by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
The main card of UFC 74 features several fights that will establish title contenders for future shows and in the main event the UFC’s most popular fighter defends his title for the first time. UFC 74 is scheduled to take place Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
In this second of a two-part preview of the UFC 74 fight card, Ricardo Mendoza takes a look at the main card bouts scheduled to air on pay-per-view.
UFC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
RANDY COUTURE VS. GABRIEL GONZAGA
UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture defends his title against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Gabriel Gonzaga. Randy Couture has a 15-8 record in MMA and trains out of Xtreme Couture with Forrest Griffin. Gabriel Gonzaga has an 8-1 record in MMA and trains out of Massachusetts. Couture became the UFC Heavyweight Champion at UFC 68, winning an lopsided decision over Tim Sylvia. Gonzaga became the number one contender at UFC 70, knocking out Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic with a head kick.
Couture has defied age and in the process has amazed us all with his athletic ability. Gonzaga wasn’t considered to be a threat to Cro Cop, but he dominated the entire fight on the ground and on the feet where he eventually knocked out the Croation. Couture was one of the few people that actually picked Gonzaga to win that fight and has stated in the past that he believes Gonzaga is a harder fight for him than Cro Cop would have been.
On the ground, it’s going to be Gonzaga who will have the advantage over the smaller Couture. It’s pretty even on the feet as Couture has mastered dirty boxing in the clinch, while Gonzaga should have the advantage on the outside. Look for this fight to be very close in the early rounds, but Gonzaga’s size and youth will eventually wear down Couture, who in the past has had a hard time with bigger and younger grapplers.
Prediction: Gabriel Gonzaga by TKO in the fourth round.
LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT (SWING BOUT):
ROGER HUERTA VS. ALBERTO GONZALES CRANE
Rising lightweight star Roger Huerta takes on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Alberto Gonzales Crane. Roger Huerta has an 18-1-1 record in MMA and trains out of Team Extreme with Dave Menne. Alberto Gonzales Crane has an 8-0 record in MMA and trains out of Los Angeles. Huerta comes off a stoppage victory over newcomer Douglas Evans at The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale. Crane’s last fight was a submission victory over Jeremy Crowe at Professional No Rules Fighting: Inferno, more than two-and-a-half years ago.
Huerta is probably the most marketable fighter in the UFC right now as they try to break into the Hispanic market. With that come the accusations that he is being protected by the UFC and is given easier fights than other fighters. If anyone thinks that Crane is an easy fight for Huerta, they have another thing coming. Crane is one of the best ground fighters in MMA and he will surely test Huerta on the ground if it gets there.
Crane comes into the fight with one big disadvantage; he hasn’t fought for two-and-a-half years. That is a big disadvantage in MMA when most fighters fight several times a year. As long as Huerta can keep the fight on the feet he should have no trouble with Crane, but if it does go to the ground then Crane will no doubt test Huerta. Look for Huerta to control the fight on the feet and finish Crane with strikes.
Prediction: Roger Huerta by TKO in the second round.
GEORGES ST-PIERRE VS. JOSH KOSCHECK
Former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre takes on welterweight contender Josh Koscheck. Georges St-Pierre has a 13-2 record in MMA and trains out of BTT Canada with Patrick Cote. Josh Koscheck has a 9-1 record in MMA and trains out of American Kickboxing Academy with Jon Fitch. St-Pierre suffered a knockout loss to Matt Serra at UFC 69, where he also lost the UFC Welterweight Championship. Koscheck comes off a dominating performance against Diego Sanchez at UFC 69.
UFC President Dana White confirmed that the winner of this fight will get the next shot at the UFC Welterweight Championship, so look for both fighters to give it their all. Koscheck is on an all time high right now as he dominated the previously undefeated Sanchez and has shown vast improvement over time with his stand-up. St-Pierre is coming off a devastating loss and it’s going to be interesting what kind of mindset he will have in this fight.
On the feet, St-Pierre has a slight advantage having a little more pop in his strikes, but on the ground it’s Koscheck who has the advantage. Koscheck is the best wrestler that St-Pierre has ever faced and Koscheck will be able to take him down and control him on the ground unlike Hughes was able to do. Look for both fighters to test each other on the feet, but eventually Koscheck will take it to the ground and control the fight from their on. St-Pierre’s best chance at winning the fight will be to catch Koscheck early in the fight with strikes, but Koscheck’s stand-up has improved so much that it will be hard to do.
Prediction: Josh Koscheck by decision.
KURT PELLEGRINO VS. JOE STEVENSON
Amory lightweight Kurt Pellegrino takes on The Ultimate Fighter 2 champion Joe Stevenson in a fight that could very well determine a contender for the lightweight title. Kurt Pellegrino has a 10-2 record in MMA and trains out of The Amory with Hermes Franca. Joe Stevenson has a 27-7 record in MMA and trains out of Cobra Kai with Marc Laimon. Pellegrino comes off a submission victory over newcomer Nate Mohr at UFC Fight Night 9. Stevenson submitted Melvin Guillard with relative ease at UFC Fight Night 9.
This is probably one of the more evenly matched fights of the night; both fighters are really good on the ground. Pellegrino has been very effective since he decided to move down to lightweight and the same goes for Stevenson. With the current turmoil concerning the UFC lightweight title, the winner here could very well be launched into a possible title match.
This fight comes down to who can dictate the pace of the fight on the feet in order to control it once it goes to the ground. This is going to be a really close fight, but Stevenson should be able to use his big-fight experience and squeak past Pellegrino with a close decision.
Prediction: Joe Stevenson by decision.
PATRICK COTE VS. KENDALL GROVE
The Ultimate Fighter 4 finalist Patrick Cote takes on The Ultimate Fighter 3 champion Kendall Grove. Patrick Cote has a 10-4 record in MMA and trains out of BTT Canada with Georges St-Pierre. Kendall Grove has an 8-3 record in MMA and trains out of Cobra Kai with Joe Stevenson. Cote is coming off a stoppage victory over Jason Day at TKO 29. Grove won an impressive submission victory over Alan Belcher at UFC 69.
Cote probably has the worst win-loss record of any current UFC fighter, but he keeps getting brought back for obvious reasons. Grove is being brought by slowly by the UFC and that’s a great thing because he is still green and needs to gain some more fight experience.
On the ground the advantage goes to Grove and on the feet it will be Cote who enjoys the upper hand. The one defining factor in the fight is that Grove has a very distinct reach advantage over Cote and he will use it. Look for Grove to continue his slow rise in the middleweight division and finish Cote within the distance.
Prediction: Kendall Grove by submission in the second round.