UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture knows a thing or two about surprise title shots. Back in 2007, Couture created a stir when he announced his intention to climb out of a year-long retirement, move up a weight class, and challenge two-time UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia.
Despite being tabbed by Vegas oddsmakers as more than a 2-to-1 underdog, the 43-year-old Couture went on to dismantle Sylvia over five rounds to claim his fifth and final title in one of the most legendary moments in UFC history. So it makes sense that Couture, now a Hollywood star at the age of 49, wasn't phased by news that Alistair Overeem or, in particular, Chael Sonnen would be gifted surprise UFC title shots upon their arrival to their respective divisions.
"I'm not terribly surprised on either front really," Couture explained on Spike TV's MMA Uncensored Live. "I think at the end of the day it's a business decision. This is a business, and Chael Sonnen is going to bring it and hype up any single fight he's in. I think Jon Jones, in denying him on the short-notice eight-day fight, made it inevitable they were going to have to fight at some point. I think I would've taken eight-days training camp rather than a full training camp, but I'm not Jon Jones."
Sonnen's selection especially has drawn widespread criticism from fans and fighters who feel he unfairly jumped to the front of the pack on the strength of his promotion skills. "The American Gangster" is listed as high as a 4-to-1 underdog on numerous sportsbooks, however Couture, who long trained alongside Sonnen at Team Quest, believes people are gravely overlooking his chances.
"Chael has a great opportunity to win this fight actually," Couture said. "Technically I see a similar style fight as Anderson Silva. If he wades through him and makes Jon Jones wrestle him the entire fight, I think he can win that.
"He can do it, but he needs that gameplan. He needs to make it a wrestling match, start to finish."
As for Overeem, who is currently serving the tail-end of a nine-month layoff after testing positive for increased testosterone to epitestosterone levels, Couture believes the Dutchman's résumé speaks for itself.
"Well, I think that's where he was at competitively," explained Couture. "He beat Brock [Lesnar] and he was right there. He deserves the shot at the title. Yeah, the drug suspension sucks. It sucks for the sport, it sucks for him. I think, again, the whole division has kind of been in limbo since he went out. Everybody wanted to see that fight. I'm not surprised that he's still going to get the nod now that the suspension is over."