UFC 91 Predictions From Doghouse Boxing
By Matthew Degonzaque (Nov 15, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
This Saturday is the much anticipated UFC 91: Couture versus Lesnar card which features the UFC Heavyweight title battle between Randy Couture (16-8) and Brock Lesnar (2-1). Couture is arguably the most decorated and beloved fighter in UFC history and Brock is probably one of the biggest PPV stars in the world right now with both of his last two fights doing over 600,000 buys on PPV. Brock’s crossover appeal from his background in professional wrestling no doubt plays a factor and UFC is hoping that it will also play a factor in the PPV buyrate of this fight. Dana White is already predicting that this
become the highest selling fight on PPV in UFC history, breaking the 1.08 million PPV buy record set by the Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz rematch back in 2006. I’m skeptical that it will go that high but either way, let’s take a look at the main card and see whether or not this has a chance to live up to the hype. Due to the importance and hype surrounding the card, I’m also getting the opinion of my fellow DHB MMA writer Nate Edwards as he will also break down the main and co-main events.

UFC Heavyweight Championship: Randy Couture (16-8) vs. Brock Lesnar (2-1): On paper this should be a dominating victory for Couture. Couture has the experience edge, is an all around better fighter and has fought much better fights than Brock. But things aren’t always as easy as they look on paper. There are some intangibles heading into this fight. First off is that Randy Couture hasn’t fought in over a year due to all of the recently resolved court room drama between himself and the UFC. The second is that in that year off, Randy Couture turned 45 years old. At that age, with that much time off can Randy Couture fight off the young monster that is Lesnar? Another is that, despite his inexperience, Lesnar has such raw potential that he can legitimately cause problems for Couture. He already showed in his fights with Frank Mir and Heath Herring that he can punch pretty hard. Also for his size Lesnar is remarkably fast and agile and will no doubt look to use that to wear down the champion. Lesnar’s main strength, like Couture, is his wrestling and even though Couture is a more decorated wrestler than Lesnar, Brock is just so big and fast and it’s going to be interesting to see who is going to be able to implement their will and skill over the other.

I’m thinking that Brock is going to be too fast and strong for Couture early in the fight. Taking him down and will and controlling him on the ground in the beginning of the fight. But Couture’s experience and Brock’s lack of will prevent Lesnar from doing anything more than that early on and he will be unable to finish Randy. As the fight goes on I’m guessing that Brock’s gas tank will fade and Couture will begin to take over the fight and use all aspects of his game to dominate the latter half of the fight. He’ll control Brock with his striking, use his wrestler to take him down and mess up the challenger with ground and pound. The fight will go all 5 rounds and despite Lesnar’s competitiveness early on Couture will win a clear decision. People will give Brock praise for going the distance with the legend while Couture will take criticism for going to a decision with a much more inexperienced opponent, which most people will credit to Octagon rust and father time starting to catch up to Couture.

Nate’s got my back on this one…

Nate Edwards’ prediction: I feel like this is going to be a competitive fight early with Lesnar trying to enforce his physical will upon the much smaller Couture. I expect Lesnar to give Couture a rough time early with his strength and energy but once he realizes he isn't going to be able to totally dominate position against another very good wrestler in Couture and it turns into more of a stand up game it is going to turn into Couture's fight. I expect Couture to take over probably in the 3rd round and start to dominate Lesnar with clever dirty boxing and infighting against the cage. I expect this to probably go the full 5 rounds with Couture coming out the unanimous victor but Lesnar coming out with an impressive showing for it only being his 4th MMA fight. My pick: Couture via UD and STILL UFC Heavyweight Champion.

Now I’ll take a look at the undercard, which has been completely overshadowed by the Couture-Lesnar hype. Some readers are probably going to find out just now who is actually on the undercard.

Kenny Florian (10-3) vs. Joe Stevenson (29-8): Most think that this fight is an unofficial #1 contender’s fight with the winner receiving a shot at lightweight champ BJ Penn in 2009. I think that all depends on who wins. Kenny Florian has truly come into his own since his time as a runner up on TUF 1, since then he has shed 30lbs and become one of the toughest lightweight fighters the UFC has to offer. Florian is 6-1 in UFC’s 155 division with his only loss coming in his 2nd fight against Sean Sherk for the title. Sherk controlled the entire fight, but he couldn’t do any significant damage to Florian who showed good defense and even opened up a brutal cut on Sherk’s face that bled the entire fight. Florian was given credit for hanging in there with an elite fighter and has gone onto vastly improve and pick up 5 straight wins in the division. All of his wins have been fairly one sided and impressive especially his wins over Joe Lauzon and Roger Huerta. Florian has excellent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a black belt under Roberto Maia of Gracie BJJ, and his Muay Thai is more impressive every fight.

Joe Stevenson hasn’t looked quite as impressive in recent memory. After showing promise and winning 4 straight at 155lbs, Stevenson was matched up against BJ Penn at UFC 80 to fight for the vacant lightweight championship. Stevenson was no match for Penn and was brutalized throughout the fight. Stevenson, who had blood running off of his face due to a brutal gash on his face from Penn’s onslaught, was out boxed on the feet and dominated like a child on the ground. After a one sided beating, Stevenson was submitted at the end of the second round. He then fought Gibson Tibau at UFC 86 and looked largely mediocre. Stevenson was taken down at will and had great difficulty dealing with the wrestling of Tibau. Tibau made a mistake in the second round and left his head down going for a shoot and Stevenson was able to capitalize and get a guillotine for the submission win.

Both are good fighters, but I think Florian has momentum and is the better fighter as this point. Stevenson has good boxing and good Jiu Jitsu (he actually got his Black Belt this past week) but Florian’s BJJ and Muay Thai, his elbows in particular, are something to fear and more impressive every fight. Stevenson may have his moments, but I’m expecting Florian to control the fight and either finish Stevenson late or win a clear decision.

Unlike Couture-Lesnar, Nate disagrees with me on this one though…

Nate Edwards’ prediction: Joe Stevenson is probably one of the most well rounded fighters in MMA but Florian seems to always find a way to win. In this match up I feel Stevenson and Florian equal each other out in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu department so this will actually come down to who can gain the dominant position and most of all who has the superior stand up. Florian has those razor sharp elbows while Stevenson probably has the better boxing between the two. I look for Stevenson to have the edge in the stand up department and possibly take Florian down on a few occasions as well. It should be a very close match up that could go either way but I am going to go with Joe Stevenson by split decision.

…one of us is going to have to eat some crow after this one. I’d like to thank Nate for his always great analysis. I’m going to take a look at the rest of the main card now.

Nate Quarry (10-2) vs. Damian Maia (8-0): Quarry is a solid fighter, but its doubtful he will ever go beyond journeyman status in the UFC. Maia is a black belt in BJJ and won all three of his UFC fights by submission. Quarry needs to keep this one standing if he wants to win, but I think Maia’s ground skills will prevail and he will be able to defeat Quarry.

Dustin Hazelett (11-4) vs. Tamdan McCrory (10-1): Like Quarry above, McCrory’s best chance of victory is to force Hazelett to stand and knock him out. Hazelett is a very dangerous fighter on the ground and, like Maia, I think he will use those ground skills to defeat McCrory.

Gabriel Gonzaga (10-3) vs. Josh Hendricks (15-4): Never heard of Hendricks before. He’s never fought on a major card before and has never fought any recognizable opponents in his career. Gonzaga’s last fight was a quick submission win over Justin McCully. I tend to lean towards Gonzaga, but this could turn out to be like Werdum/Dos Santos from UFC 90 here with an unknown shocking fight fans with an upset victory.

Questions or comments,
Matthew at: mdegonzaque@hotmail.com

Questions or comments,
Matthew at: mdegonzaque@hotmail.com
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