(Video courtesy YouTube/UFC StannFan1)
The hype behind this weekend’s James Toney-Randy Couture showdown has focused largely around the "Is MMA better than Boxing?" quandary, which, up until this point has never really been answered, and in my opinion really won’t be answered by this fight.
The question really should be "Who would win in a fight between a top-tier boxer and a top-tier MMA fighter?"
Because they are so evenly ranked in their respective sports, many feel that the winner of the fight will solve the boxing vs. MMA riddle, but when you really think about it, how does it solve anything? Couture should win the fight considering he’s been training and fighting in the sport for the past 13 years and Toney has never had to contend with kicks, takedowns and submissions in a fight in his life.
It would be like having a professional tennis player play against a professional baseball player. Sure, the tennis player might be able to luck out and connect with a 100-mile fastball and hit it out of the park, but it isn’t likely to happen. And since they don’t typically toss a ball farther than a few feet in the air when serving, the chances of a tennis player striking out an MLB player, while not totally out of the realm of possibility, are pretty much slim to none. They just don’t have the specific skill set to be competitive in a sport they have never competed in, even if some of their sport’s required skills can be transferred.
The reason why the UFC was created was to answer the age-old question of which form of combat was the most effective or the best, so really this is just the same thing. It’s a question of whether or not MMA, which has basically become a hybrid martial art itself, is more effective than boxing in a fight.
Toney keeps saying in interviews that he’s going to be the first two-sport champion in MMA and boxing — like the combat sport version of Bo Jackson. The difference is Jackson, although he was never great at his two sports (and was never a champion), he was very good at baseball and football. Toney is a very good boxer who used to be great and he will be a mediocre, one-dimensional MMA fighter.
If Toney loses he will likely make the excuse that he would kill Couture in a boxing match, which is absolutely true, but MMA isn’t boxing and more times than not, successful fighters in the sport have come from one strong discipline like Toney and built their careers around improving on their weaknesses.
Take Couture, for example. He was just a wrestler when he first stepped into the Octagon and if you’ve seen any of his early UFC fights, it’s painfully obvious that he was not very comfortable standing up. Sure he was a great wrestler, but unless he could catch an opponent in a single or a double and take him down to the mat — into his world — his wrestling didn’t mean squat.
Sure there have been boxers and mixed martial artists who have crossed over in the past, but none at seemingly equal points in their respective professional careers as Toney and Couture seem to be at. Because of this, it makes more sense than ever that the question of which sport’s athlete is a better fighter will soon be answered, but it won’t.