UFC 91 Pieces Falling in Place

By Brian Knapp Sep 8, 2008
Tamdan McCrory and the fast-rising Dustin Hazelett (Pictures) have verbally agreed to meet in a welterweight bout at UFC 91 “Couture vs. Lesnar” on Nov. 15 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Bout agreements are expected to be signed this week.

The match between two of the promotion’s more highly regarded prospects will provide depth to a card that will feature a five-round heavyweight title fight between returning champion Randy Couture (Pictures) and former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar (Pictures).

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt who operates at a black belt level, Hazelett (11-4) bounced back from his TKO loss to Josh Koscheck (Pictures) in March and submitted Josh Burkman (Pictures) with highlight-reel armbar at “The Ultimate Fighter 7” Finale three months later. Eight of the 22-year-old Hazelett’s 11 career wins have come by submission.

“He’s a good jiu-jitsu guy with a lot of experience, “McCrory said. “He’s been in the UFC a little longer than I have, but he’s just another tough opponent.”

McCrory (9-1), a promising 21-year-old from Ithaca, N.Y., last competed at UFC 87 in August when he went the distance for the first time in his career and picked up a unanimous decision victory against Luke Cummo (Pictures), a former finalist on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series.

“There were a lot of things I did well in that fight, and there were a lot of things I could have done better,” McCrory said. “They never go the way you expect them to. The way I see it, I’m a young talent with a lot of years left to grow. I have a lot of time to build my status in the UFC.”

A college student who splits his time between the classroom and the gym, McCrory made his UFC debut in 2007 when he submitted Pete Spratt (Pictures) with a triangle choke. A submission loss to Pride Fighting Championships veteran Akihiro Gono (Pictures) followed, though McCrory impressed against the seasoned Japanese standout. At 6-foot-5, he remains one of the welterweight division’s taller competitors, and he has set out to utilize the physical ability with which he has been blessed.

“I’ve been working on my jiu-jitsu a lot,” McCrory said. “That’s one of the parts of my game that wasn’t as strong as I needed it to be. I’ve gotten 100 times better on the ground. My stand-up’s still improving. Every day, I get better.”

UFC 91 will also feature a pivotal lightweight showdown between former title contenders Kenny Florian (Pictures) and Joe Stevenson (Pictures). In addition, the event will pair Brazilian heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures) with Josh Hendricks and lightweight prospect Jeremy Stephens (Pictures) with Brazil’s Fury Fighting Championship standout Rafael dos Anjos.

A blockbuster rematch between former UFC lightweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Brazilian legend Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) has also been rumored but not yet confirmed. Silva dominated Jackson in their two previous encounters in 2003 and 2004; both bouts were contested inside the Pride ring in Japan.
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