UFC 74: Couture defies time

Randy Couture appeared to have every physical attribute working against him at UFC 74 when he faced Gabriel Gonzaga.

Gonzaga was younger, bigger, stronger, theoretically more skilled both on the ground and standing, as well as being faster.

But matches aren’t always won by checking off superior physical attributes. Instead, fighting with a broken left forearm, Couture’s superior wrestling led to him ground-and-pounding Gonzaga into defeat on August 25, 2007, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

It was a slow fight, with much of it having Couture wearing Gonzaga out in the clinch. The live crowd loved it because it was Couture, but the same fight would not have been nearly as well received had anyone else been involved. Couture took Gonzaga down, and in landing, Couture’s head appeared to break Gonzaga’s nose.

Couture got the better of the striking, particularly showing superior head movement. Couture connected with more frequency in Round 2. But in Round 3, Gonzaga came back with body kicks and the kick that broke Couture’s forearm. Couture responded with a body lock takedown and it was stopped after a flurry of punches on the ground.

After the match, a hint of one of the biggest matches in UFC history was teased. Brock Lesnar was in Las Vegas, negotiating for a UFC deal, and after Couture won, Lesnar came up to congratulate him. This was never shown on television, nor was Lesnar shown or acknowledged on camera because he had not signed a contract.

The co-main event featured Georges St. Pierre against Josh Koscheck.

St. Pierre claimed ahead of time he would outwrestle Koscheck, who had the best collegiate credentials of anyone on the UFC roster at the time, including an NCAA Division I championship. GSP lived up to his word, taking Koscheck down right away. And while legend has it that he completely outwrestled Koscheck, it was actually a competitive match that could have gone either way. Koscheck escaped from the bottom and came back with a takedown in the first round. Each was on top for about half the round, but St. Pierre did more damage during his advantage period.

The second round saw St. Pierre get another takedown and work for an armlock and a Kimura. St. Pierre clearly won that round as Koscheck could never escape from the bottom.

In the third round, Koscheck went for a takedown, and he had got it, he’d have probably won the decision. St. Pierre instead landed on top, and did enough damage to clearly win the round and the fight 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.

NOTEWORTHY

The match that turned around Frank Mir’s career was on this show as he submitted Antoni Hardonk with a first-round Kimura. Mir had not looked impressive since a career-threatening motorcycle accident, and it was generally acknowledged that a loss in this match would have likely ended his UFC career.

After a heated situation at the weigh-in the day before, Renato “Bablu” Sobral caught David Heath in a choke during the second round of the fight. Heath tapped. However, Sobral wouldn’t break the hold, and resisted as the ref tried to get him to stop. He left Heath out cold, on the ground twitching. Sobral in his postmatch interview said he kept the choke on longer because Heath swore at him at the weigh-in. The Nevada State Athletic Commission then fined Sobral $25,000 of his $50,000 purse. A few days later, Dana White fired Sobral for the incident. Sobral is now light heavyweight champion for Strikeforce.

Quoteworthy: “The takedown was what broke his nose. I heard it in my ear as we landed. I think from that point on it was harder for him to get focused. ” – Couture, on the turning point in his win over Gonzaga.

RESULTS

Clay Guida def. Marcus Aurelio, split decision
Thales Leites def. Ryan Jensen, submission (armbar), 3:47 R1
Frank Mir def. Antoni Hardonk, submission (Kimura), 1:17 R1
Renato Sobral def. David Heath, submission (anaconda choke), 3:30 R1
Patrick Cote def. Kendall Grove, 4;45 R1
Joe Stevenson def. Kurt Pellegrino, unanimous decision
Roger Huerta def. Alberto Crane, TKO, 1:50 R1
Georges St. Pierre def. Josh Koscheck, unanimous decision
UFC heavyweight title: Randy Couture def. Gabriel Gonzaga, KO, 1:37 R3 (Couture retains title)