UFC 91 Breakdown: The Main Card

Couture vs. Lesnar

Hey you, did you know the UFC is throwing a 45-year-old in the cage with South Dakota’s answer to Ivan Drago? No, this isn’t fodder for John McCain rekindling his sham war on MMA but the actual main event to this Saturday’s hotly anticipated UFC 91 pay-per-view supershow at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Make no mistake, you’d be a Ted Stevens-level dummy to miss out on the heavyweight title bout pitting the immortal Randy Couture against Brock Lesnar, whom I believe is what Dr. Octagon had in mind when he spoke of a “Halfsharkalligatorhalfman.”

Of course, don’t miss out on some critical tussles featuring someone’s “Daddy” taking on Milhouse, a “Rock” trying to resist the water and two of the baddest geeks alive in a fight that will decide MMA’s premier dungeon master. If you’re confused, don’t worry -- so am I.

Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar

Randy “The Natural” Couture Scouting Report
Ht/Wt: 6’2/225 lbs.
Age: 45
Hometown: Everett, Wash.
Fighting out of: Las Vegas
Record: 16-8

The stakes: After a seeming eternity of legal wrangling with the UFC, reigning heavyweight champion Randy Couture makes his return to MMA’s juggernaut faced with a vastly different promotion than the one he left. “Minotauro” Nogueira’s interim title belt means Couture is no longer the undisputed champion and then, of course, there’s the small, or massive, matter of Brock Lesnar.

Normally, the only thing 45-year-old men can do to genetic freakazoids in their athletic prime is beat them in a game of chess, but Couture’s name is built on making bookies tear their hair out the morning after his fights. So if you can believe it, taking on Lesnar is just another day at the office for Couture. The only question is if “The Natural” has enough left in the tank to give Father Time another wedgie.

The breakdown: Arguably the personification of what a Greco-Roman wrestler should aspire to be in this sport, Couture has parlayed his Olympic credentials into a style that blends up-close mauling with coldblooded efficiency. While there isn’t a heavyweight around who can match the anomalous physical talents of Lesnar, Couture can chuck bodies with the best of them and no one has been able to solve the puzzle of his dominating clinch game.

The problem for Couture is that Lesnar relies on his explosive shot and lower body takedowns to drag opponents to the mat, where his bulk and pure physicality make him an absolute chore to deal with. That means Couture will have to either collapse the pocket in a hurry or wait on Lesnar’s shot to initiate a clinch. Given Lesnar’s lack of experience, Couture would do well putting the pressure on him from the opening bell and forcing the ginormous one to adapt instead of the other way around.

Brock Lesnar Scouting Report
Ht/Wt: 6’3/265 lbs.
Age: 31
Hometown: Webster, S.D.
Fighting out of: Minneapolis
Record: 2-1

The stakes: Lesnar said he wanted to take on the very best from the start of his astronomically lucrative UFC contract, and he sure is getting his wish in the form of Couture. While Lesnar will remain a primetime commodity regardless of the outcome, he craves the respect that only genuine competition can provide. Couture represents the apex of competition for heavyweights in the UFC, and that is the mountain Lesnar must scale on his quest for athletic legitimacy.

If Lesnar can manage the feat, he’ll be hailed as the future of the division and won’t have to deal with anymore snarky asides about his fistic ballerina days from yours truly. Lose and you have to start wondering if Lesnar jumped on the MMA bandwagon just a little too late. Hard to blame him: I’d rather be handed a belt than have to work for one. That MMA stuff is way hard.

The breakdown: At this point in his nascent career, Lesnar can’t even begin to outthink Couture inside a cage. He’ll have to rely on having the kind of genetics that I thought could only come from a test-tube baby with the DNA of Dan Gable, Babe Zaharias and some Silverback gorilla mixed in for good measure. That means Lesnar has to get Couture on his back in a hurry because the odds of him landing a telegraphed orbital-obfuscating right cross on Couture are about as likely as the odds of Barack Obama turning out to be an actual socialist.

Political prognostications aside, Lesnar’s only hope is to stay focused on hitting one of his turbine-powered shots and getting Couture on his back, where he is most vulnerable. Given Lesnar’s rudimentary jiu-jitsu training, he’ll have to be willing to get buck on Couture while he can because the longer this bout drags on, the more it favors the veteran instincts of Couture. Making like Lil Jon and “Knockin’ Heads Off” from the get-go is Lesnar’s only hope of achieving maximum crunk-osity.

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The bottom line: I like the idea of a Kodiak bear disguised as a human in MMA as much as the next guy, but Lesnar just doesn’t have the experience to present much of a threat to Couture. Barring some sort of drastic drop-off from his time on the sidelines, Couture has the perfect style to dismantle physically superior but inexperienced opponents.

Watch for the clinch to be Lesnar’s downfall. Couture will use leverage and dirty boxing to frustrate Lesnar and force him to waste most of his energy on trying to break loose from the death lock that is Couture’s clinch. Don’t worry about Lesnar, though -- someone has to fight Kimbo Slice.
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Jingnan Xiong