COUTURE SETS NEW RECORD, TIES ANOTHER
Late last week, I was talking about UFC 109 to a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and he said, “I wish Randy Couture would just go away; I’m so over that guy.” Interesting. When pressed why, he responded, “Because he beats all of my favorite fighters, and the guy is older than I am!”
“The Natural” was 46 years, 229 days old when he choked out fellow Hall of Famer Mark Coleman on Saturday night, thus setting a new standard for the oldest competitor to ever win a bout inside the Octagon. Granted, he broke his own record, but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment.
Couture also tied the record for most fights in the UFC at 22. He shares the record with Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, who will fight each other after the eleventh installment of The Ultimate Fighter. With Couture’s current fighting pace (three bouts in 160 days, which is the most active of his non-tournament career), I expect that the UFC legend will get in at least one more fight before that time. Watch Couture post-fight interview
What is next for Couture? My guess is that he won’t want to wait around to try and set yet another record of capturing the 205-lb title for the third time (and sixth championship overall) by facing the winner of the rematch between Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Lyoto Machida, which is set for this Spring. The grudge match between former champions Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will likely occur soon after that bout, so those two are likely out of the Couture lottery, too.
Where does that leave Couture? He has made it clear that he only wants interesting fights at this point in his career. How about Forrest Griffin? That is an interesting matchup by anyone’s standards. Maybe a catch weight bout against Kimbo Slice at 215 lbs? Couture would be the prohibitive favorite, but that fight would be a box office smash. I’m sure UFC brass will come up with something intriguing.
WHERE WAS THE GODFATHER OF GROUND & POUND?
It took less than two minutes before it was clear to me that Mark Coleman wasn’t going to win on Saturday night. It’s not that he doesn’t have the skills to beat Couture—quite the contrary, actually. He simply had a faulty game plan.
I’m not trying to be disrespectful to the UFC Hall of Famer. I know that he was exceedingly disappointed in himself after the fight. It was clear that he wanted to win that fight maybe more than any other in his career. Yet, whoever convinced him to stand with Couture, rather than relying on his wrestling roots, needs a talking to. Watch Coleman post-fight interview
Coleman is a legend in the sport for one simple reason: he invented what we now call the ground-and-pound attack. Coleman’s mix of elite wrestling and brutal ground strikes forever changed the sport when he burst onto the scene more than a decade ago.
Since that time, Coleman has won titles in the UFC and PRIDE, and he as done it by staying true to himself and his ground-and-pound game. I’m sure he has expanded his skill set in the last decade, but his hands remain nascent compared to his wrestling. Couture is a serviceable boxer. Coleman is not, and it showed on Saturday night.
SONNEN MORE THAN JUST AN ENTERTAINING INTERVIEW
Chael Sonnen, however, might just be the king of trash talking.
From blasting Coleman for allegedly not belonging to a gym or having a coach to many pointed barbs directed at middleweight boss Anderson Silva, this guy is quickly becoming one of the more controversial, though hilarious, talking heads in the sport. Oh yeah, he can really fight, too. Watch Sonnen at post-fight press conference
Sonnen’s complete domination of middleweight monster Nate Marquardt shows that he is good enough to beat anyone on any given day. Next up for the Oregon native is a shot at the UFC 185-lb crown. Submission defense has long been Sonnen’s Achilles’ heel, so that is a weakness that the winner of Silva versus Vitor Belfort may try to exploit. But playing the guard game with a wrestler of Sonnen’s ilk is an extremely risky proposition as Marquardt found out on Saturday night.
MARQUARDT LEARNS THAT STYLES MAKE FIGHTS
I’m going to go out on a limb and state definitively that Marquardt is a far better all-around fighter than Sonnen. Ok, that isn’t much of a limb, since virtually everyone would co-sign on that statement. So what went awry for him on Saturday night? Nothing, actually.
If I have said it once, I have said it one thousand times: styles make fights.
Being the better all-around fighter is not always the recipe for success, particularly when one guy’s strength is Olympic-level wrestling. I was very surprised that Marquardt did not have a better prepared game plan for how to deal with Sonnen’s wrestling. He had to know that he would spend the majority of the fight on his back, so training camp should have consisted mostly of sweeps and refining his offensive guard.
Marquardt claimed afterward that he did not follow the correct game plan in that he should have circled more and peppered strikes from the outside. That is easier said than done against a guy who closes the distance immediately at the start of each round and forces a firefight in a phone booth. Marquardt would literally need to fire up his moped full throttle inside the cage from the instant each round got underway in order to avoid a clinch with Sonnen. That is certainly possible. Liddell did it against Couture in their second bout. But that cannot be the only game plan against a guy with sick wrestling.
Marquardt will be back, rest assured. He is one of the most talented fighters across any division. And I remain convinced that he will someday wear the 185-lb title around his waist. The loss to Sonnen, though, all but guarantees that won’t happen in 2010, absent a sudden change in circumstances. I’m sure that burns white hot in Marquardt’s gut right about now, and it will serve as a very real motivating factor to shore up any flaws in his game. That is good news for the Greg Jackson student, but very bad news for the rest of the division.
APOLOGIES TO THIAGO
I’ll admit it. I chalked up Paulo Thiago’s knockout win over Josh Koscheck as a lottery-winning strike that allowed a once-in-a-lifetime result. After watching the Batalhão de Operações Especiais officer (Brazil’s elite special police force) blast Mike Swick with a left hook and then choke him unconscious with a D’Arce choke, I’m not so sure anymore. Watch Thiago post-fight interview
Thiago looked stellar on Saturday night in his win over Swick. Think about it for a moment. This guy now has three wins in four UFC bouts. Two of those wins are against top five welterweights Kos and Swick. His lone loss is against a top five welterweight in Jon Fitch. Thus, it is impossible to argue that he shouldn’t be ranked among the division’s best. Thiago is quickly making a case for a title shot. One more win against a top guy like Thiago Alves or a rematch with Kos, and he will be difficult to deny during title discussions.
SWICK LEFT IN PRECARIOUS POSITION
For the first time in his career, Mike Swick must face the prospect of rebounding from back-to-back losses. That is a significant moment in any fighter’s career, especially one with a 14-4 record. Some guys begin to spiral out of control out after back-to-back losses because they lose confidence. Swick doesn’t strike me as that type of guy, but that doesn’t change the fact that his next fight is probably the most important of his career. Dropping two in a row is one thing. Three consecutive losses is another issue altogether.
SERRA’S MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY PRESENT
Next week, Matt Serra’s daughter will celebrate her first birthday—one day after my own, no less. The former 170-lb champion was a bit concerned heading into Saturday’s fight with Frank Trigg that he would be at the party looking like a Cyclops, to use his words. But Serra left the cage with nary a mark on him after bludgeoning Trigg into oblivion in just over two minutes. Watch Serra post-fight interview
By putting his stamp on Trigg, Serra remains relevant in the welterweight wonderland. Now, it is time for him to celebrate both the win and his daughter’s first birthday. The Italian-American makes no bones about his love of pasta and his hatred of having to forego the Paisano staple during the weeks before a fight so that he can make weight. Maybe he’ll celebrate at Angelina’s party with a big tray of lasagna. Watch Trigg post-fight interview