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Length: 252 mins
In one respect (see what I did there?), it’s difficult not to view August 25th 2007 at the Mandalay Bay with a twinge of regret for what was supposed to happen: Randy Couture, Captain America, most inspirational 44 year old man on the planet fresh off the heroic bit in complete and utter domination of Tim Sylvia, immediately faced with even more insurmountable odds in the form of a cyborg-like Croatian kicking machine invader from the “other” promotion. Instead, of course, we were served up the now much more sensical offering of the former against the man who knocked the latter out, yet still it was that much harder to romanticise Couture vs Gonzaga than it was Couture vs Cro Cop.
- Heavyweight Championship Match:
Randy Couture vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
- Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck
- Roger Huerta vs. Alberto Crane
- Joe Stevenson vs. Kurt Pellegrino
- Kendall Grove vs. Patrick Côté
- Renato Sobral vs. David Heath
- Frank Mir vs. Antoni Hardonk
- Thales Leites vs. Ryan Jensen
- Marcus Aurelio vs. Clay Guida
- UFC 74: Behind the Scenes
The pre-main show bouts offer up some interesting viewing, most infamously in the form of Renato Sobral holding onto a Rear Naked Choke on David Heath for several seconds after their fight was stopped, which “Babalu” later confessed he did deliberately in order to “teach Heath a lesson,” vis a vis some alleged comments made at the pre-fight weigh in. Not the kind of string something as sociably precarious as MMA needs on it’s bow in it’s collective ongoing quest for greater exposure and acceptance, I’m sure any rational-minded person would agree, and Sobral was eighty-sixed from the UFC for his actions here. On a more positive note, Thales Leites highlighted the dark proportion of the card by capping an enticing duel of inside and outside leg kicks with Ryan Jensen by shooting into mount and transitioning smoothly from an Oma Plata to straight armbar for a first round submission. The defectors from PRIDE continued to under whelm, as Gomi-conqueror Marcus Aurelio stumbled and stalled to unanimous decision loss to the talent and in need of a break Clay Guida, whilst all and sundry were prepared to declare a return to form for Frank Mir, who quickly submitted mammoth Dutch striker Antoni Hardonk (although how much a victory over the lumbering Hardonk can equate to being “back” is certainly up for debate).
The show-proper kicked off with the wheels showing signs of loosening on the Kendall Grove bandwagon, as the lanky Hawaiian Middleweight served up a smattering of knees from the clinch as resistance, but in continuing to go to the well was caught with a first round right hook by perennial also-ran Patrick Cote, from where he was able to roll onto his back and avoid the choke, but in doing so left himself open for a succession of blows from mount, and a step-between from Herb Dean. A pretty significant upset here, as this would almost definitely have been put together as a showcase for longterm prospect Grove, but something a storybook ending in the same breath, as Cote stepped up on a week’s notice to go to decision with Tito Ortiz in his UFC, and had suffered a fair run of misfortune in the interim, hence it was quite the heartwarmer to see the French Canadian finally pick up his first UFC win in an explosive affair.
The Lightweight meeting between Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino took on extra Championship related significance in the fallout from Sean Sherk’s failed steroid test, and the lads stepped up and knocked out a super-competitive three rounds in light of this escalated importance. Pellegrino spent the opening ten minutes shooting for takedowns at every opportunity, getting caught briefly in a guillotine in the early minutes, rolling to his front to escape, from where TUF2 champion Stevenson highlighted the first round as the fighters scrambled to their feet, by taking “Batman” back to the mat, German Suplex style. The second round started out in contrast as both elected to feel the other out standing up, where Pellegrino landed the heavier blows, coercing Stevenson into taking affairs to the ground once more, taking the back and sinking in a single hook. With Joe-“Daddy” likely 2-0 up, a grandstand finale ensued, with Pellegrino sensing the need to finish the fight and mirroring his opponent in the opener by countering a takedown with a guillotine. Stevenson squeezed free, and with KP positioned against the fence, into a position from which he could put the exclamation point on a unanimous decision win, with a variation of forearms, bodyshots and knee strikes. Not a Fight of the Year contender or anything like that, but definitely one that deserves a bit more love than it’s gotten. The young guns at 155lbs continued to shine, as rising star Roger Huerta overcame his sternest test to date in BJJ-credential oozing 8-0 debutant Alberto Crane, who had this reviewers jaw positively agog in the opening five minutes with his startling movement and switching of position on the mat. “El Matador” (no, not that one) made the opening stretch a tough one to score, employing sharp punches to raise a prominent mouse under the eye of Crane, which he used to his advantage starting out in the second, landing more carefully placed punches. The new guy strived to take affairs back into his domain, taking the back at one point, and wrenching on the arm following a wild series of reverses, but the damage inflicted earlier appeared to have zapped much of his early zest, and Huerta was able to end the round landing a further flurry of shots to move firmly into the driver’s seat. Interestingly, once the fight hit the mat in the final round, Huerta could clearly be seen watching the live feed on the arena’s big screens, and used this unique perspective to pick off shots from Crane’s back and eventually roll into mount, from where he finished the fight. A second under appreciated gem in a row, and an intelligent fight fought by Huerta.
Aaawwww, Josh Koscheck? Do I have to?
In the plus column, the aggravating All-American was faced with the prospect of Georges St Pierre on this evening, and as you should all know by now, the one thing slightly appeasing about any Koscheck fight is the inherent prospect of him getting mauled, which was a certain possibility in this instance. Alas, it would not come to pass. In fairness, Kos displayed improved striking prowess in the opening moments, resulting in St Pierre looking to take Koscheck to the ground (and not the other way around, astonishingly). “Rush” took ascendancy in the middle period of the fight, holding Koscheck to the mat, landing shots and working the right arm, and flat out dominated the final round to take home a very welcome unanimous decision. Brief sypnosis for a fifteen minute fight, I concede, but blame the presence of the hideous bleach blond perm. Hate him. Don’t want to write about him anymore.
So, it was left to Randy “The Natural” Couture to overcome the odds…. again. And defy father time…. again. And….. you get the idea. That may sound facetious, but really it’s not intended. I love old Randy, and am genuinely saddened by the unceremonious parting of the ways between he and Zuffa following this fight, and all the subsequent talk of lawsuits and counter lawsuits. I’ve covered the issues in some depth elsewhere, and pretty much lack the fortitude to retread old ground here, so am going to strip everything down to one simple issue and speak forthrightly as a FAN when I say: Come on, Dana. Swallow your pride, forego your totalitarian desires for a few months, take a cue from boxing and dip your toe into cross-promoting waters. In doing so, you’ll generate something of infinitely greater value than the immediate kerching of dollars and cents (of the variety that are yours, all yours) in the form of goodwill from we dedicated, hardcore followers who’ll still be here when the fad has passed and the Johnny Come Latelys have moved on to bobsledding or whatever takes over from World Of Warcraft…just give us Randy vs Fedor. Be the bigger man. Couture began the main event of “Respect” in close quarters to how he kicked off against Tim Sylvia, scoring with a punch combo, shooting for the legs, swinging with the left and briskly following up to take Gabriel Gonzaga to the mat. “Napao” worked back to a vertical base only to be immediately trademark-slammed back down, with Couture controlling the ensuing standing exchanges by closing the distance, dropping his shoulder, slowly circling and mixing up short and long shots, similar to the first Chuck Liddell fight. The champion took the first round plaudits, and inflicted some visibly damage in the final minute with elbows and knees from the clinch. Gonzaga was leaking blood incessantly from the nose by the midway point of the second, which Randy again dominated in similar fashion, utilising knees and dirty boxing from the clinch, with his one major takedown attempt being foiled by Gonzaga grabbing the fence, at the expense of a point. With the challenger significantly worn, Couture patiently worked the jab at the onset of the third, until Gonzaga elected to go for broke, unleashing a heavy left kick which the champ was able to absorb, from whence he engaged the clinch, routinely took the Chute Boxe man down and let fly with a signature barrage from the top position, prompting Herb Dean to call it. A masterful performance from….. well, an old master. It’s a proper slept-on event, this one. Although there’s little to get excited about in the preliminary fights outside of Thales Leites’ display, the main card served up a pair of pulsating lightweight battles, and with yet more Vintage Couture (is there any other kind?) on tap in the main event, the weakest of the marquee offerings at least provides a shot in the arm for we paid-up members of the Anti-Koscheck Brigade…. which can never be bad now, can it?
Points: 8 / 10