Lesnar drops Couture for UFC heavyweight crown
LAS VEGAS – Brock Lesnar won the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight title in stunning fashion on Saturday at UFC 91 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, forcing a referee stoppage of legendary champion Randy Couture at 3:07 of the second round.
Lesnar, the former NCAA wrestling champion who became a superstar in World Wrestling Entertainment, vindicated himself as a mixed martial artist by defeating one of the sport’s greatest fighters.
Lesnar (3-1) landed a booming right hand that sent Couture tumbling backward and onto his back in the center of the ring. Lesnar pounced immediately and jumped on top of his 45-year-old foe, pummeling him with fists and elbows before referee Mario Yamasaki stopped it.
“They are some big-ass ham hocks coming at you,” Couture said.
The first round was an even and cautious battle, much of it spent with the two former collegiate wrestling stars battling for position along the cage.
Couture’s plan was to try to stand and move and wear Lesnar down, but Lesnar’s stand-up was significantly improved even from where it was when he met Heath Herring in his last out, in August at UFC 87.
“I believe in hard work and that it pays off, honest to God,” Lesnar said. “I may come across as a cocky SOB, but I’m confident. That’s what the Lord gave me, my body and my mind.”
He needed his mind to remain composed against Couture, a master game planner who was fighting for the first time in 15 months after a legal dispute with UFC. Lesnar, who appeared nervous at the beginning of the bout, never made the big mistake, like he did when he met ex-champion Frank Mir in his UFC debut in February, and he capitalized when he had his chance.
He won the belt in his fourth fight, which, ironically, was when Couture captured the heavyweight belt for what would be the first of three times when he defeated Maurice Smith.
Lesnar was able to neutralize Couture’s wrestling ability and was using his size and weight to wear down Couture.
“I can’t believe it,” Lesnar said. “I want to thank [UFC president] Dana White, the UFC and I’d like to thank this guy, Randy Couture. It takes a lot of balls to take a year off and come back and fight a young buck like me.”
Lesnar will face the winner of the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira-Mir bout, which will be held at UFC 92 on Dec. 27 in the same arena, sometime next year for the undisputed title. Nogueira won the interim belt by defeating Tim Sylvia when Couture was in the midst of his legal dispute with the UFC.
In the top undercard bout, lightweight Ken Florian earned a title shot with a first-round submission victory over Joe Stevenson.