Randy Couture did it again.
For the second time in as many fights, Couture shocked the world and defeated a challenger that was supposed to run him over. This is nothing new to Couture. He’s been an underdog for the majority of his career. However after two huge wins over two dominate heavyweights, can Couture be an underdog any longer?
Couture dominated challenger Gabriel Gonzaga over two rounds and an assault of strikes on the ground two minutes into the third forced referee Herb Dean to stop the fight, allowing Couture to retain his UFC Heavyweight Title. Gonzaga laid in the Octagon, bloodied and exhausted, in front of the 11,118 in attendance at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. It was a sight that many did not expect to see.
Gonzaga put himself on the map with a vicious knockout of Mirko Cro Cop this past April at UFC 70. A single headkick from Gonzaga left the supposed best striker in MMA unconscious on the mat. Couture said that he had developed the perfect strategy to beat Gonzaga during training. Gonzaga (8-2) stated that he found that Couture (16-8) had a fatal flaw in his game. It was Couture that ultimately won the chess match.
Couture landed a quick left hook to start the fight and the two soon engaged in a clinch up against the cage. It was the smaller Couture that was able to control Gonzaga along the fence. Another exchange of strikes followed and once again Gonzaga was stunned by a Couture left hook.
Couture then lifted Gonzaga in the air and took him down with one of his trademark slams. When they stood up, blood was pouring out of Gonzaga’s nose, the result of an accidental clash of heads on the way down to the mat according to Couture.
“I think that’s what cut his nose pretty bad,” said Couture. “When he came down our heads came together. I heard the crunch and I knew his nose was broken.”
Gonzaga was forced to spend the remainder of the round breathing out of his mouth and fending off another array of strikes from Couture. After the horn sounded, Gonzaga walked back to his corner a bloody mess. His corner removed all of the excess blood from his face but couldn’t stop the blood from dripping out of his nose.
The second round began and again the fighters clinched up against the cage. During the grappling session, Gonzaga told Dean that he was unable to see because of blood in his eye. Dean stopped the bout and repeatedly asked Gonzaga if he was able to continue fighting to which he responded yes. The doctor on duty came in and wiped some blood out of Gonzaga’s eyes before the bout was re-started.
Couture attempted to take Gonzaga down as soon as the action was permitted to continue and Gonzaga quickly grabbed the fence, preventing Couture from slamming him to the canvas. Dean swiftly swooped in with a warning and then a point reduction for Gonzaga. When the fight re-started once again, Couture peppered Gonzaga with punches and elbows in tight until the end of the second stanza.
Gonzaga came out strong at the start of the third, throwing combinations that sent Couture jumping backwards. Gonzaga threw two high kicks, hoping to end the fight that he was visibly losing. One of them connected but Couture was able to shrug it off and continue going after Gonzaga. Couture then swept Gonzaga off of his feet and pounded away on a defenseless Gonzaga until Dean halted the bout at the 1:37 mark.
Couture retained his title and remains on top of a heavyweight division without a clear number one contender.
Georges St. Pierre returning to his winning ways with a unanimous decision victory over powerhouse wrestler Josh Koscheck.
St. Pierre (14-2) dominated the entire fight by beating Koscheck (9-2) at his own game. St. Pierre was able to take Koscheck down to the mat at will and a steady ground and pound assault mixed in with a few submission attempts gave St. Pierre the first two rounds of the fight.
The third session was spent on the feet. Koscheck desperately tried to catch St. Pierre with a big shot to turn the tide in his favor but St. Pierre was able to avoid the strikes. St. Pierre put the finishing touches on an impressive victory by stuffing Koscheck’s final takedown attempt and then putting the challenger on his back. St. Pierre unleashed another flurry of strikes until the conclusion of the bout.
After the fight, St. Pierre tried to convince UFC President Dana White that an event in his hometown from Montreal would have the fans going crazy.
“I want Dana White to know that if he brings the UFC to my hometown of Montreal, the fans will go even crazier than this crowd” shouted St. Pierre.
Lightweight sensation Roger Huerta remained undefeated in the UFC by stopping Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert Alberto Crane with strikes in the third round.
Huerta (19-1-1-1) dominated from the start of the fight and was surprisingly able to keep up with the submission artist on the ground. Crane (8-1) attempted a number of submissions throughout the fight but wasn’t able to make Huerta tap. Huerta took advantage of Crane leaving his face open during the attempts by landing numerous punches and elbows, causing a nasty mouse to develop under Crane’s right eye.
Huerta also pulled off a UFC-first inside the Octagon – While Crane had Huerta’s back and the two were sitting on the ground, Huerta took advantage of the video screens around the arena and used them to elbow Crane in the face from behind.
“I’ve actually done that before in other organizations besides this one,” stated Huerta. “I would use the screen to see where my opponent was if I was being held from behind. I guess I have eyes in the back of my head sometimes.”
Joe Stevenson earned a hard-fought unanimous decision win over Kurt Pellegrino and now may find himself in line for a title shot if UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk is stripped of his title after testing positive for steroids.
Stevenson (28-7) and Pellegrino (10-3) went back and forth throughout the fight. Both scored points on the feet and on the ground. However Stevenson turned up the heat in the third round, taking Pellegrino down and pounding on him with unanswered blows until the round ended.
Stevenson was gracious during a post-fight interview with UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, praising everyone who helped him prepare for the fight and thanking the troops fighting overseas. During a post-fight examination by a Nevada State Athletic Commission doctor, it was revealed that Stevenson had suffered a broken jaw in the fight.
Canadian Patrick Cote pulled off the other huge upset of the night when he was able to stop Ultimate Fighter 3 winner Kendall Grove in the first round.
Cote (11-4) and Grove (8-4) spent the majority of the first round on their feet, each landing their fair share of shots. However things changed when Cote was able to land a looping right directly on Grove’s temple, sending Grove stumbling down to the mat. Cote pounced on Grove and pounded away with numerous unanswered right hands until referee Herb Dean stepped in and ended the bout.
Cote is now on a two-fight winning streak in the UFC after dropping his first four inside the Octagon.
Renato “Babalu” Sobral prevented a possible three-fight losing streak by submitting fellow light heavyweight David Heath with an anaconda choke 3:30 into the second round.
Sobral refused to release the hold when referee Steve Mazzagatti waved off the fight, prompting Mazzagatti to try and pry Sobral’s arms away from Heath’s neck. Sobral (28-7) told Rogan after the fight that he held on to the submission on purpose to try and teach Heath (7-2) a lesson.
“I left the choke on longer on purpose,” Sobral told Rogan. “He must learn respect. He deserved that.”
NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer stated after the fight that he plans on withholding $25,000 of Sobral’s purse until an investigation into the event is finished.
Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir most likely salvaged his career in the UFC with a submission win over Antoni Hardonk in the first round of their fight. After a brief exchange on the feet, Mir (10-3) quickly took Hardonk (5-4) down and forced him to tap out after Mir locked in a kimura.
Thales Leites continued his run of dominance in the UFC’s middleweight division with a submission victory over WEC transfer Ryan Jensen. Jensen (11-2) knocked Leites (12-1) down with two separate right hands during the beginning stages of the first round but Leites was able to regain his composure and took Jensen down, eventually catching Jensen in an armbar and forcing him to tap out.
The first preliminary bout of the night saw fan favorite Clay Guida steal a split decision win over former PRIDE standout Marcus Aurelio. Guida (22-8) was able to score many times on the feet with a potent array of strikes while Aurelio (14-5) was content to fall back to the ground and attempt to try and goad Guida into jumping into his guard. After the fight, Guida gave Aurelio a little heads-up as to where he is fighting now.
“This ain’t PRIDE anymore,” exclaimed Guida. “This is the UFC.”