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What’s next for Randy?

(Certainly not this.)

The UFC have to be very careful with Randy Couture. The pitfalls of promoting a 46 year old legend would make even Harry think twice about swinging over them. They have to pick their poison – give him softballs and catch hell for it, or throw him in the deep end and hope he doesn’t drown. At this point in time the risks are pretty much equal for either choice considering he’s competing in MMA’s most talent-laden division. And unless we find out ol’ Captain America is drinking the blood of virgins or something, it’s pretty safe to say there aren’t many Couture fights left to cash in on. So who are the best opponents for the man currently getting mailed ‘Remember to sign up for AARP’ postcards?

Krzysztof Soszynski: Good ole What’s-his-name is the kind of opponent Randy would want to avoid if he’s getting Pay Per View kickbacks, but shouldn’t have a problem standing across the cage on free TV. Krzysztof doesn’t pose too much danger to Couture, which is probably the biggest factor in picking an opponent for him. You’ve got all the star power of a TUF contestant without the expected skill of the guy who actually won it. Both guys’ recent fights with Brandon Vera was the perfect example of MMAth through clinch work. Randy could pummel all day for a solid decision over a dude more popular than the guy who beat him off the show.

Vladimir Matyushenko: Anyone who’s ever watched ‘The Janitor’ fight is aware that you don’t need to watch out for his powerful striking…or dangerous submissions…or anything else offence-related. The guy is pretty much inert unless he’s getting his &feature=related”>face caved in. A fight against Randy can allow them to build up the fight with their connections to the U.S. wrestling squad back in the day. I can picture the Countdown now: ‘I saw him sitting on the bleachers for seven hours at a meet one time. I’ll get him for that.’ Interesting? No, not really, but what else is left at this point when you’re trying to find Randy’s fine line between ‘can beat’ and ‘beat a can’.

Keith Jardine: This reaches the sweet spot of legitimate opponent and winnability for Randy. I almost feel bad for mentioning Jardine in any fantasy booking conversations. The guy has fallen from making Forrest Griffin cry to being the glorified stairs to the upper echelons of 205. Unlike Anderson Silva, Keith IS a door – one that leads to bigger things, as everyone who beat him was promoted to either main or co-main event status in their next fight. The tradition could keep going if the UFC needs to keep Randy busy with a high-profile fight between Rampage or Rashad getting a crack at the belt. Sure, Jardine’s OMG Unorthodox ™ style means he’s always dangerous, but if Houston Alexander can beat the guy…

Rich Franklin: Right here is where risk equals reward for two main eventers who need a big win. Either guy beating the other would create a pretty nice #1 contender. Right now, Franklin and Randy are guys who are closer to the brink of a title shot than anyone else getting tangled up in more interesting, but less relevant fights (like Lil Nog). For Franklin, it would redeem his loss at the hands, literally, of Vitor Belfort last September. (Yes, the same fight that taught us of the back-of-the-head 3/5ths compromise free pass you get if everyone wants you to win.) It’d set him up for another face-rearranging rematch with Lyoto Machida, or cater to a really esoteric group that still wants to see 2005 PRIDE champs take on 2005 UFC champs. Franklin has only lost twice at 205 in his whole career, so the UFC hype machine can make it happen if they really want it to. This is turning more into what happens if Rich wins because, quite frankly, I can’t see Randy beating him.