MMA Versus Boxing: UFC 118

The upcoming match between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather has fans of both MMA and boxing talking in gyms and around water coolers all over the world. No matter where you go, everybody has an opinion on how this monumental showdown of MMA versus boxing is going to play out. While we anxiously wait for that showdown, now feels like the perfect time to look back at another high profile contest that pitted a mixed-martial artist against a professional boxer. Seven years ago, UFC legend Randy Couture fought boxing great James Toney.

At the time, Randy “The Natural” Couture was already one of the most celebrated fighters in UFC history. He boasted a career record of 18-10 and was coming off back-to-back wins in the UFC. He had just submitted Mark Coleman in the first ever fight between two active members of the UFC Hall of Fame. Couture was on a roll and his fans were anxious to see who he would face next.

Enter James “Lights Out” Toney.

A three-time world champion in boxing at three different weight classes, Toney had a record of 72-6-3 in 2010. His career arguably peaked in 2003 when he beat both Vassiliy Jirov and Evander Holyfield. His match with Jirov was named “Fight of the Year” by The Ring magazine. He followed up that impressive run by going 5-2-1 with two no contests to finish out the decade leading up to his fight with Couture.

Toney lobbied UFC President Dana White to let him compete in the octagon, and he finally got his wish when White booked him a fight with Couture. On August 28, 2010 at UFC 118, Couture and Toney would square off in a contest that Bleacher Report ultimately dubbed a “Boston Massacre”.

MMA versus Boxing

The Match-Up

While some people dismissed the fight as a publicity stunt, the majority of fans were excited (or at least intrigued) to see how it would go. A pro boxer had not competed in UFC since way back in 1993 at UFC 1 when boxer Art Jimmerson lost to Royce Gracie by submission.

Couture and Toney made an interesting pair. Both men had enjoyed long and impressive careers that were winding down. Both men had fought at multiple weight classes throughout their careers, and both men were multiple-time world champions. But while Toney had spent his entire career perfecting one discipline, Couture excelled in many. This gave him a huge advantage since the fight would use MMA rules.

On a card that featured fighters like Nate Diaz, Demian Maia, and a main event of Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn, Couture and Toney were the co-main event. Couture measured 6’2”, 220 lbs. on fight night. Despite being five years older than Toney, he looked to be in better shape. Toney came in at 5’9”, 237 lbs.

During walkouts, Couture received heavy support from the pro-MMA crowd in Boston, MA. Toney got mostly boos.

The fight itself went as many analysts had predicted. Couture got the low single leg takedown almost immediately in round 1 and easily got to full mount. Couture then landed repeated fists to Toney’s head while the raucous crowd chanted “Ran-dy” and “U-F-C”. About three minutes into the first round and before Toney ever landed a single punch, Couture locked in an arm triangle choke and Toney tapped out.

The Aftermath & The Present

Following the quick loss, Toney left the UFC but has continued boxing professionally in the years since, winning most recently in May 2017. Couture would also leave UFC shortly thereafter, competing only once more with the promotion after the Toney win.

In the years since, Couture has stayed very busy. Between acting in movies and supporting his son Ryan (a Bellator fighter with a record of 11-5), Couture has been giving back to the sport of MMA by hosting training seminars for fans and practitioners. In August 2017, he will be one of many legends, top coaches, and pro fighters hosting training seminars at REVOLUTION in San Antonio, TX.

So what exactly does the Couture-Toney fight mean for McGregor-Mayweather?

Will one (or both) of them retire following this huge showdown (and payday)?

And most importantly, does “The Notorious One” have a chance at winning?

Let’s ask Randy.

Speaking recently to Vegas Stats and Information Network, Couture had this to say about McGregor’s chances against Mayweather:

“I don’t think he’ll be knocked out, but I do think he’s going to get beat up. The best boxers in the world have not touched this guy in the past 10 years. I don’t think a mixed-martial arts guy, even a guy as good as Conor, has a shot. He has a 1-in-10 chance.”

In the fight with Toney, Couture utilized his MMA background and the UFC rules to overmatch his opponent. That is a luxury McGregor will not have. Fighting under boxing rules, McGregor is the heavy underdog and he will have to beat “Pretty Boy” Floyd at his own game. For more on that fight, check out our article posted here.

Whatever the result of McGregor-Mayweather, the debate of MMA versus boxing is sure to continue.

Alex Wright Alex Wright is well known in the United Kingdom from his extensive work in the Mixed Martial Arts Industry for over a decade. He's been involved as a coach, fighter and industry mogul since around 2000 and now heads up the European division for REVGEAR Sports.