The Ultimate Fighting Championship will present UFC 102 this Saturday night. A clash of MMA icons headlines the big event. Former Pride FC champions Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (31-5) takes on former UFC champion Randy Couture (16-9) in what many fans consider a UFC Dream Match.
Supremacy is the title on the line in this main-event. This is a battle between two pioneers in MMA. What Randy Couture was doing for MMA in America in UFC, Nogueira was doing for MMA in Japan in Pride. Together, these two combine for over 70 MMA fights! This fight may be a few years too late, but it is still one of the most intriguing non-title main-events in UFC history.
I have to admit, I wasn’t very excited for this one when it was originally announced. I was never a big Minotauro fan in Pride. As for Randy, I think he is still very good but far from his prime as a fighter. I checked this one off originally as a show I would pass on. A few days away from fight day, I am feeling much different.
This one is truly a chess match between two all-time great technicians. Both fighters possess impeccable cardiovascular conditioning. This will be one of those fights where both fighters will pick their spots and fight cautiously early on. I don’t expect to see many early fireworks between these two legends.
Randy Couture isn’t much of a question mark. I think people are undervaluing Randy based on his last fight against Brock Lesnar. People are quick to forget is that Randy has stood up better with Lesnar than anyone. Lesnar did catch him hard in Round 2, but I think that has a lot to do with Randy’s age and his reflexes. Couture should be able to handle someone like Nogueira much better.
The thing with Nogueira is that Randy has to finish him off if he has the chance. Nogueira has proven to be one of the most resilient fighters in MMA history. Nogueira can take a punch almost better than anyone other than Fedor. Nogueira is also one of the few fighters that can hang with Randy on the ground. Randy’s bread and butter is ground and pound. Randy better be very careful if he plans on grounding and pounding, because Nogueira will take a few punches to catch Randy if he needs to.
Nogueira is not going to knock Randy out. Nogueira only has three knockouts in his entire career. On the other hand, Nogueira has won 19 times with a submission. Nogueira will catch Randy if he has the opportunity. Randy needs to keep this one standing up. Frank Mir knew that as he refused to go to the ground with Nogueira and won.
A real big question surrounding Nogueira is his health. There are several reports from fans who saw Nogueira at the UFC Fan Expo at UFC 100. Several reports indicate that Nogueira looked terrible. A few reports indicated that Nogueira was actually walking with a limp. If Nogueira is walking into this fight at anything less than 75% he is a dead man walking.
The early betting lines on this fight are rather interesting. Randy Couture is a favorite on both Bodog.com and BetUS.com. Bodog.com has Couture at -175 while BetUs.com has Couture at -180. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these lines jump up or down depending upon how Nogueira looks at the weigh-ins on Friday. I expected Couture to be a heavier favorite based on Nogueira’s last fight and reports from the UFC Fan Expo.
My prediction is a Randy Couture win. I think it would be a huge upset to see Nogueira beat Couture. If Nogueira beats Couture, it is because he caught him on the ground. Couture has one fight left on his contract and an impressive win put him in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiating a new deal. This is like an NFL Pro Bowler playing in his contract year. I predict a Couture knockout in Round 2 and the Lesnar-Couture 2 talk to start Monday morning.
In other bouts;
205 lbs.: Keith Jardine (14-5-1) vs. Thiago Silva (13-1)
185 lbs.: Chris Leben (18-6) vs. Jake Rosholt (5-1)
185 lbs.: Nate Marquardt (28-8-2) vs. Demian Maia (10-0)
205 lbs.: Krzysztof Soszynski (18-8-1) vs. Brandon Vera (10-3)
265 lbs.: Gabriel Gonzaga (10-4) vs. Chris Tuchscherer (17-1)
185 lbs.: Ed Herman (15-7) vs. Wilson Gouveia (12-6)
265 lbs.: Mike Russow (11-1) vs. Justin McCully (9-4-2)
265 lbs.: Todd Duffee (4-0) vs. Tim Hague (10-1)
205 lbs.: Nick Catone (7-1) vs. Mark Munoz (5-1)
155 lbs.: Marcus Aurelio (18-7) vs. Evan Dunham (8-0)
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