Lesnar Punch Blindsided Couture

By Brian Knapp Nov 17, 2008
Randy Couture never saw the punch that left him defenseless underneath a 275-pound grizzly bear of a man.

Short-circuited by a right hand behind the ear, the 45-year-old Couture relinquished his heavyweight crown in a technical knockout loss to former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar in the UFC 91 main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

The blow sent the hall-of-famer to the canvas, where Lesnar finished him with a series of hammerfists.

“Honestly, I didn’t see it. I didn’t feel it,” Couture said. “Next thing I know I was on the ground eating leather. My corner told me it looked like it caught me behind the ear. I slipped the punch, but again, he had such a long reach that I didn’t slip it quite enough, and the punch caught me right behind the ear.”

Couture (16-9) -- who has either defended or fought for a championship in 13 of his past 14 bouts -- did not appear overly disappointed by his efforts against a man who outweighed him by some 60 pounds.

Photo by Sherdog.com

Randy Couture was all
smiles after Saturday's loss.
“I was doing a lot of things I trained to do,” he said. “That’s the fight game with four-ounce gloves.”

Fighting for the first time in 15 months, Couture appeared to lose a competitive first round to the 31-year-old Lesnar. He cut the 6-foot-3, 275-pound behemoth above his right eye, but the match ended before Couture had an opportunity to capitalize. Lesnar indicated the cut provided the motivation he needed to pick up the pace.

“Right away, it made me a little nervous, but then it pissed me off,” Lesnar said. “I wanted to get first blood on Randy. Anytime you fight, you want to get first blood. Something in my head just went, ‘Alright, we’ve got to pick this up,’ and that’s what I did.”

Lesnar (3-1), just four fights into his professional mixed martial arts career, admitted to some pre-fight apprehension as he prepared to enter a cage against one of the sport’s most accomplished and beloved competitors.

“Honest to God, up till when they said, ‘Let’s go,’ I was pretty nervous,” he said. “I didn’t know really what to expect. We watched a lot of film on Randy, and we broke it down. After getting into a few exchanges with him, I felt like I was connecting with him. And he connected with me, but, quite frankly, I just felt like I was hitting harder and I was going to connect before he did.”

Couture declined to concede that the proverbial torch had been passed in the heavyweight division. With an infusion of new talent that includes Lesnar, unbeaten Shane Carwin and the American Kickboxing Academy’s Cain Velasquez, among others, he sees a bright future ahead for a weight class many view as the UFC’s weakest.

“There are a lot of great guys in the division now,” Couture said. “I don’t think we’ve had this kind of depth in a number of years. I think it’s getting stronger and stronger. Brock is a great indication of where the heavyweight division is going. We’re getting these guys that aren’t just big guys; they’re very, very good athletes.”

The former champion sees no shortage of potential challengers for Lesnar, whose next bout will come against the winner of the UFC 92 bout between Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Mir submitted Lesnar with a first-round kneebar in February.

“Obviously, [Lesnar’s] walking around with the title right now, but, more importantly, he’s on the right path to adding all the skills to be a complete mixed martial artist, and I know what that’s like,” Couture said. “It’s fun, but you’ve got to step out there in that cage and prove it every time, too. Sometimes carrying that belt around makes you a target.”

Photo by Sherdog.com

Is Demian Maia ready
for Anderson Silva?
Maia: ‘I feel ready’ for Silva

Two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Demian Maia pronounced himself fit for a shot at middleweight champion Anderson Silva following his efficient first-round submission victory against former title challenger Nate Quarry at UFC 91.

“Yeah, I feel ready,” Maia said. “Since I started in the UFC, I’ve felt ready. Of course, some people say you should say, ‘I want to kill you, I want to submit him, break his arm.’ Of course, I don’t want to say that, but between us, I want to do that.”

Perhaps the premiere submission grappler in MMA, Maia (9-0) became the first man to submit Quarry (10-3) when he cinched a rear-naked choke 2:13 into round one. Once the action hit the ground, it was only a matter of time before Maia’s hand was raised.

“I put him in a good position for me,” Maia said. “I come from jiu-jitsu. If I take the guy down, it’s much easier for me.”

Maia has delivered all four of his UFC victories by submission, as he has rattled off wins against Quarry, Jason MacDonald, Ed Herman and Ryan Jensen since his October 2007 promotional debut. Considering the dearth of legitimate contenders for Silva, the 31-year-old Brazilian appears to be closing in on a title fight.

Foursome Awarded Post-Fight Bonuses

Rising welterweight contender Dustin Hazelett has quite an enterprise going.

The bearded 22-year-old was awarded a $60,000 “Submission of the Night” bonus after he coaxed a tapout from Tamdan McCrory with a first-round armbar at UFC 91. A walking highlight reel of submissions, Hazelett (12-4) has banked $100,000 in bonus money alone over his last two bouts. He pocketed $20,000 “Submission of the Night” and “Fight of the Night” bonuses in wake of his victory against Josh Burkman at “The Ultimate Fighter 7” Finale in June.

Hazelett was not the only fighter to walk away from UFC 91 with a larger-than-anticipated payday.

Aaron Riley and Jorge Gurgel banked matching $60,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses following their hotly contested three-round scrap, and Jeremy Stephens pocketed a $60,000 “Knockout of the Night” bonus after he floored Rafael dos Anjos with a wicked third-round uppercut.

This & That

Only one match at UFC 91 -- the lightweight bout between Gurgel and Riley -- went to the judges. That was the lowest total for a numbered UFC show since UFC 66 in December 2006. That event, which featured the Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz rematch, also saw only one fight go the distance. In fact, only eight of the last 50 numbered UFC shows -- 91, 66, 60, 55, 53, 50, 49 and 47 -- have produced fewer than two decisions … UFC 91 drew 14,272 fans to the MGM Grand Garden Arena, resulting in a $4.8 million gate … Heavyweight newcomer Josh Hendricks’ loss to Gabriel Gonzaga was his first since Feb. 25, 2005, a span of 1,359 days. However, in that time, the combined record of his opponents was 39-54 … Matt Brown, a cast member on season seven of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, has delivered his last three submission wins by armbar. Ryan Thomas became his latest victim when he surrendered to a second-round armbar at UFC 91 … UFC rookies went 0-2 at UFC 91, bringing their 2008 record to 13-17.
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