At UFC 109 on February 6th, Mark “the Hammer” Coleman (16-9) will square off against fellow legend and UFC Hall of Famer Randy “the Natural” Couture (17-10) in a fight that could put the winner in line for a title shot later this year. Both fighters share strong wrestling backgrounds and are well in to their forties. Coleman turned 45 in December and Couture is 46.
Coleman started his MMA career with six straight wins in the UFC before dropping three straight and eventually joining the Japan-based PRIDE organization (which was later acquired by the UFC but no longer exists). “The Hammer” was considered an early pioneer of the ground-and-pound strategy and was the first ever UFC heavyweight champion. In PRIDE, Coleman had mixed success but fought some of the toughest competition in the world. He earned victories over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Don Frye, Kazuyuki Fujita and other vets. Coleman fought and lost to elite fighters including Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko “Cro Cop” and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
In January of 2009, Colemen rejoined the UFC and dropped a back-and-forth TKO loss in a rematch with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Coleman gassed early but fought valiantly before succumbing to Rua with under thirty seconds in the final round. Coleman followed up the loss with an upset decision victory over Stephan Bonnar at UFC 100 in July putting him in line for the showdown with Couture.
“The Bonnar fight was huge,” Coleman delcared. “That was win or go home. Win or I’m finished. And I knew that going into the fight. I knew I was going to win that fight and it was huge. And it was a huge relief. I knew it was gonna to lead up to a bigger fight. Did I know it was going to lead up to Randy Couture? No, but I’m sure glad it did.
Coming off of consecutive losses at heavyweight, Couture made the move down to light heavyweight and fought Brandon Vera to a close decision victory at UFC 105 in November.
“I’ve wanted to fight Randy for a long time. I got nothing but respect for Randy inside the Octagon. And outside the Octagon. He’s a great wrestler. He has great cardio. He’s well known for being a conditioning machine. He’s good in all areas so he’s gonna be a challenge everywhere.”
Coleman’s stamina has been suspect in past bouts but he contends that won’t be the case against Couture. “I expect to come in ready to go. Ready to go three rounds if it takes three rounds. I plan on being there in the end. And I’m gonna find a way to win this fight. Once you get inside that cage, you have no choice but to try to take his head off…try to win this fight…try to beat him in any way possible.”
“I think I do got a lot more at stake than Randy in this fight. There’s a lot of pride here at stake. Two wrestlers going at it. I’m a competitor. I always will be ’til the day I die. This is the biggest fight of my life by far. Second to none. Don’t take me lightly. And I don’t think Randy Couture will take me lightly. I know he won’t. I want this more than anything in the world. I really do feel like I’ll win this fight.”