Tito Ortiz vs Randy Couture, UFC 44, September 2003
In the third installment of the UFC Retro series, we go back and revisit the classic fight Tito Ortiz vs Randy Couture. This is one of my favorite old-school UFC fights and favorite Tito Ortiz fights. It is a prime example of consistency, pressure, dedication, and will power. Two legends of MMA showing the fight world what it means to never ever give up no matter how lost or empty you feel.
It is September 2003 and we are at UFC 44. Tito has achieved the status of most dominant UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in history. He won the vacant championship by defeating the dangerous Wanderlei Silva at UFC 25 in Tokyo, Japan. Since then Tito has held and defended the belt 5 times, beating the first Light Heavyweight Champion Frank Shamrock by 1 defense.
In defending his belt, he has beat MMA greats in Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Ken Shamrock. He puts his legacy and his title on the line against the former Olympic wrestler and experienced MMA fighter Randy Couture.
The first thing we always note about Randy Couture is his age. Going into this fight, he is 40 years old. An age where most of us would find it physically difficult to get off the couch. Coming into this fight, Randy was the former UFC Heavyweight Champion. He lost the heavyweight belt to Josh Barnett but came back to defeat Chuck Liddell for the Interim Light Heavyweight Championship and the opportunity to fight Tito Ortiz to unify the belts. Randy Couture has a phenomenal amount of experience in the heavyweight division, defeating names like Vitor Belfort, Jeremy Horn, Kevin Randleman, and Pedro Rizzo.
What truly defines Randy is his way of fighting. Coming from an elite Greco-Roman Wrestling background, Randy Couture utilizes his strength, conditioning and wrestling to pin opponents against the fence and crush their will with dirty boxing and constant pressure. This is the relentless and consistent drive that annoys and breaks fighters. This is the style that Randy used to defeat Chuck Liddell and the style that Randy used to defeat Tito.
The key to Randy’s victory in Tito Ortiz vs Randy Couture is his unstoppable wrestling. Randy executes takedowns and Tito is never able to get back to his feet. We see just how masterful Randy is at grappling. He puts Tito in a crucifix position in the third round. He mounts Tito in the fourth and executes a brilliant belly to back suplex in the fifth. Randy’s constant pressure, strength, and wrestling abilities allow him to neutralize Tito’s stand-up and control Tito on the ground.
The true take-away lesson for us fight fans however is will power. Randy is wins the fight because of his devotion to being consistent. Even though he knows he is winning the fight, he never rests, he never sits back, he never gives Tito any space to breathe. It’s the constant driving pressure and control that allows him to win the Light Heavweight Championship.
On the other hand, there is also a great lesson to be learned from Tito’s performance. Even though he lost, he shows unearthly will power. He is the Lightweight Champion. He is used to being able to out-wrestle and out-muscle his opponents. Tito is known for his take-downs and breaking his opponents will with constant pressure and ground and pound. In Tito Ortiz vs Randy Couture, Tito is now put on his back, but he never gives up. Even when mounted in the fourth round, he still fights for the opportunity and manages to escape.
Sitting here and watching this fight, Tito Ortiz vs Randy Couture. It’s no longer about who wins or who loses. It’s no longer about who is the Light Heavyweight Champion and who isn’t. You’re watching two individuals, so dedicated to their craft and so dedicated to winning that they seemingly transcend from their mortal physique and show only heart, willpower, drive. The only thing that matters are the next few seconds. Win those seconds, then win the next few. And the next few. And you’ll win the minute. Win that minute and you’ll win the round. Win the round, win the next round, and then when you have enough rounds and seconds, you win the fight.
Tito Ortiz vs Randy Couture full fight video