Follow Dan Wetzel on Twitter at @DanWetzel
BOSTON – As almost everyone expected, mixed martial arts legend Randy Couture dominated and then defeated boxer James Toney at UFC 118, causing the heavyweight boxing champion to tap out with an arm triangle that choked Toney in 3:19 of the first round.
The fight at the TD Garden was billed as a battle between mixed martial arts and boxing, rival sports that compete for customers, media attention and bragging rights, even if the result proved little.
Couture, a one-time All-American college wrestler and a well-rounded MMA legend, scored an immediate takedown on Toney by tackling him around the ankles around 30 seconds into the scheduled three-round fight. The move neutralized the boxer's advantage in punching power.
Couture (20-10) then mounted Toney for some ground-and-pound and eventually was able to choke the mostly defenseless Toney.
"I'm a huge fan of boxing, a lot of credit to James for being the first boxer to step in here," Couture said.
The result was greeted well by the pro-Couture crowd, who chanted "UFC, UFC" as the MMA legend pummeled Toney, who could mount little defense from his back. The fight was completely lopsided. Toney managed to land little if any offense.
"He just got me," said Toney (0-1). "He's a great fighter."
Toney is the current IBA heavyweight champion, his 11th boxing belt in five different weight divisions in putting together a 72-6-3 record, highlighted by 44 knockouts. At 42 years old, though, Toney has lost a significant amount of the skill and punching power that earned him the nickname "Lights Out."
There were questions about his fitness level and commitment. His physique lacked definition and his stomach hung slightly over his shorts. He weighed a career-high 237 pounds in a sport where fighters are often in incredible physical condition.
Matchups between high-level boxers and legitimate MMA fighters have been rare. It's been mostly agreed that the advantage is based on what rules are employed. In a boxing match, the boxer would win. Inside the cage – where boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, karate and just about anything else you can think up is allowed – the more well-rounded MMA fighter should dominate.
Couture showed conventional wisdom was right.
Still, Toney counts as one of the most accomplished boxer to ever attempt to step into the UFC's Octagon. The pro-MMA crowd booed Toney and roared their approval for "The Natural" Couture, a UFC Hall of Famer.
Toney's major punching power, aided by the lighter four-ounce gloves of the UFC (boxing is usually 10 ounces) gave him a puncher's chance and made the fight intriguing.
Toney agreed to give mixed martial arts a chance because the current state of the boxing business is devoid of big paying bouts – "I can't get no fights," he said in the run-up to the UFC card.
He arrived on the scene expressing respect for MMA but delivered a tidal wave of trash talk in an effort to sell the fight. He claimed he'd been well-schooled in MMA during an eight-month training run, and that his punching power was sure to knock Couture silly.
It turns out he never threw, let alone landed, a serious punch. Couture left the Octagon without a single mark on his body after a relatively easy night's work.