Long before the first fight of the show was under way, the anticipation, the energy in the arena was palpable. You could honestly sense the magnitude of the night as soon as UFC 74 hit the airwaves at 7 pm. The fights pretty much lived up to the high level of anticipation as well.
In the first fight on live TV, Patrick Cote pulled off the upset over Kendall Grove just as I predicted with a first round stoppage. Cote looked pretty impressive in beating up the much taller and lankier Grove who seems to be a lot more hype than skill.
Joe Stevenson beat up on Kurt Pellegrino for three rounds before winning the unanimous decision victory. Stevenson also broke his jaw during the fight but withstood the injury and the vicious right hand from Pellegrino that caused it to prevail. He should now be in line for the title shot in November if his jaw can heal up in time and Sean Sherk’s steroid appeal goes nowhere. Kurt Pellegrino on the other hand looked really good as well in the fight, battling Stevenson for 3 full rounds before losing to decision.
In the third fight of the night Roger Huerta continued his domination of lightweights in 2007 as well as his ascension to the top of the aforementioned division. He is now 4-0 this year and looked extremely impressive against a world renown BJJ fighter in Alberto Crane. Crane didn’t seem to have his conditioning up to snuff, visibly tired by the end of round 2 and throughout 3. Look for Huerta to continue his climb and perhaps receive a title shot as early as February ’08 vs. winner of Stevenson–Penn.
On to the main fights of the night. In the first bout, Georges “Rush” St.-Pierre proved indisputably of his return to top form in putting the world class wrestler Josh Koscheck on his back and keeping him there for two full rounds. Koscheck looked strong once again on his feet but just couldn’t land any real good clean shots to St.-Pierre as his defense was just too good for Kos. Welterweights be warned — St.-Pierre is back and he is clearly on a mission to not only get his title back but to dominate the division. He’s definitely a more mentally tough fighter and I think we’ll all see in his coming fights just how good that is going to make him. In my mind he’s a top 5 pound-for-pound guy in the world.
Then in the main event of the evening Randy “The Natural” Couture showed once again that being the underdog means nothing in beating the challenger Gabriel Gonzaga with a 3rd round stoppage. You have to be impressed with the way the 44 yr. old Couture continues to fight, the shape that he’s in, and his impeccable fight strategies. His gameplans just continue to be perfect for each fight and he executes them to perfection. I seem to be one in the minority who was and remains impressed with Gonzaga. He took a brutal right from Couture in the first that staggered him but traded some real powerful shots of his own. Until Couture slammed him to the ground and broke his nose, I thought Gonzaga would end up knocking out Couture — that it was just a matter of time. By no means was it cheap, but I think Gonzaga is definitely better than the result and if that injury had not occurred would’ve gone onto to win the fight. It clearly demoralized him and affected his attention which you can’t afford to do against Couture. And what else can you say about “the Natural”? All he does is continue to defy the odds and fight each fight better than the last. He’s clearly at the top of his game right now but how long can he keep it up? I think he’s got at least 2 more years or 6 fights in him at this level. One thing you have to remember about Couture when looking at his age is that he didn’t start in this sport until 30 or so. He’s 16-8, 24 fights isn’t going to put a whole lot of wear and tear on your body. So really the guy is not beat up and then you throw in how hard he trains and the type of condition he is in….I think 2 years is easy for him.
What’s up next for Couture? Well that remains to be seen right now. But I can tell you what, Dana White is going to really go after Fedor hard now. That would be an incredible fight, the best ever in the UFC. Couture wants it. The fans want it and you know White and even Fedor want it. My opinion? I think White gets it done. Fedor is asking for a contract stipulation that will allow him to go back to Russia once a year and compete in the Samba tournament, I think you have to make a sacrifice if you’re White to get a guy like Fedor and really it’s a pretty small one. So look for Couture — Fedor to unify the Heavyweight belts at UFC 80. How sick would it be if it was UFC 79 with Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell as a co-main event?? Pretty damn sick.