hard to argue that, without a doubt, the greatest American the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has ever seen come and go is Randy Duane Couture.
I bet it would shock you to find out that a man bestowed with the nickname “Captain America” came from humble beginnings. In fact he found his start in grade school wrestling. Randy would wrestle all the way to a state championship in his senior year of High School. Randy, being the great American he was, joined the Military shortly after high school. He served from 1982 to 1988 and reached the rank of sergeant in the legendary 101st Airborne. Randy did some boxing training in the service as well as continuing to wrestle.
Perhaps that’s why, after the Military, Randy was drawn back to the mats but this time at Oklahoma state. Only Randy can tell you what drove him through three NCAA Division 1 All American titles (’90, ’91, ’92), and two NCAA Division 1 runner-ups in Collegiate Wrestling. Couture would also find himself a three-time Olympic team alternate, falling just shy of representing The United States in the Olympics. Randy hungered for more and started to pursue mixed martial arts. One might even say that we as MMA fans, in a sick way, are lucky that Randy didn’t win Olympic gold.
Randy Duane Couture made his MMA debut at UFC 13 on May 30th, 1997 where he made short work of his much-larger opponents Tony Halme (RNC), and Steven Graham (TKO). Five months later, Randy met an undefeated Vitor Belfort to determine the number one heavyweight contender. Randy was considered the underdog and most thought he really didn’t have a chance. Randy sent a resounding message by not just beating Vitor but running straight through him. Randy won his fight impressively against the unbeaten Belfort via TKO in round one.
In 1997, Randy Couture entered the UFC a wrestler and defeated opponent after opponent in the first round leaving no question of his talent. Heading into his fight in December, Randy was the focus of MMA fans everywhere. After the fight with Belfort he was dubbed Randy “The Natural” Couture.
(Couture won UFC heavyweight gold after only four fights. Let me take a moment to break narration and just tell you that this is unprecedented in today’s records. Sure it was a sport in its infancy and had a scarce talent pool fresh for the picking for someone with the right skill set. Is it Jon Jones’s fault for clearing his division out? Or Anderson? GSP? No. Neither was it for Randy in 1997 when he rose to the top.)
UFC Japan 1 was a Milestone for American Mixed Martial Arts. It was a U.S. Promotions first show in uncharted territory. The event was packed with more talent then Arianny Celeste’s bra before that surgery she says never happened. Headlined by none other than “The Natural” vs. Maurice Smith, it was a night of many firsts. Mike Goldberg had his first day as an announcer. This would also mark the first time fighters would enter to theme music.
Some call the fight with Maurice Smith a lackluster and others call it a solid showing of superior technique. While the fight left no question to who won, it did still leave some questions about “The Natural.” He knew it and so did the rest of the world. The UFC didn’t offer him a pool of talent challenging enough. Even Dana White can be quoted bashing the Heavyweight Division of yesterday.
“The Natural” needed to take his show on the road. His first stop was a promotion better known as Rings, which did not go as planned. “The Natural” lost a fight in October of 1998 to Enson Inoue a 9-3 prospect via armbar. He lost again to Mikhail Ilyukhin who was 24-13 on March 20th, 1999. Clearly realizing some changes needed to be made, our Hero called on the League of Justice (Team Quest).
October 9th, 2000, 19 months after his last fight, “The Natural” again entered MMA Competition and this time against long time veteran Jeremy Horn who held a record of 45-9-4. Couture, with his “drop down and drag it out” style of aggressive cage work and wrestling would prevail. Randy was finally coming into his own as a Mixed Martial Artist.
After back to back wins against Jeremy Horn and Ryushi Yangaisawa, in the same night, Randy qualified for the finals in Feb of 2001. UFC brass offered “The Natural” a fight for their coveted Heavyweight Championship title. On November 17th 2000 “The Natural” won Championship gold from Kevin Randleman via TKO in the second round. Randy went on to the finals of the King of Kings tournament in February of 2001 defeating his first opponent Tsuyoshi Kohsaka by unanimous decision in the quarter finals. He lost via guillotine choke in the semi finals to Valentijn Overeem. This would mark the last time “The Natural” Would compete outside of UFC water’s for the remainder of his career.
Randy’s next challenge came in the form of Pedro Rizzo who at the time was 11-1 and hungry for UFC Gold. This fight lived up to the hype winning fight of the year. Randy won his first meeting with Pedro Rizzo via unanimous decision. But for whatever reason, UFC Brass felt another fight between the two participants of “Fight of the Year” would be a profitable venture. The second fight didn’t go well for Pedro either. Randy ended it in the third via TKO. “The Natural” earned his new title “Captain America”!
2002 was a low point for our Hero after a losing his World Heavyweight title to Josh Barnett (who later tested positive for steroids) and was stripped of the championship. “Captain America” got his chance for redemption and to recapture UFC gold for a third time in September of 2002. Sadly he fell short of a win to an impressive fighter, Ricco Rodriguez. “The Capt” was burnt out and tired after back to back training camps and multiple fights. It was obvious after his past two showings that he needed a break. So with nine months behind him “The Capt” made his return against none other than “The Iceman”, Chuck Liddell.
Randy won his first meeting with Chuck in dominating fashion, as well as claiming his third UFC title. Now that Randy had the interim title, the only person left to fight was “The Peoples Champion” Tito Ortiz. The hype leading into this fight was insane. At one point during an interview with ESPN Tito told Couture that he had something for him, and showed him a walking cane. Tito did everything he could to get into the head of our “Captain America,” but all of his shenanigans fell short on fight night. He found himself on the losing end of a one sided fight. Randy unified the Interim and NonInterim belts, becoming the Undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight champion!
Randy’s next test would come in the form of an old adversary, Vitor Belfort. On January 31st 2004 the fight was over after 49 seconds leaving The Capt on the wrong end of a doctor’s stoppage in the first round. A seam on Vitor’s glove grazed Randy’s eyelid causing a laceration and the ringside doctor stopped the fight. With such a nasty taste lingering in both his and the UFC’s mouth a rematch was set for UFC 49 on August 24th of 2004. Again Couture surpassed at cutting off the cage and battering his opponent with amazing clinch work and superior wrestling. Before the start of round four the cageside doctor stopped the fight via laceration near the eye of Vitor, an ironic ending to a rubber match given the second fight was stopped for the same reason.
The next year of The Capt’s career would be highlighted by a win over Mike Van Arsdale and a set of losses to Chuck Liddell. It was time for Captain America to change up the routine. So he did what any logical person would do in the sport of mixed martial arts he moved up in weight to fight UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia. The Capt knew what needed to be done and he did it on March 3rd 2007 by defeating Tim Sylvia by unanimous decision and winning his fifth UFC championship in the process. Capt would go on to defend his title against Gabriel Gonzaga defeating him in the third round by TKO punches.
Randy fought “The Next Big Thing,” Brock Lesnar at UFC 91, the most hyped fight in the UFC. Randy put up a great fight against Brock Lesnar even pushing him against the cage and beating him up a bit. Shortly into the second round Randy was caught off guard by Lesnar’s reach and found himself on the wrong end of some serious GNP. Randy has been quoted saying he was surprised by the Go-Go Gadget arms of Brock Lesnar.
This marked the end an era in MMA. Randy never again competed for UFC Gold. Instead he fought for his Legacy, taking fights that he had always been interested in. First on his wish list was none other than Brazilian MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, also known as Big Nog. On August 29th 2009 Captain America and Big Nog put on such a spectacle the their bout won fight of the night. Capt showed his heart in the fight with Nog refusing to submit when in serious danger multiple times. Big Nog, however, walked away with the unanimous decision in the end.
Randy’s next fight was at Light Heavyweight against one time perennial contender Brandon Vera. This was a fight many felt that Capt shouldn’t have taken as it didn’t make a lot of sense career or match-up wise. He did, however, get the unanimous decision in that fight. Many people thought the fight was a lot closer than the judges gave it.
Randy once again stepped into the octagon against a fellow legend, Mark Coleman, a fight that was clearly one sided from the get go. Randy went on to submit the “Godfather of GNP” in the second round, retiring Mark Coleman and leaving no questions as to who was the better man that night.
Randy’s second to last fight in his career was against James Toney a Boxing legend. Leading up to the fight Toney did everything he could to talk trash, taking every opportunity to degrade Randy and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Toney mentioned how that if Randy had any balls he would fight him toe to toe using his hands. Randy of course had different plans and made it completely clear to the MMA universe and fans around the world that he was fully aware of his own strengths and wasn’t about to chance fate.
On August 28th of 2010 Randy proved he was a man of his word, shooting for a single early in the first, and punishing James for three minutes. He finished the fight via arm triangle which would mark the first time, and the last time Captain America would ever use this submission in competition. Captain America’s last fight came against Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. It was a rough one for a lot of people to watch. Captain America’s last fight would come on August 30th 2011 from a sold out arena in Toronto, Canada. The fighted end only a minute into the second round with our hero on the recieving end of a vicious crane kick.
So you ask me who I think the greatest American Mixed Martial Artist is? I respond by asking you, is it even a competition? I mean sure there’s a few guys out there that come to mind but none as qualified as Randy “The Natural” Couture. Five UFC Championships, two different weight classes, a resume full of legendary fights and classic MMA moments that will live on forever, or at least as long as the sport does. I can say without a doubt that Randy Couture is the reason I personally got into MMA. I moved from upstate NY in 2009 all the way to Las Vegas, NV to train at his infamous HQ. I can only imagine the numerous amount of collegiate wrestlers, amateur wrestlers and god knows how many others this man has inspired. I could go on and rant about his new found passion as an action star, but thats just a testament to why he is the greatest American Mixed Martial Artist to every grace a ring or cage.
Doug “ReX13” Richardson
America has presented the world with an amazing cornucopia of goodness, all entirely conceived and/or created here, including: steel, fireworks, naval warfare, democracy, football, Batman, television, the lap dance, heavy metal, Miyagi do Karate, Red Bull, and of course, the sport known as UFC. Here are the Top 7 Badass American MMA Heroes!
7. Brian Stann – According to a source that I am not at liberty to reveal, Stann is a decorated veteran of the armed forces. Unless you have a Silver Star (no, not that kind), Stann is objectively a better person that you. (Sorry hippies.)
6. Motivated Penn – Undefeated. Would be higher, but Hawaii barely qualifies him as American. (Shoulda been born in Iowa, brah.)
5. Tim Kennedy – Most of Kennedy’s badassery is classified. I know there’s that video of him in a Katy Perry wig, but that’s deep cover, counter-pyschological warfare ops-type stuff. Just trust me on this one.
4. Dan Henderson – The two-time Olympian’s resume speaks for itself, but I’ll talk over it until it shuts up and listens because ALPHA. Henderson beat Akira Shoji in PRIDE, which is like if I beat Michelle Duggar at having babies, or outswam Flipper at the 200m freestyle. Hendo held titles in 2 different weight classes, turned back British aggression, and switched off Fedor’s lights as a 206-pound heavyweight.
3. Chuck Liddell – There is nothing more American than knockouts. Chuck Liddell deals out nasty knockouts like Larry Flynt. Therefore, Chuck Liddell represents all that is awesomely American in MMA. Be sure to celebrate accordingly.
2. Randy Couture - Despite a suspiciously French last name, he’s undeniably a great American. One of the Founding Fathers of MMA (like Lincoln!), Couture deserves your praise for his accomplishments and a forgiving heart for his minor failings. Congress should immediately pass legislation honoring this former US Army soldier, legally requiring people to refer to Couture as “Captain America” on the Fourth. (Any other day, Americans would have the freedom to choose their own nickname for Couture: “The Natural,” “My Hero,” “The Scorpion King,” “MILFHunter,” whatever.)
1. Don Frye – The shorts. The moustache. The commentary. If Francis Scott Key, Betsy Ross, and George Patton had a three-way and the resulting zygote was carried to term by a Bald Eagle, that child would have tag-teamed with Don Frye and WWE would be awesomest thing on TV. Don Frye is so American, when he salutes an American flag, that flag grows hair on its chest. Jesus turned water to wine; Don Frye turns bottle rockets into roman candles. If a foam finger were produced that could do justice to the greatness of Don Frye (there hasn’t been), you would need steroids and weight training in order to hold it aloft properly. All hail the Predator (or move to Canada you fucking pussies)!