“Welllllllllllllll …” That was the extent of my prefight analysis. But, few saw it coming. Sure, if you thought with your heart you picked Couture. But those who looked at all the variables knew Sylvia was going to finish the fight within a round or two. Couture entered the fight as a 43-year-old legend who hadn’t stepped inside the Octagon in a little more than a year. He had been knocked out by light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell in two of his last three fights in UFC. He was returning to fight the heavyweight champ, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound behemoth who had used his superior size and reach to capture and defend the title. Though he had not been impressive in recent title defenses against Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson, Sylvia had earned decisive victories by decision over fighters far younger than Couture. Just eight seconds into the fight, Couture landed a looping overhand right that hit Sylvia square on his jaw, sending him staggering backward into the fence. The crowd shrieked in delight, hoping for a quick knockout. Sylvia, though, survived that first onslaught, but anyone who saw his face moments later could see that he was stunned. I couldn’t commit. Whenever someone would ask me if Randy Couture had any shot at upsetting Tim Sylvia in their heavyweight title bout at UFC 68 on March 3 in Columbus, Ohio, I made the same sound my mom used to make when I was a child when I asked if I could eat ice cream just before dinner. I’ve seen the fight about five times now and I’m convinced Sylvia was mentally beat by that early right hand. It’s kind of like when you’re a 13-year-old boy and you think you’re a real tough guy. Then, your older brother comes in and beats the tar out of you and you realize you’ll always be a peon in his world. Couture, the esteemed “ground and pound” fighter, outpunched the slugger. When the fight was on the ground, fans knew Couture was at an even stronger advantage. In fact, for the first time that I can remember, when the fighters were told to stand and fight by the referee, something that is often met with overwhelming cheers by fans, the crowd booed, knowing Sylvia still had a puncher’s chance. No one wanted the ending to be ruined. And it wasn’t. Couture earned a unanimous decision and, I’d be hard pressed to find a photo of a bigger smile than the one UFC president Dana White had on his face as he strapped the belt onto Couture’s waist. He knew that, less than two weeks before the start of March Madness, UFC had presented its own Cinderella story. Couture’s title win brought tons of media coverage for the still-growing sport. ESPN, it seems, is finally starting to realize the market for MMA is growing and likely will expand its coverage of the sport in the coming months. White’s smile was probably partly due to the fact Couture, dubbed “The Natural” and “Captain America” for his hero-type qualities, winning the world title was the best thing that could’ve happened for his organization. Meanwhile, Couture will continue to wade through the media frenzy and likely begin preparing for his next fight against Mirko Cro Cop, a monster from Croatia who is arguably the top knockout artist in the sport. Despite being the champion, Couture will likely enter that fight as the underdog. Do I think Couture can overcome the odds again? “Welllllllllllllll …” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!