Alright folks this is the big one. Randy Couture finally steps back in to the octagon for the first time in 15 months to defend his heavyweight championship against the rising beast in the division Brock Lesnar. A lot of people are doubting Randy Couture again. He's been away from MMA for over a year. He's 45 years old. Lesnar is bigger, stronger, and faster. Lesnar's a more accomplished wrestler. In fact Lesnar is the Vegas favorite. That is why this fight will be the biggest in UFC history which basically makes it the biggest in MMA history. The UFC is expecting this to be the most viewed PPV card in MMA history. There is no reason we should doubt this either. Randy is not only a legend in the sport but he's known in the mainstream as well. Lesnar, the former WWE wrestler has a huge mainstream following too. Sizing these two up for a title fight means big bucks for everyone involved. A lot of people questioned Lesnar getting a title shot in his third fight in the UFC especially after losing his first one. However, this is a business and when Couture came back in to the fold the UFC knew exactly what they had. Obviously there are other interesting fights on this card but this fight carries this card on its own, no questions asked. Let's dig right in.
Matt Brown v. Ryan Thomas: Brown, who is replacing an injured Matt Riddle, is 7-7, 1-1 in the UFC, with all 7 wins by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter. Thomas is 9-2, 0-1 in the UFC, with all 9 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a striker but is well rounded. This fight should be exciting as neither guy has gone to a decision before. Neither of these guys has a great pedigree so I'll pick Thomas who has had the better career. I'm going to say Thomas wins by submission in the first round.
Mark Bocek v. Alvin Robsinson: Bocek is 5-2, 1-2 in the UFC, with 4 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a submission fighter. Robinson is 9-2, 1-2 in the UFC, with 8 wins by submission. He is also a submission fighter. Both of these guys need a win to get their UFC career back on track. This fight will probably spend most of the time on its feet since both of these guys are so good on the ground. I'm going to pick Robsinson based on who he beat in the UFC (Jorge Gurgel) and in a fight that will probably be a slugfest I'm going to pick Robinson by decision.
Jeremy Stephens v. Rafael Dos Anjos: Stephens is 13-2, 2-2 in the UFC, with 11 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Rafael is 11-2, making his UFC debut, with 7 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter. This should be a great clash of styles. Normally I would go with the grappler but since Dos Anjos is making his UFC debut I'm going to take Stephens for his experience. Dos Anjos is tough though so I'll pick Stephens to pick him apart and win a decision.
Jorge Gurgel v. Aaron Riley: Gurgel is 12-4, 3-3 in the UFC, with 9 wins by submission. He is a submission fighter. Riley is 24-10-1, 0-2 in the UFC, 1-0 in PRIDE, with 17 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a striker but does have some submissions. This should be a clash between striker and grappler. Unfortunately Gurgel is always looking to put on a show which is why he's lost 2 of his 3 fights in the UFC. If he decides to stand with Riley (which I think he will) he will lose this fight. Because of that I'm picking Riley by decision.
Dustin Hazelett v. Tamdan McCrory: Dustin is 11-4, 4-2 in the UFC, with 9 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter. Tamdan is 10-1, 2-1 in the UFC, with all 10 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a striker. This should be a good clash of styles. I like what I've seen out of Hazelett even with the two losses. I almost always go with the grappler which is why I'll pick Hazelett by submission in round two.
Demian Maia v. Nate Quarry: Maia is 8-0, 3-0 in the UFC, with 7 wins by stoppage. He is a submission fighter. Quarry is 10-2, 5-1 in the UFC, with 8 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a striker. This is a great middleweight match up. Quarry is a great fighter but Maia looks unstoppable right now. I think Maia gets this fight to the ground and gets the submission in the first round.
Gabriel Gonzaga v. Josh Hendricks: Gonzaga is 10-3, 5-2 in the UFC, with all 10 wins by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter. Hendricks is 15-4, making his UFC debut, with 14 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a striker. While Hendricks is no push over especially on the feet I think Gonzaga is just the better and more well rounded fighter. I see him taking this to the mat and winning by submission in the first round.
Kenny Florian v. Joe Stephenson: Florian is 10-3, 8-2 in the UFC, with 9 wins by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter. Stephenson is 29-8, 6-2 in the UFC, with 19 wins by stoppage. He is mostly a submission fighter. This fight sets up what looks like a match up between the winner of this fight and Sean Sherk to see who gets a shot at BJ Penn's title. I would love to see Ken Flo win this fight and go on to a title shot because Sherk and Stephenson had their shot much more recently and got blasted out of the water. This fight though is very interesting. If Stephenson can get this fight to the ground that's where he has the best chance to win. However, I think Florian can win the fight wherever it goes. So, for that reason, I'm picking Florian here to win by decision.
Randy Couture v. Brock Lesnar: Couture is 16-8, 13-5 in the UFC, with 9 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler and ground and pound artist. Lesnar is 2-1, 1-1 in the UFC, with 1 win by TKO. He is a wrestler. I only see this fight going two ways. Either Lesnar comes out of the gate and blasts Couture into retirement or Couture drags Lesnar out into deep water and Lesnar gasses and Couture bangs him out. This is the ultimate David v. Goliath match up. In their skill set they are very similar. It's everywhere else that makes Lesnar the huge favorite. He is bigger, stronger, faster, and younger. However, Couture is smarter and more experienced with better conditioning. I've never seen Couture make a stupid mistake. He is also if not the best, one of the best, gameplanners in the sport. His strategy here has to be to weather the early storm and not give up any big shots. Once the fight gets into rounds 3, 4, and 5 he will win the conditioning battle because most people don't understand how much energy it takes to feed the muscles Lesnar has. If Couture can stay out of harm's way through the first 2 or maybe 3 rounds I think this fight is in the bag. Lesnar will gas eventually and Couture can pounce and take advantage and finish the fight in the later rounds. Because Couture is so smart and so experienced, as long as his age still isn't a factor, I think he can execute this gameplan and win the fight by TKO in the fifth round. However, while I am picking Couture, I will leave in this one caveat. I will never doubt Couture until someone proves otherwise, but Couture is 45 and has been out of MMA for over a year. His skills may not have eroded but surely his body has. If Lesnar comes out and catches Couture this fight could be over very quickly. Just putting it out there. If Couture wins this fight he awaits the winner of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira v. Frank Mir fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship.
This should be a very exciting night and I can't wait for the atmosphere, the excitement, and the action. My pick for KO of the night is Couture. My pick for submission of the night goes to Demian Maia. My pick for fight of the night goes to Florian v. Stephenson. Stay tuned for my TUF review later this week and of course my UFC 91 wrap up next weekend. Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...