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MMA a world away from Boxing

Early Ultimate Fighting Championship events included the occasional ill-prepared sumo wrestler. Japanese shows have featured everyone from cartoon characters to Olympic athletes making abrupt transitions to a new sport.

UFC President Dana White has chosen a different path. Until now. At UFC 118 on Saturday, boxer James Toney will make his mixed martial arts debut against one of the sport's most accomplished veterans, Randy Couture.

White concedes that this is a "freak show" bout that won't have long-term ramifications toward eventual title contention. He concedes Toney has a puncher's chance but expects a different outcome.

"What I think is going to happen is Randy Couture's going to double-leg him (take him down by wrapping up both legs), get side control and smash his head, and they're going to stop the fight," White says.

Couture, who says he has had ample time to train despite promotion duties for his role in the summer blockbuster The Expendables, is more generous about his opponent's chances. "James poses some interesting problems," Couture says. "He's definitely going to try to land a nice straight right hand. What does he have in the other realms of the fight besides the boxing? That's going to be the test."

Few boxers have tried to make the leap into MMA. At the first UFC event, well before the evolution of modern rules, boxer Art Jimmerson lasted longer than sumo wrestler Teila Tuli but tapped out just as jiujitsu master Royce Gracie was beginning to establish position on the ground. (Toney, following modern rules, will wear standard MMA gloves.)

Former WBO champion and 1988 Olympic champion Ray Mercer has dabbled in MMA with two vastly different results, losing an exhibition against YouTube backyard-brawling sensation Kimbo Slice, then knocking out ex-UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia in 10 seconds in an unsanctioned bout switched from boxing to MMA.