UFC 91: Secret Injuries to Couture, Lesnar

I first reported this at The Bleacher Report, but I want to make a quick note of it anyway. Remember the rumor last week that said Brock Lesnar had injured his hamstring and would be pulling out of the Couture fight? The one that was quickly revealed to be a hoax?

It wasn’t a hoax. Lesnar did, in fact, suffer a hamstring injury, but he’s not pulling out of the fight. The other news I picked up today revealed that Randy Couture is also nursing a shoulder injury.

No, Steve.

Steve Seivert, former MMA writer for the Houston Chronicle, says that Fedor Emelianenko vs. Kimbo Slice is the biggest potential fight in MMA today.

No, it’s not. It’s not even close to Couture vs. Lesnar, which will happen on November 15th.

Kimbo Slice is a popular fighter. The people who think Kimbo is great, however, are the mainstream fans, and 98% of those mainstream fans have never heard of Fedor Emelianenko. They can hype him up all they want, but a Fedor fight vs Slice wouldn’t even do half the business that Couture/Lesnar is going to do.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: A Legendary Heart


This piece about Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was originally written for The Bleacher Report, but I’m publishing it here so that I’ll always have a copy.

The scar on his back serves as a reminder of the things he lost. 

He walks the earth with one less rib than his equals, the result of a horrible accident that happened when he was ten years old. The young boy was run over by a truck, and he lapsed into a coma for four days. He lost one rib and part of his liver, and it felt like the ending of the boy’s story had already been written.

The boy, however, was a fighter. 

Eleven months after the horrible accident that took pieces of his body and nearly succeeded in taking his young life, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira went home. The first chapter in a remarkable story of guts, grit and determination had been written, but this tale wasn’t finished. 

No, it was barely beginning.

Antonio was born in Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil on June 2, 1976. Founded in 1783, the town would eventually become known as a center of the Brazilian coffee-producing industry. 

Though young Antonio began his fighting career by starting judo classes at the age of five, his first significant victory was over death itself. He nearly lost his life to a truck, and many people counted him out.

Antonio began his fighting career at the age of five, but his mixed martial arts education started at fourteen, when he was invited to train in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the tutelage of Ricardo de la Riva Goded. In 1999, he accomplished a very rare feat, and was awarded a black belt in both jiu-jitsu and judo.

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Couture vs. Lesnar, November 15th in Las Vegas

I was going to publish this yesterday, but decided to wait and see if everything went through. I did leak the news to a guy from the Houston Chronicle and he posted it, but it’s now been confirmed by Dave Meltzer. Randy Couture is in the process of signing a multi-fight deal that will keep him in the UFC long-term. In exchange, the UFC lawsuit against Couture will be dropped and he will likely be stripped of the UFC heavyweight title.

Couture’s first fight back will be November 15th in Portland, and his opponent will be Brock Lesnar.

I’ll have much more to say on this in the coming weeks. Needless to say, this will probably be the biggest drawing fight in US MMA history.

Sunday Update: The latest word on the fight is that it will probably be a five round title fight. Instead of Couture being stripped of the belt, it appears that Brock Lesnar will get an early (and mostly undeserved) shot at the heavyweight title. The winner will likely face the winner of the Noguiera/Mir fight that takes place in December.

Xtreme Couture has already begun making travel plans for several large heavyweight wrestlers to come in and take part in Couture’s training camp. Couture has already begun to train full time in preparation for the fight.

There are reports that Zuffa will go against what seems to be corporate policy and co-promote the long-awaited Randy Couture/Fedor Emelianenko fight. UFC tends to value control over everything else, and after an attempted deal with PRIDE several years ago to put together a Chuck Liddell/Wanderlei Silva ended up with egg on the faces of UFC, it’s always been believed that Dana White would never try to co-promote a show with another company again. The prospects of a huge buyrate for a card featuring Fedor and Couture could likely trump UFC’s control issues in the end. The fight could take place sometime in early 2009.

TUESDAY UPDATE: UFC has scheduled a 3pm ET media conference call today for a major announcement. The announcement will be Couture’s return to the UFC and the Lesnar fight on November 15th. I will post a full report once the call is completed.

IT’S OFFICIAL: Randy Couture has returned to the UFC. He will fight Brock Lesnar on November 15th at the MGM in Las Vegas, not Portland as I originally reported. The fight will be for Couture’s heavyweight championship, and the winner of the fight will face the winner of Noguiera/Mir in 2009. Dana is billing it as a a mini-tournament of sorts, and he’s calling it “the biggest fight in UFC history.” I agree. They are planning a 2-3 part series of hype shows for this fight exclusively that will air on Spike. Dana expects somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million PPV buys for the show.

UPDATE: I’ve written a piece talking about why this fight was signed.

UFC 81: Review & Ratings

Sorry this has taken so long — I spent much of the weekend in bed watching season one of Jericho, and I didn’t even touch a computer until last night. Just as I did with the preview, I’m only going to talk about the top two matches here. Yes, the entire show was awesome, but I’m on a time budget right now, so all you get are the top two fights.

ANTONIO RODRIGO NOGUIERA D. TIM SYLVIA (ROUND THREE > GUILLOTINE CHOKE)

This fight was so awesome in every way. It was a classic, with the little guy getting beat on by the giant for three rounds and then using superior skill to surprising the big guy with a submission win. This was vintage Nog — he always takes a pounding for two rounds, and somehow uses his outstanding BJJ skills to get the victory. Tim Sylvia was a different fighter in this one, too. He beat the crap out of Nog for two full rounds, and tried to finish him on several occasions.  I fully expected Timmy to hump Nog against the cage for five rounds, and he didn’t — he showed precision striking and plenty of power, but just made a mistake and got caught by one of the best. Pretty much exactly like the Lesnar/Mir fight, except this one was a lot longer. 

FRANK MIR D. BROCK LESNAR (ROUND TWO > KNEEBAR)

My God, was this awesome. Brock Lesnar looked like 400 pounds of solid muscle, and he very nearly killed Frank Mir dead before his inexperience led to a kneebar submission. Even though Lesnar lost, there’s pretty much no doubt that we witnessed the birth of what will likely be an unstoppable force in the heavyweight division within two years. Lesnar exploded out of the blocks and took Mir down easily, and then proceeded to put on a positioning clinic using his wrestling skills. I knew Brock was going to be fast, but I didn’t expect him to be as fast as he was — the guy literally moves like a welterweight. Mir trapped a leg while Brock stood up to try and finish the fight, and Brock turned the wrong way to attempt to get out of the hold, allowing Mir to lock it in tight and force Lesnar to submit.  The UFC brass, Dana White included, were thrilled with Lesnar’s showing, and it’s a win-win, because Lesnar proves he can fight while Frank Mir proves that he’s still one of the best in the division. I’ll be back later with another UFC post on where I think they should go from here with all four fighters involved in the top two matches. 

UFC 81 Predictions

I’ll be honest — I don’t have a ton of interest in this card outside of the two main events. I’m more excited about the Lesnar fight than any other fight that the UFC have put on in recent memory (except for Liddell/Silva), and I’m always happy to see Tim Sylvia get punched in the face, but the rest of the card doesn’t do much for me. I’m going to limit my actual writeups for this show to the two main events, and then I’ll offer predictions only for the rest of the fights.

UFC INTERIM HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

Tim Sylvia vs. Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera

This fight is for the interim title because Zuffa will never take the real heavyweight belt from Randy Couture. Why? There’s a “champion” clause in every UFC contract that states that if someone is a champion when their contract expires, the UFC can hold them under contract for an extended year. Basically, they’re preventing Couture from being free of his contract until at least October 2009, which means he wouldn’t be able to fight anyone else (Fedor Emelianenko) until 2010.Tim Sylvia is the tallest man in the heavyweight division, and he’s also one of the most boring fighters on the planet. He’s highly unpopular, mostly because he fights to win matches instead of fighting to excite the crowd. Popularity in UFC is heavily predicated on how exciting a fighter is and how much heart he shows; it has more in common with pro wrestling than Dana White would ever admit, and the truth is that Tim Sylvia just isn’t exciting…but he is good.Noguiera comes into this fight with the reputation as being one of the best heavyweights in the entire world. His last fight against Heath Herring wasn’t a good display of his skills. He’s probably the best submission heavyweight in the world and he has an iron jaw, as shown in his PRIDE war with Emelianenko. Tim Sylvia will probably win this fight, and it will probably be a decision. It’s not the outcome I (or anyone else) wants, but it’s the likely one.

PREDICTION: Tim Sylvia by decision

Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir

Despite not going on last, this is the true main event of the night, and it’s the fight that the PPV is being marketed on. This fight is probably the first true time we’ll get to see how much the pro wrestling and UFC audiences have in common, and it should do a gigantic buyrate. Brock Lesnar is a freak of nature. He’s an amazing athlete who is incredibly fast, freakishly strong and he was an NCAA champion while wrestling in college. Everyone knows at this point that he went on to become a pro wrestler for World Wrestling Entertainment, where he picked up the game MUCH faster than anyone else and quickly became known as one of the best in the business, especially given how big he is. He quit WWE because of the rigors of the road, and made a go at the NFL despite not playing football since his junior year of high school. He lasted through training camp and very nearly made the practice squad, which was an amazing feat in and of itself.He went back to wrestling in Japan, and eventually made the switch to MMA. In his first pro fight last year, he quickly took down legendary judo champ Min Soo Kim, got a full mount, and punched him until Kim tapped out. Observers at ringside noted that even Lesnar’s short punches from the mount were doing incredible amounts of damage. He’s been training MMA for two full years, so he comes into the fight far more prepared than your average newcomer.Frank Mir is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. He’s most famous for breaking Tim Sylvia’s arm with an armbar, and for being fat and gassing during fights because he’s lazy. To his credit, Mir did suffer a horrific motorcycle accident when he was hit by an elderly driver who ran a stop sign, and he’s never really been the same fighter since. But he’s also a dangerous first opponent for Lesnar, because he was once known as the future of the heavyweight division, and he has world-class submission skills.Mir has to get a submission from the bottom in order to win this fight. There’s no way he’s going to win a three round decision with Lesnar, and he won’t be able to stop the takedown. He won’t be able to out-wrestle Lesnar, and if he can’t avoid the ground and pound, it’s going to be a short night for the former champ.

Prediction: Brock Lesnar by ground and pound

Rob Yundt vs. Ricardo Almeida: Belcher
Nate Marquardt vs. Jeremy Horn: Marquardt

UFC 77 Discussion

Here are some random bullet-point thoughts about UFC 77 and where they go from here.

  • First and foremost, I think Anderson Silva has firmly supplanted Fedor Emelianenko as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. His complete dismantling of Rich Franklin on Saturday night was an unveiling of sorts; we always knew Silva had to be considered one of the best in the world, but his second victory over the former champ cemented it. The fight was slightly more competitive than the first one, mostly because Franklin escaped from the first round, but at no point was Silva in danger. In fact, he looked like he was even having fun, mixing some dance moves in while dodging Franklin’s punches. There’s nobody in the middleweight division who could even have a remote chance of beating Silva, save for perhaps Dan Henderson, and he’s not dropping down from light heavyweight, so I suspect that Silva will be the middleweight champion for as long as he wants to be. Silva’s brutal beating of Franklin has probably ended Ace’s career, as well, because he mentioned retirement after the show. He might as well retire — after all, he’s not going to beat Silva, so what’s the point of sticking around the division?
  • Tim Sylvia is the most boring fighter in the world, and that makes him a pretty unpopular guy, but he took care of Brandon Vera from the outset of the fight to the finish. I hate “octagon control” because it’s boring and it’s Tim’s specialty, but even in the few exchanges that happened Sylvia dominated. Vera’s lone good shot was an illegal knee to the temple while Sylvia’s knees were on the ground. While I don’t want to see Tim Sylvia fighting for a title shot, I’ve no doubt that it’s probably going to be him vs. Noguiera for the belt in 2008, unless Couture can iron out his differences with Dana White.
  • The announcement of signing of Brock Lesnar took me by surprise, not because I didn’t expect them to sign him, but because there’d be no rumors lately that he’d be announced at the show. Good surprise by UFC, and I’m looking forward to seeing who his first UFC opponent is. I think Lesnar is the future of the heavyweight division and he’s going to be a scary, scary fighter once he’s had a few fights under his belt. Remember, Lesnar’s first fight ended when his opponent tapped out while being PUNCHED — not a submission move, but an actual tap out just because Lesnar was punching him so hard. He has to cut weight to make 265, which nobody else outside of Tim Sylvia has to do. Needless to say, I’d love to see him fight Sylvia because there’s no way Tim will be able to push him up against the cage wall like he does with so many other fighters.
  • UFC 78 doesn’t have a ton of stars on the card, but it does have a few up and comers — Michael Bisping takes on Rashad Evans, and Houston Alexander fights in the co-main event of the night. I’m always pumped to see Houston Alexander, and if he wins the fight, you’ve got to think he’s on the short list of guys to fight Rampage. I think Forrest Griffin should get an immediate title shot after defeating Shogun last month, but if Alexander is able to beat Thiago Silva at 78 in dramatic fashion then he should be next in line. I think Houston is for real, and he’s fighting a guy who is undefeated in UFC, so it should make him a contender with a victory.