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The Pick is In: And it’s Randy Couture

We are one week within UFC 91 and there is no time left to deliberate about a predicted winner for this Saturday’s main event between UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar.

The headline says it all so the suspense has been ruined. The pick is in and I’m going with Couture. It’s my final decision, but not one that was not easy to make.

When we last saw Couture, he was smashing Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74. But that was almost a year and a half ago. Perhaps Couture will defy the odds yet again, but at age 45, this could be the fight in which his age finally shows. And at this stage in his life, he’s not going to age gradually; he’s going to age overnight.

Lesnar is not only younger than Couture, but he’s bigger, stronger, and faster. He will be at a disadvantage in some areas but not in all of the ones you might think. I’ve read some previews that state Couture will have an advantage if the fight goes past three rounds. I’m not so sure about that. At 45 compared to Lesnar’s age of 31, I just don’t see that being the case. If Couture presses Lesnar, I just don’t see how he will be able to maintain such a pace for 25 minutes. If Couture goes for the finish early and doesn’t get it, I think that Lesnar will actually have the advantage the longer the fight goes.

Many believe that Couture is going to try to take Lesnar into the later rounds but I believe he’s going to try and finish the fight as early as possible. If there intense exchanges early, I believe that Lesnar will have a significant advantage because he should, in theory, be able to recover quicker. And over the course of a five round fight, Lesnar is likely to be able to get a second wind at some point while a second wind for Couture just might not be possible.

Another end that has been predicted is Lesnar losing by submission. Again, this is another scenario I don’t see playing out. Couture has good – but not great – jiu-jitsu. He’s does not possess the slick submissions of a Frank Mir. If Lesnar provides an opening, Couture will be able to capitalize. However, reports out of Lesnar’s camp suggest that his submission defense is the most improved aspect of his game. If this was a rematch vs. Mir or a fight against someone such as Roger Gracie, I’d be concerned. But in this case, Couture’s submissions don’t worry me. If Couture tries to muscle a submission in, he’s going to expend a lot of energy doing so.

Couture will also need to make he wins the range game on the feet, as Lesnar is a threat to knock him out. Lesnar might not be a technical striker but he was able to floor both Mir and Heath Herring with punches. Couture does not have a glass jaw but showed in his two losses to Chuck Liddell that if you hit him hard enough and in the right spot, he’ll fall down just like any other human.

Thus far I’ve spent much of the article singing the praises of Lesnar despite the fact that the pick is Couture. So how do I see the fight going down in Couture’s favor?

Simple, I see Couture winning by way of TKO in the third round. Word out of Couture’s camp is that he’s quite confident. And if Randy Couture believes he’s going to beat someone, then I believe him.

But Couture has much more going for him than just confidence. Experience will be a major factor. Lesnar may have more gas in the tank, but Couture knows when to hit the gas pedal and when to hit the breaks. He will be able to navigate the five minute rounds better and will know when to lay in wait and when to explode.

Couture also might be the greatest tactical fighter in the history of the sport. He’s made a living finding weaknesses to exploit against fighters that are bigger, stronger, faster and younger. He has no doubt once again devised a gameplan that will put success in reach.

That gameplan could include taking a page or two out of the Tim Sylvia fight. Couture has apparently spent a great deal of his camp working on quick, explosive movements. That says to me that he plans to try and close the distance between him and Lesnar at key spots during the fight in hopes of body-locking the 2000 NCAA champion and putting him on his back.

Taking Lesnar off his feet won’t be easy because Lesnar is the stronger of the two. But Couture showed against Sylvia that upper-body takedowns aren’t necessarily all about sheer strength and that quickness and technique are almost as equally important.

Rumor also has it that Couture has spent a great deal working his ground and pound. Once he puts Lesnar on his back, I don’t see Couture trying to spend a lot of energy trying to break guard and risking position by going for armbars. I think he will look to get the fight to the ground but keep it simple once he does. Don’t be surprised to see Couture try to push Lesnar against the cage and deliver punches and elbows out of Lesnar’s guard.

One thing I’ve learned in recent years is that being good at jiu-jitsu and also being good at striking isn’t enough to ensure success in MMA and that you actually need to be good at MMA. In top gyms, there are both striking and grappling classes but then there is a separate MMA class taught to help put everything together in a cohesive package. A lot of new fighters spend a great deal of time working on their striking and their grappling but the transition game often gets neglected. Couture should try and test Lesnar’s MMA skills.

If Couture can press Lesnar against the cage and get good extension on his punches and elbows, he should be able to inflict enough damage that it will prompt the referee to stop the fight early. It’s pure conjecture on my part, but I believe that is going to be Couture’s strategy and that is how I believe the fight will reach its conclusion.

But Couture is not a one trick pony. Chances are he’s worked on multiple ways in which to try and expose Lesnar’s inexperience. In several pre-fight interviews, Couture has made a point to discuss about how Lesnar only knows how to attack at one speed and in one direction: fast and forward.

I expect Couture to utilize his footwork and focus on lateral movement in order to control the range between the two fighters. When Couture isn’t hanging back on the outside in an attempt to steer clear of Lesnar’s massive punching power, he will close the distance. Before he tries to wrap his arms around Lesnar, he will try to use his dirty boxing skills in order to stun the former WWE heavyweight champion so that he can take him to the floor.

When you factor Couture’s dirty boxing skills and combine it with the fact that Lesnar’s chin has yet to be tested, it creates the potential that Couture may actually be able to knock Lesnar out. I’m not saying it’s likely, but only that it’s possible.

What I do consider likely is Couture winning the fight on the floor. If he tries to outwork Lesnar for 25 minutes, he will lose the cardio game to the man 14 years his junior. But if Couture tries to outwork Lesnar for just 15 minutes and is able to put him on his back, he will be able to capitalize on his experience and finish Lesnar through ground and pound.

  • joey says:

    I agree with Sam on this 100%.

  • demonianray says:

    i hope you are right, this fight to me still does not bode well for Randy. I’m thinking…one punch from Lesnar…BAM! …. game over.

  • Jerry MacWire says:

    I too agree with Sam. To put things in perspective, how would Couture do against Herring? Lesnar and the UFC are the perfect match. Lesnar’s quotes are all sound byte worthy and we know too well the hyperbole that Dana White spews. He patterns himself after Vince MacMahon of the WWE.

    How would Lesnar do against other top ten heavyweight, particularly Tim Sylvia or Andre Arlovski? The guy has a ton of potential and we know MMA is not about one thing which right now is Lesnar’s forte.

    Couture in the second round by submission. I for one am not buying into the hype that the UFC is trying to generate. This will be an interesting fight, not a classic, not a great fight.

  • steo says:

    this is the safest piece of writing ever, sure you picked randy, but you just spent half the article on just about ever senerio on why brock could win! So if brock does win you have all your bases covered! I guess you dont want another ‘ matt brown is not the one to beat faber’ back fire!

  • ttttt says:

    I really hope randy win and the ufc gets rid of brock

  • GassedOut says:

    My heart says Couture. My brain says it isn’t so sure. No matter what game plan he has, Sun Tzu said “No battle plan will survive first contact with the enemy.”

    It’s a fight, and stuff happens. And that Brock Lesnar…he’s a huge man and uncommonly fast…WAR RANDY!

  • finkrod says:

    As usual, a great read Sam. I’m going with Lesnar in this one. But, of course, I won’t be shocked if Randy pulls one out. I don’t think anybody would be. Oh and as far as “And if Randy Couture believes he’s going to beat someone, then I believe him.” I’m sure he was thinking he was gonna beat Liddell those two times, but it didn’t work out that way =)

  • ttt says:

    i haven’t been keeping track, but much more often than not, Sam’s been wrong on these big pre-fight spiels. this is bad news for Randy :p

  • KMac says:

    Great article. Don’t think I agree about round 3, though. I think this one goes to the judges. Brock has never been able to finish: He had Mir hurt, and Herring never should have gone past round 2, much less gone to decision. Likewise Randy, although he dominated and controlled Tim Sylvia, couldn’t finish him.

    I’m expecting a 5 round mat wrestling match. Randy by unanimous decision

  • goodguy says:

    lol @ steo. That is hilariously true. Still a great article Sam. I was with you all the way on the Faber/Brown fight.

  • ACK! says:

    I have no problem with your pick or reasoning, but let’s be real, Sam. You picked Couture over Fedor in the most recent issue of FIGHT! magazine…

    So who would you pick over the Natural?

  • “Get rid of Brock?” Are u serious? Ur a moron! He draws crowds, has a great persona, and is an incredible athlete! I love Randy but I just feel he will get overwhelmed by the bigger stronger faster younger fighter. Silvia fought Randy with too much respect and not to lose! Lesnar will charge like a bull for 5 rounds. Oh yeah and by fight time he will likely weight 285lbs and hav almost 60lbs on Randy. Lesnar TKO via GNP Rnd 2

  • Ft. Dub says:

    We’ve all learned not to count Randy out, but I must say that I disagree with the article. Sam never addresses what happens when Randy ends up on HIS back. Brock is, as Sam points out, bigger, stronger and faster. I have to imagine that pound for pound they are equal wrestlers, but they are FAR from the same size.

    Brock has the power to keep Randy guessing just enough to get him in take-down situations. When that time comes, I believe it will be Brock controlling on the ground. I agree with everyone here that Brock has not shown finish capability, but he may be able to let go a little more since Randy is not a slick BJJer.

    Seems like Brock has Randy beat at his own game to some extent, and unlike Sylvia and other’s Randy has faced, I think Brock wants this fight on the ground.

    For the record I hate pro wrestling and like Randy. But I also don’t dislike Brock, and can we at least all agree that if he started MMA at 21 he could have changed the sport? Similar to the impact of the Lennox Lewis’ of boxing, the heavies had to be giants to have a shot.

    Either way, I will miss an interesting fight, I’m stuck at a wedding for a wife’s co-worker Saturday instead of watching the fight. Talk about a beating.

  • Dball says:

    I agree with the post above. Unless Randy clips Brock and immediately pounces, i dont see any other way that Randy will be on top in a ground and pound position. The only other way i guess would be a sweep from the bottom, but not likely. But if anyone is under the false pretenses that Randy is going to win in the clinch (true he has amazing grecco credentials) and take brock to his back…ur dreaming. Brocks too big and too skilled in wrestling for that. There is a better chance that Brock finish Randy with a gogolata.

  • Dball says:


  • Numba1Stunna says:

    As much as my mind wants to pick Lesnar, my heart is teling me to pick Randy. I have a lot of respect for both men, both are amazing athletes and even better people. I got into the sport a little late so I have only seen Randy fight 2 or 3 times, which is why I hope he wins because that ensures he will have more fights. I see Randy by TKO in the later rounds. I think Randy’s best chance is to set a pace in the early rounds that Lesnar can hang with, and just chip away and try to break Lesnar’s will. Then in the final rounds turn the pace up and really start putting pressure on him and around the 3rd or 4th round I think Brock Lesnar will break and Couture will get the TKO…Either way I can’t wait~!!!!!

  • JOe K. says:

    This fight should be pretty good.

    Is it just me or does the entire card seem weak (sans the Florian and Couture fights)?

  • Rich S. says:

    i’m suprised so many people are picking Randy to win.

    Brock completely manhandled, and controlled Heath Herring, 260 lb.
    So it’s only right for me to believe he can do the same with Randy, 220lb.
    Now, i know there are other factors, like: Randy has wayyyyy more heart and probably drive than Herring.. but still, heart can only take you so far before you body won’t let you go further..

    No one wants to admit it.. or see it.. but i think Randy’s going to get TKO’d in round 4..

    even if Randy gets on top at some point.. Brock can probably bench like 500.. so, he could just lift Randy up, set him aside, and crawl into his guard.. that might sound funny, but i wouldn’t be suprised to see it..

  • Tony Fennen says:

    I really want Randy to win because he is someone I admire for many reasons.
    The fact that he is 45 and holds the belt in the UFC Heavyweight division is simply amazing. Brock, by far, is the BIGGEST test in his career.
    Randy will need all this chips to fall in his place if he is going to win.
    We all know the chips dont always fall the way you want them to in MMA.
    (See also Fabricio Werdum)

    Brock “Viking Gorilla” Lesnar is HUGE. “The Next Big Thing” is an understatement.
    People are questioning his stamina just boggles my mind.
    My guess is that Brock plans to test Randy’s chin early and often. Since Brock’s chin is hidden somewhere in his neck and shoulders I dont see him getting KOed.

    My Official Pick: ON THE FENCE

    What I want to see: Randy by TKO
    What I think I will see: Brock by brutal KO

    If someone wins by submission I will be SHOCKED

  • vitaminD says:

    “Reports out of Lesnar’s camp suggest that his submission defense is the most improved aspect of his game.”
    -Were you expecting them to say “his jiu-jitsu trainers suck and he hasn’t learned anything”?

    And when was the last time you heard a fighter say he expected to lose?

    You make a lot of good points, so I don’t know why you’ve got these Fire Joe Morgan-worthy bits in there. At least you didn’t say Couture was scrappy.

  • Mac W says:

    i disagree with this article….brock will win in my opinion. the whole basis of this arguement is that randy will be able to get brock down by takedown or some sort of grecko roman takedown which will just not happen…..brock is too strong for randy to take down. and randy will not be out working him in the first 15.

    as soon as randy turns it up a notch brock will turn it up 2 notches. because he can. he is a new breed of heavyweight fighter and he is going to be devistating to the weight class. no other ufc heavyweights are taking advantage of the weight division like brock….they are simply too heavy to cut weight to lightheavyweight. brock cuts to 265 and is solid muscle…..with some wrestling talent. give him 2 years of striking training and jiu jitsu training and he will be unstoppable. randy may have to go back down to lightheavyweight….(whch would be way more exciting anyways).

    the only thing i agree on is that randy will be working counter attacks and lateral movement but that wont be enough for a win. he has to hope for a standing knockout. i love em but i wont be putting my money on him……i’m going with brock.

  • HexRei says:

    lol wouldn’t it be funny if brock couldn’t make weight? I mean I know it wont happen but man that would be a kick in the pants.

  • HexRei says:

    Brock completely manhandled, and controlled Heath Herring, 260 lb.
    So it’s only right for me to believe he can do the same with Randy, 220lb.
    Now, i know there are other factors, like: Randy has wayyyyy more heart and probably drive than Herring.. but still, heart can only take you so far before you body won’t let you go further..

    Well there’s the fact that Herring isn’t really good at anything. Randy has several aspects of his game that really stand out, like wrestling and dirty boxing. Herring couldn’t do anything to Brock because his wrestling and striking weren’t good enough to win on the feet or even keep it there, and his subs are only mediocre as well and imho depended in the past mostly on his size which obviously was not an advantage against Lesnar.

    Randy will have several areas where he can compete with Brock and possibly reduce the size advantage to something he can manage to pull a decision out of.

  • HexRei says:

    oops, that last quoted from Rich S.

  • Ian says:

    I would bet the farm down to the last chicken on Couture.

    You know, if I bet on MMA. Or had a farm for that matter.

    In my eyes, there’s no other way this fight can go, other than Lesnar controlling Randy for a while, throwing those ridiculous hammer fists, with Randy easily rolling to his feet after the 30 seconds it takes Lesnar to be drenched in sweat, and exhausting Lesnar in the clinch.

    The Heath/Brock fight taught us a lot more about Heath than it did about Lesnar.

    Randy wins this by TKO in round 3.

  • HexRei says:

    Tony Fennen on November 11th, 2008 3:13 pm
    My guess is that Brock plans to test Randy’s chin early and often. Since Brock’s chin is hidden somewhere in his neck and shoulders I dont see him getting KOed.

    Considering we have seen literally nothing of Brocks chin I have no idea where you’re getting that idea. We just don’t know how good it is (and please don’t bring up the Shooting Star Press) and he could get KO’ed like anyone else.

    Also, I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that Brock CAN test Randy’s chin. Mir has awful standup so I really don’t put much weight on Brock flooring him. Knocking Herring down was more credible but Herring is not a great striker either, merely a good striker. Whereas Randy has some very strong boxing skills supplemented by what could be the best dirty boxing in the HW division.

    I think on the feet will be Randy’s best chance to win and Brock would have to be very arrogant or very foolish to stand with Randy since Brock will almost certainly win if he can consistently take the fight to the ground.

  • tylerdante69 says:

    I’ve picked Sylvia and Gonzaga to defeat Randy but then Randy showed why he’s one of the best.

    So 3rd times the charm, i’ll pick Brock for the win.

    I believe the only guy that can stop Lesnar is Fedor.

    But of course Randy has been defying odds all his life so this fight will either make Randy a True Legend or make Brock Truly The Next Big Thing

  • jeff the drunk says:

    I really hope Randy wins, but Lesnar is like a baby gorilla. I have a bad feeling that he is going to overwhelm Coture and brutally pound him out. But if anyone can find a hole in his game and execute a plan to exploit it, it’s Randy Coture. Regardless of who wins, I don’t see this fight going past the 2nd.

  • ticToc says:

    JoeK, I agree the card is weak. Too weak for me to take the PPV which I usually do. I think the main event is more hype machine than fight machine. Lesnar is moulded in WWE style as the heel. Didn’t he play it well when he pretended to bucking bronc Herring?

    Sure, he’s big, he’s fast but we’ve seen many, many times before that a smaller much more experience man can take on a much larger guy. How many times did we used to see Gracie take out guys who had many more pounds on him than Lesnar on Couture.

    I will catch the round by round stuff off a website and see it for free on one of the video websites as soon as it’s posted. A waste of money for a night of fights for my tastes.

    White is a great promoter, in the WWE/WWF tradition. This fight isn’t about the best vs. the best. It’s about showbiz. Nothing wrong with that if that’s you’re thing. For me, NOT.

  • egad81 says:

    I have Brock by smashing!

    RIP RANDY… if you survive maybe Dana will let you fight Fedor

  • Adonai18 says:

    Couture via TKO, RD1

  • mike wolfe says:

    Couture’s best defense and offense is his stand up, and he must stay moving and hit Lesnar with lotsa leg kicks. There’s no way Couture should resort to BJJ unless he’s on his back with no other option. And if Couture clinches with Lesnar, Lesnar will take him down. Lesnar’s size and strength advantages are too great.

  • Jesse says:

    I could not even bare to read the article..

    Randy , is over rated , by a lot. Both times Lesnar has hit people at the start of a match they’ve gone flying. Lesnar’s jiu jitsu has improved since he fought mir and Couture ain’t no Mir in submissions.

    Randy will not win a wrestliing match with lesnar and this isn’t wreslting anyway with Brock’s heavy hands.

    I feel bad for Randy … Dana White is setting him up.
    it was obvious from the start. what better way to gain credibility for Lesnar tthen for him to destroy a past his prime former ufc champion. Sure it’s great if Randy wins but we’ve seen that story line. something tells me Lesnar is hell of a lot more dangerous then Tim Sylvia who , gave Randy something of a match and lost to Fedor in 15 seconds, and Dana White knows this. He’s going to cut Randy loose to fight in Affliction , fight Fedor who he won’t pay unless he HAS to. cause it will screw w/ everyone else in the ufc who will want Fedor money, then what if Fedor looses? I actually think Lesnar may stand a better chance then most but they’re are conteders like Arlavski sp? Barnett, who should be ranked ahead but not Randy and not after Saturday night for sure.. you’ll see.. sorry Randy but you’re had a good ride my friend

  • HexRei says:

    Oh ya, Brock knocked down a BJJ fighter who has gotten outstruck by practically everyone he has fought (Mir) and a mediocre striker in Herring (who might have beat him had every round not included a takedown)- and he couldn’t finish either of them. I can’t believe you’re touting Brock’s “heavy hands”, he hits hard but not effectively. Unlike Brock, Randy has actually hung and won with talented strikers like Liddell and Sylvia. Brock is not going to win this standing.

  • Jesse says:

    yeah.. i think he’s going to try to out wrestle couture ( he did have a better amateur career, and is younger ) and ground and pound Randy. .. I hope I’m wrong

  • Jesse says:

    and Herring has done pretty well against the best in the world including Fedor.

  • HexRei says:

    Herring didn’t do well against Fedor, have you watched that fight? he got wrecked the whole first 10-min round, almost finished multiple times, until the last minute or so when he reversed Fedor and landed some inconsequential knees to the body. then the fight was stopped because of the giant wound on his face inflicted in the first two minuted of the first round. and this was the inexperienced fedor of 2002 whose big wins consisted of arona, babalu, and semmy schilt.

    I think if he hadn’t had thirty pounds and 2-3 inches on Fedor, not to mention facing an earlier version of Fedor… he wouldn’t even have lasted that first round.

  • Jesse says:

    I never said he did well against Fedor. pretty is like ok.. and he did do better then a lot of guys, but Fedor is on another level i’d agree..

  • ultimatewhinger says:

    i hope randy wins good luck to him, i can see why Brock got a title shot but i dont respect the decision. but then again money talks. my Heart goes for Randy my brain is kinda leaning towards Brock, but i never count Randy out, and as for Fedor, he can go suck the manpole until he competes in the UFC, jus my opinion or whinge if u like!! LOVE ME!!

  • darkmetal says:

    Press Lesnar against the cage? If Couture can manage to muscle Lesnar at any point I will be very surprised. The usual Randy tricks may not work in this match, as Lesnar can quite literally pick just about anyone like a ragdoll and slam them.

    I don’t think we can compare Couture’s wins over Gonzaga and Sylvia to this match. Sure, both guys are powerful heavyweights, but neither is in the league of Lesnar in wrestling, and neither has the physical tools of the “Vanilla Gorilla”.

    Right now I think Sylvia would meet the same fate against Lesnar that he did against Fedor–utter destruction. Gonzaga vs Lesnar would be closer, because Gonzaga is actually a pretty powerful kicker and great at BJJ, but I think think he would probably lose.

    Any way you cut it, I think that Lesnar will likely win this match. I just don’t see Brock as being a good match up for Couture, even if Randy is an MMA legend.

  • BigTop says:

    Lesnar will steam roll him. With the retard strength and speed of Lesnar and I don’t think the 1.5 year layoff will help Randy either, look how Rampage looked against Forrest and that layoff was half as long.

  • king mah mah says:

    Hard to go against Randy seeing what he did to gonzaga and Tim. My first instinct says Lesnar, but I’m picking Couture on this too.

  • Jennifer says:

    I’m going with Brock Lesnar all the way on this one. I couldn’t have put it better than BigTop did, actually.

  • Ryan Seacrest says:

    I agree Mah Mah, no one thought that Mir would beat Brock (Ask King Mah who I said was going to win) but he made a mistake and lost. Octagon control would favor Randy and I am on the fence and I would say at first glance Brock but I hope Randy prevails. Damn this has to be the toughest fight to give an opinion on who is to win, but again Sam you have the un-canning ability to see both sides of the spectrum.

  • John says:

    I am not sure I agree with your theory on the conditioning. While Randy is the older fighter Brock is the more heavily muscled. The more muscle mass the body carries the more oxygen that is needed to do the same work. That simple formula is why the smaller fighters can go for days while most heavyweights who look in to be in amazing condition gas out during their fights.

    Randy has made a career out of preparing for 5 round fights. Brock has went the distance once. In that fight he was not pushed at all. He controlled the pace. If he is forced to stay on his feet, fight from his back, or fails at several take down attempts we will see what type of shape he is in.

    That being said Randy does not have the ability to finish Brock from the bottom. If he gets taken down and can not get up we may see a 5 round snoozer.

    But if I have to make a pick I am going with Randy and his experience.


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