Once again, the UFC has a storyline that’s too fun to pass up. Randy “The Natural” Couture’s 44-year-old ass is defending his title against the Cro Cop-killa, Gabriel Gonzaga. We’re not paying for it ourselves, but we will be viewing the action at a local establishment and making loud, jingoistic observations about such things as how creepy Brazilian men are and wondering whether Gonzaga already knew jiu-jitsu when he was cut out of that glacier and unfrozen in Encino. We’re not going to pretend to be UFC experts or anything, but here is our preview of UFC 74 in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Randy Couture vs. Gabriel Gonzaga - Heavyweight title bout
Gonzaga: 28 years old, 6’1″ 242 pounds, 8-1
Couture: 44 yeards old, 6’2″ 220 pounds, 15-8
To call Randy Couture a sentimental fan favorite is to understate how much people acutally want him to win this fight. That said, Gonzaga is the real favorite here. He’s younger, extremely athletic, and knows what he’s doing on the ground – unlike Tim Sylvia, the man Couture beat for the title on March 3rd at UFC 68. Even so, the crowd will be heavily pro-Couture and there is no reason to think the old man can’t throw something together again and keep the title for a while longer. It’s what everyone seems to want. It’s also easy to throw a little hate Gonzaga’s way because he’s fighting Captain America, but the truth is he has been nothing but humble and respectful of Couture for the entire build-up to the fight. He’s practically as good a story as Couture if he wins the fight. Plus he did knock Mirko Cro Cop the f**k out and frankly, we’d love to see them rematch for the title if he wins, especially since Cro Cop says he’s “refocused” his priorities. In the end, if Couture wins, it’ll be another storybook win and everyone goes home happy. If Gonzaga wins, this could be the start of a long reign at the top for the Brazilian because the division is weak and he’ll have proven himself to be a well-rounded fighter in his prime.
Still, Couture has this Mr. Miyagi-on-Halloween quality to him which always makes it seem possible that he’ll totally destroy some poor schmuck and then go back to being old. He’s strong, has wrestling skills and whatever that veteran savvy thing is that older fighters get. Plus, he’s fighting a younger, Brazilian version of himself if he knew jiu-jitsu. That may have been a stretch, but it’s guys who like to wrestle that are a much better matchup for “The Natural” because he can control the tempo.
Prediction: Come on, you know you want Couture to win one more time.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck – Welterweight fight
St. Pierre: 26, 5’10″ 170 pounds, 13-2
Koscheck: 29, 5’10″ 170, 11-2
Not so long ago, Georges St. Pierre beat Matt Hughes pretty easily to become the welterweight champion. Then he lost to Matt Serra, a nobody from UFC’s reality show The Ultimate Fighter. The winner of this fight will probably get the winner of Serra vs. Hughes early next year. Anyway, St. Pierre is a vastly superior fighter with a complete arsenal who should, *should* beat Koscheck, who is primarily a wrestler. That said, Koscheck is a really great wrestler and the only person to beat Diego Sanchez, which is pretty impressive. If he manages to take St. Pierre down, he could win a decision, though he has virtually no chance of ending things quickly. Then again, this is the UFC, people get knocked out unexpectedly all the time. Look, this is a French-Canadian versus an American, so you’re required to cheer for Koscheck, even if St. Pierre ought to handle him pretty easily.
Prediction: Koscheck makes things awkward and ugly, but St. Pierre pulls it out.
Roger Huerta vs. Alberto Crane – lightweights
Crane: 31, 5’9″ 155 pounds, 8-0
Huerta: 24, 5’9″ 155 pounds, 19-1-1
It’s pretty clear that Huerta is the favorite in this one. Crane doesn’t even have a picture on UFC’s card for the fight on their website. They’ve also been trying to build Huerta into a lightweight contender recently. He’s shown some skills but, in all honesty, 155 pounds is a loaded division, so he’s got a ways to go.
Kurt Pellegrino vs. Joe Stevenson – lightweights
Stevenson: 25, 5’7″ 155 pounds, 32-7
Pellegrino: 28, 5’8″ 155 pounds, 16-2
I’d just like to point out that Pellegrino’s nickname is “Batman” which alone requires him to take a beating. You can’t just steal a superhero’s nickname. Couture is Captain America, but the guy is the most beloved fighter in the UFC and he’s practically a senior citizen, so he deserves it. Both guys are much better on the ground but Stevenson is the superior fighter. He’s also the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 2, which is why his name is ringing a bell in the back of your head.
Patrick Cote vs. Kendall Grove – middleweights
Cote: 27, 5’11″ 185 pounds, 10-4
Grove: 24, 6’6″ 185 pounds, 10-3
Grove is something of a monster and Cote only has one win in the UFC. Grove has an advantage in stand-up because he’s eight inches taller than Cote and Cote has virtually no ground skills, so if he gets taken down, he’s still in trouble. Should be fun watching him get a concussion though.