by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
UFC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
RANDY COUTURE VS. BROCK LESNAR
UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture defends his title for the first time in over a year against former NCAA wrestling champion Brock Lesnar. Couture comes off a stoppage victory over Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74, while Lesnar won a convincing decision over Pride veteran Heath Herring at UFC 87.
Around this time last year, not many people would of believed that Randy Couture would ever fight again in the UFC, but all disputes between the two sides have been resolved and now he returns for what could be the biggest fight in UFC history. Although Lesnar is still rather inexperienced in mixed martial arts, he has shown humongous upside and now gets the chance of a lifetime in a title shot with a professional record of just 2-1.
This is an interesting fight to say the least, as it’s been well chronicled in the past the trouble that Couture has with bigger fighters and that’s something that Lesnar will look to exploit. Couture has the edge in experience and striking, but will it be enough to overcome the huge size and power advantage that Lesnar will have come fight night?
Another factor in the fight is that Couture hasn’t seen action in over a year, so he might take a round or two to get into the fight. Lesnar will hold his own and win the first round or two, but Couture’s experience will help him in the end, as he’ll grind out a decision with gritty dirty boxing and ground control.
JOE STEVENSON VS. KENNY FLORIAN
Ultimate Fighter 2 winner Joe Stevenson faces off with Ultimate Fighter 1 runner-up Kenny Florian with a lightweight title shot up for grabs. Stevenson comes off a submission victory over Gleison Tibau at UFC 86, while Florian handed Roger Huerta his first loss in the Octagon at UFC 87, scoring a decision victory.
UFC president Dana White says that the winner of this fight will be next in line for a shot at the UFC lightweight title. Both fighters have stayed at the top of the division by beating everyone that has been put in front of them except on the occasion they challenged for the title.
Both fighters are more than competent on the ground, but with differing styles. Stevenson uses more wrestling and strength, while Florian is the more technical fighter of the two. The difference will be on the feet, as Florian has the edge being the better technical striker. Stevenson is the power puncher of the two.
This should be a fun fight to watch as both fighters know the importance of the fight and will go all out in order to win it. Florian is a bad style match-up for Stevenson, as he is someone that can match his skills on the ground, and on the feet is someone that can use technique to his advantage. Look for Florian to outwork Stevenson on the feet and on the ground to win a decision and earn another title shot.
GABRIEL GONZAGA VS. JOSH HENDRICKS
Former UFC heavyweight title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga faces off with UFC newcomer Josh Hendricks. Gonzaga comes off a quick submission victory over Justin McCully at UFC 86. Hendricks comes off a submission victory over Braden Brice at Next Level Fighting 11.
The UFC is in dire need of new blood in the heavyweight division and Hendricks represents that at the moment. Gonzaga, on the other hand, will look to keep rebuilding himself to a title shot after stumbling a bit in his last couple of fights.
Both fighters are primarily ground fighters, but Gonzaga should have the edge because of his pedigree as one of the better ground fighters in the world. On the feet, it seems to be more of an even fight with Hendricks having a small edge when it comes to size and power.
Gonzaga has to be smart and not make the same mistake that fellow Brazilian Fabricio Werdum made, which is to not take his fight seriously. Werdum didn’t seem to have taken his fight all too serious and it cost him. Gonzaga needs to learn from that mistake, coming into the fight in shape and with a solid gameplan. Look for Gonzaga to waste little time and get the fight to the ground, quickly locking on a submission for the victory.
NATE QUARRY VS. DAMIAN MAIA
Ultimate Fighter 1 alumnus Nate Quarry faces off with former Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Demian Maia. Quarry comes off a dominant decision victory over Kalib Starnes at UFC 83, while Maia comes off a submission victory over Canadian Jason MacDonald at UFC 87.
This is an important fight in the middleweight division, as the winner could position himself for a possible title shot with the division running out of new contenders for Anderson Silva. Both fighters have distinct styles and the fight will come down to who can finish the fight while they’re in their comfort zone.
Maia is obviously the better fighter on the ground with his background and what he has shown so far in the UFC, submitting all three of his Octagon opponents. Quarry has the distinct edge on the feet in both technique and power. Maia hasn’t shown too much in terms of striking in the UFC. The absolute key in the fight will be if Maia can take the fight to the ground, because if he can’t it’s going to be a long night.
Quarry will look good for the onset, imposing his will on Maia in the early going by tagging him with shots and stopping his takedown attempts. As the fight wears on, Maia will find the opening, take the fight to the ground, and submit Quarry late in the fight.
DUSTIN HAZELETT VS. TAMDAN MCCRORY
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu wunderkind Dustin Hazelett faces off with young Northeastern fighter Tamdan McCrory. Hazelett comes off a submission victory over Josh Burkman at the Ultimate Fighter 7 Finale, while McCrory won a decision over Luke Cummo at UFC 87.
Both fighters are young and have a lot of upside in their careers, so a loss wouldn’t hurt either fighter too much at this point. The winner, though, keeps on moving up the ladder in the welterweight division. One thing that is certain is that these two will put on one of the better fights of the night.
Hazelett has the edge on the ground with submissions and wrestling, while McCrory has a slight edge on the feet with technique and reach advantage. The key in the fight will be whether or not either fighter can impose their will in the fight and control the pace of the fight.
Both fighters are going to test each other out on the feet. At that point, it will become apparent that McCrory will have an edge in the striking department and Hazelett will take it to the ground. From there look for him to go from submission to submission and finish the fight at the midway point.
MATT BROWN VS. RYAN THOMAS
Ultimate Fighter 6 alumnus Matt Brown takes on Midwest fighter Ryan Thomas. Thomas was originally scheduled to take on Matt Riddle, but an injury forced the late change. Brown looked quite impressive in his loss to Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 88 and gets a chance to impress again. Both fighters come off a loss and need a win to stay afloat in the UFC, look for Brown to keep the fight on the feet and punish Thomas with strikes as he stays off his back to win a decision.
JEREMY STEPHENS VS. RAFAEL DOS ANJOS
Midwest lightweight fighter Jeremy Stephens takes on the debuting Brazilian lightweight Rafael dos Anjos. Stephens will have the edge on the feet with his excellent boxing technique, but the key will be how he can handle the fight on the ground. Anjos has been on an absolute roll in Brazil and hopes it will translate to the UFC. Look for Anjos to avoid getting tagged on the feet and take the fight to the ground, where he will impose his will and win a decision.
MARK BOCEK VS. ALVIN ROBINSON
ADCC veteran Mark Bocek faces off with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter Alvin Robinson. Both have shown tons of potential, but have suffered losses in their last appearances and need a win to continue on in the UFC. They are both ground fighters, but Bocek is the better technical fighter of the two on the ground and that could make the difference in the fight. These two will have an amazing ground battle, but eventually Bocek will lock on a submission for the victory.
JORGE GURGEL VS. AARON RILEY
Ultimate Fighter 2 alumnus Jorge Gurgel takes on veteran Aaron Riley. This is a do or die fight for both fighters as each have had mixed results in the UFC. A loss will likely close the door on their UFC career. Gurgel is the better fighter on the ground, but has underperformed in a lot of his UFC appearances and needs to live up to his ability. Riley is known for his striking and will look to keep the fight on the feet. Look for Gurgel to get the job done and take the fight to the ground, where he’ll outwork Riley en route to a decision.