Friday, November 13, 2009

UFC 105 Fight Week Previews: Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera

Two weeks ago, this fight was of little interest to me. Last week, I was looking forward to a free show on Spike TV, a couple of the fights on the undercard and a little interested in seeing who came out on top in the Main Event.

Now, a day and change away from UFC 105, the headlining act has emerged as an intriguing fight that has certainly piqued my interest and will provide a definitive answer to one of two questions, if not both:

  1. What does Randy Couture have left in the tank?
  2. Is Brandon Vera finally ready to capitalize on his tremendous potential and become a force in the UFC?

Before the questions can be answered, we need to break it down.

Randy "The Natural" Couture (16-10-0) vs. Brandon "The Truth" Vera (11-3-0)

With all due respect to both Lloyd Irvin and the talented team at Alliance MMA, Randy Couture and his namesake gym in Las Vegas is a Top 5 facility and earns "Captain America" a win in our opening area of analysis.

In addition to having a plethora of experienced and talented fighters to train, roll and spar with at his disposal, Couture also has an outstanding list of coaches pushing him through the ridiculous routine that has kept the ageless wonder in peak physical condition for the last decade.

Obviously, the multi-time former champion earns the edge in strength of schedule and experience over his younger counterpart as well.

Amazingly, this is the first time since his initial foray into the UFC that Couture has fought in back-to-back non-title events.

For all the critics who will challenge Couture's success and place in the sport right now, nothing can change the fact that "The Natural" has fought in 15 UFC title fights, more times than Vera has stepped into the cage in his professional career.

The two share Tim Sylvia as an opponent and the outcomes were very different, despite both facing the former champion after a year on the shelf.

Couture's bout with "The Maine-iac" is one of his more legendary fights, coming out of retirement and toppling the giant heavyweight to earn the UFC Heavyweight crown for a third time courtesy of a Unanimous Decision.

On the flip side, the once meteoric rise of Brandon Vera stalled after a one year hiatus courtesy of a contract dispute and Sylvia was the first opponent waiting for "The Truth" when he returned to the UFC.

In that fight, Vera broke his hand and his winning streak, dropping a decision to the former champion before a second straight loss to Fabricio Werdum led to a relocation to light heavyweight.

Stylistically, this one could be highly entertaining or insanely boring, depending on what happens.

Couture's bread and butter is his wrestling and he's said repeatedly leading up to this fight that a return to his roots is in the works. What that means is repeated attempts to get inside and get Vera on the ground, a game plan that could lead to close fought clinch game along the fence as the two battle for position.

For Vera, a former D-1 Greco-Roman wrestler himself, the plan is to utilize his reach and length through his precision Muay Thai, consistently being first to strike and keep Couture on the outside and guessing.

As often as it is said, this one will really come down to who imposes their will.

If Couture gets this fight to the ground, Vera could be in serious trouble, as few have the ground and pound of the 46-year-old former champion.

Conversely, if Vera can keep Couture at bay with his impressive stand-up arsenal, we could witness the fight that propels Brandon Vera into the next level of challengers in the deep 205 pound division of the UFC.

Either way, I'm officially amped to see this fight.

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