TORONTO — With one quick, violent kick, one of the great careers in the history of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts came to an abrupt end.
Randy Couture was sent into retirement 65 seconds into the second round of his semi-main event against Lyoto Machida with a wicked front kick. The 47-year-old Couture, whose career ends with a 19-11 mark, lost a tooth from the kick.
It was the second time in three events that a front kick ended a fight. Anderson Silva TKO’d Vitor Belfort with a similar kick at UFC 127. Silva said afterward that action movie star Steven Segal taught him the kick. Machida was asked if Segal had taught him the kick.
“I train this kick a lot,” Machida said in response. “I had it in my arsenal.”
After the fight was stopped, Couture jumped to his feet and basked in the glow of 55,000 chanting his name in appreciation. Couture was not at the post-event press conference as he was being examined at a local hospital. However, before he left the Rogers Centre, Couture told the crowd that “this is it.
“The fans have always treated me great, but to go out on that ovation was very special.”
He was equally gracious towards the man that retired him. Of Machida, who improved to 17-2, Couture said, “He’s a tremendous fighter. It felt like I was standing still out there and he caught me with a great kick.”
Couture had announced in a conference call with reporters 10 days ago that he believed this would be his last time inside the octagon.
Yet, as important as the fight was to Couture, it was equally vital to Machida, who had suffered consecutive losses to Shogun Rua and Quinton Jackson. A third loss and while he wouldn’t be out of title picture, he wouldn’t be the first in line to meet champion Jon Jones.
“I felt a lot of pressure coming off back to back losses. I wanted to show the best of Lyoto Machida,” said Machida, who earned the $129,000 Knockout of the Night bonus. “I came here to win the fight.”
Which he did. Still, Jones has a date with Rashad Evans once the champion recovers from a torn ligament in his right hand, and Rua and Jackson are ahead of Machida in the division. So there are potential rematches for Machida.
“One of the top guys in the division,” Dana White said of Machida before noting that one win over Couture did not make him the top contender. “There are a lot of possibilities.”
Hominick a winner even in defeat
Among the varied fascinating aspects in sports is how, on occasion, a team or an athlete comes out looking better in the eyes of fans and media for losing.
Add Mark Hominick to that list.
“I fought hard for you guys and I hope you (enjoyed) the fight,” Hominick said in an in-octagon interview after the Thamesford, Ontario, native dropped a unanimous decision to UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo at Saturday’s UFC 129 semi-main event in a valiant effort that had the Rogers Centre crowd of 55,000 on its feet and screaming in delirious disbelief.
He need not have worried. Hominick and Aldo each earned a $129,000 bonus for Fight of the Night. It very well could be that they collaborated on the UFC Fight of the Year.
What made Hominick’s endeavor memorable was that he had a grotesque welt over his right eye and was bleeding from his left eye. The crowd at the Rogers Centre audibly gasped three times during the fourth round when cameras showed the welt visibly growing while Hominick was pressed against the cage.
“I want to say to my wife that I hope I didn’t put you into labor. I know you’re due any minute,” Hominick said. “I love you, babe, and I hope that you’re okay.”
“I’m sure he did. Have to imagine so,” UFC President Dana White said when asked if Hominick received medical treatment, before joking that the organization “shouldn’t be allowed to run (another event) in Toronto if we sent him home like that.”
Referee John McCarthy stopped the fight for a few minutes while the octagon-side doctor examined Hominick. Hominick persuaded the doctor that he could continue, which elicited an enthusiastic roar from a provincial crowd that wanted to see one of their own become champion. Hominick pressed the attack in the fifth round with a flurry of punches as Aldo was on his back.
“I was very comfortable in that position,” Aldo said through a translator. “I knew I had won the first four rounds.”
The enthusiastic roar increased to deafening levels and caused journalists in the Rogers Centre press box to cheer and give Hominick a standing ovation following the fight. Hominick’s record dropped to 20-9 while Aldo moved to 19-1. White said that he believes Aldo will be on the card for Augusts’ UFC 133 in Philadelphia, and hinted that the opponent may be Chad Mendes. Mendes will have a near impossible time trying to equal Hominick’s performance.
“I never underestimate Mark Hominick. I knew he had heavy hands,” praised Aldo. “Hominick was a super tough fighter.”
And in the process may have become a star.