by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com

When MMAWeekly.com first caught
up to UFC
heavyweight champion Randy Couture
, he was seven weeks out from his fight
with Brock Lesnar
this Saturday at UFC 91, waiting for the big guys to arrive.


Couture had heavies Phil
Friedman, Jay White, and Mike Whitehead to push around, but wanted more
wrestlers that looked and moved like Lesnar.


Enter Josh Hendricks, John
Juarez, and Seth Whittle, who tried to give the champ a beat down at his gym in


For Hendricks, a decorated
wrestler with a 6’2″, 245 lb. frame, success meant eating a lot of leather
during his time with Couture.


“I think I got the better of
the deal with who learned the most, but Randy is extremely tough to take down,
can’t be worn down, and hits hard from a lot of odd angles that you don’t see
coming,” he told MMAWeekly.com. “It was no fun at all sparring with him.”


The biggest surprise for
Hendricks was dealing with Couture’s speed. Watching him on TV was one thing—being
in the cage was another.


“When I got right in front of
him, he showed up like a cruise missle on a radar,” said Hendricks. “It’s just
like, wow. Looking at it from what a camera angle would be fifteen, twenty feet
away, your eyes catch up to it. When you’re standing right in front of him, it’s
hard to catch up to.”


Hendricks is scheduled to face
Couture’s old adversary, Gabriel Gonzaga, this Saturday at the MGM Grand.


John Juarez was invited through
an affiliate Xtreme Couture gym in Florida, and says a mix-up prompted his


“I’m not a wrestler,” he
admits. “I think they thought I was a wrestler when I was coming out there.”


Juarez was a dead-ringer for
Lesnar’s body type, though. At 6’1″ and an agile 265 lbs., he was a perfect
candidate to mimic the former pro wrestler’s charging style. The hard part was
getting a hold of Couture.


“His angles are a little bit
different than anything I’ve experienced,” Juarez said. “Brock, he’s kind of a
straight forward guy, but Randy will hit you from different angles. When we
first started sparring, it was hard to figure out what he’s going to do. He’ll
move constantly left to right, so nothing’s straight on with him.”


When Juarez got top position on
the mat, he couldn’t keep it.


“If you start to raise up a
strike on him when he’s on the ground—he’s gone,” said Juarez.


Seth Whittle, another decorated
wrestler from Cal Poly University, had been in Couture’s camp for his fight
with Tim Sylvia at UFC 68, and said it was completely different this time


“With (Sylvia) it was a long
jab; a long, lanky, stand-up type of camp, versus Brock being more what I do,
which is takedowns, a little bit of Greco Roman wrestling, and that ground and
pound style,” he explained. “This was centered around bigger guys, carrying the
weight, being able to move on the bottom and on your feet.”


If anyone was qualified to
assess whether the champ had slowed down, it would be Whittle. According to
him, those expecting a slower Couture will be sorely disappointed.


“I don’t see it,” said Whittle.
“His work ethic is so strong, I haven’t seen him slow down. He’s got more
people around to work on what he needs to work on.”


One drill, the “shark tank,”
had training partners rotating in on Couture in one-minute shifts for
five-minute rounds.


“It’s the same Couture,” he
continued. “He comes for bear every day. He never tells you to take it easy on
him. He’ll tell you, ‘If you catch me, you hit me. If I’m doing something stupid
you’ve gotta to make me pay for it.’ You don’t always find that.”


Hendricks believes Couture’s
experience will be the deciding factor in the fight against Lesnar.


“He’s just fighting a big
strong guy who’s athletic,” Hendricks said. “What UFC fighter isn’t big and
strong at heavyweight? Brock Lesnar has three MMA fights. He’s pretty green in
this sport.”


Whittle agrees that Lesnar hasn’t
fully matured.


“I have friends in the industry
that have trained with Brock, and they say he’s making giant leaps and bounds
in improvement, and he hits real hard, but I don’t think to where Randy is yet,”
he said.  


For Juarez, the mix-up gave way
to one of the best training experiences he’d had as a relative newcomer to the


“It was a team, like a big
family,” he said of Xtreme Couture. “I walked in, and you’re kind of the new
guy on the street, but everybody welcomed me in with open arms, (like) Josh and
Seth. (Randy) always talked about his work ethic, and I think that’s why he’s
so successful today. He’s got a big heart, and that’s what separates him from
everybody else.”


“Fantastic is not even a good
enough word for what the whole experience has been,” Hendricks concurred. 


UFC 91 Video: Randy
Couture Pre-fight


UFC 91 Video: Brock
Lesnar Pre-fight


UFC 91 Video: UFC President
Dana White Pre-fight


UFC 91 Video: UFC 91
Pre-fight Press Conference


UFC 91 Video: Kenny
Florian Pre-fight Interview


UFC 91 Video: Joe
Stevenson Pre-fight Interview