In what most considered the fight of the year in 2001, Randy Couture and Pedro Rizzo faced off for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 31 in Atlantic City. The event took place at Mark G. Etess Arena at Trump Taj Mahal on May 4, 2001.
UFC 31 also featured BJ Penn’s professional debut, as well as Shonie Carter’s spectacular spinning backfist knockout of Matt Serra. In the fight card’s co-main event, Carlos Newton dethrowned Pat Miletich to win the welterweight title.
Couture won the heavyweight championship at UFC 28 by defeating Kevin Randleman (who died on Feb. 11, 2016). Despite there being just six months between UFC 28 and UFC 31, Couture actually fought twice in between defending his UFC belt. He competed in Japan in the Rings: King of Kings tournament. He defeated Tsuyoshi Kosaka in his first fight and then lost to Valentijn Overeem (Alistair’s brother) in the tournament final, both bouts taking place on the same night.
The time in the ring prepared Couture well for his five-round war with Pedro Rizzo, who was one of the most dangerous heavyweight fighters on the planet at the time.
(Video courtesy of UFC)
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