Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008 | 2 a.m.
- Main event: Randy Couture (16-8 mixed martial arts) vs. Brock Lesnar (2-1)
- At stake: UFC heavyweight championship
- Featured bouts: Kenny Florian (12-3) vs. Joe Stevenson (34-8), lightweights; Gabriel Gonzaga (9-3) vs. Josh Hendricks (18-4), heavyweights; Nate Quarry (16-2) vs. Demian Maia (9-0), middleweights; Dustin Hazelett (13-4) vs. Tamdan McCrory (11-1), welterweights
- Time/site: Today at the MGM Grand Garden Arena; doors open at 4:15 p.m.
- Tickets: $75-$1,000, mgmgrand.com
- TV: Pay per view, $44.95
1. Back in action
A three-time UFC heavyweight champ and former light heavyweight champion, 45-year-old Randy Couture reigns as one of the most popular figures ever to compete in mixed martial arts. He returns to the octagon today after an absence of one year and three months prompted by a legal dispute, since settled, with the UFC regarding his pay. Couture insists he’s in top form after a 10-week training camp. “I’ve put together some new skills in the 15 months I’ve been off and I think you’re going to see some of that,” Couture said. “I don’t think the layoff is going to be an issue.”
2. New to MMA
Brock Lesnar, the 2000 NCAA wrestling champion from the University of Minnesota, made his name with World Wrestling Entertainment before taking up mixed martial arts last year. He’s 2-1 as a pro MMA fighter, 1-1 in the UFC with a loss to Frank Mir followed by a victory by unanimous decision against Heath Herring in August. “I tried to improve in the gym off of that,” Lesnar said. “I want to grow every single day as a fighter, to do things that can beat Randy Couture. Whether or not Randy has any weaknesses, he doesn’t have a lot of them, but we’ve got to put him in positions to make him weak.”
3. Size difference
Although Lesnar could outweigh Couture by as much as 45 pounds in the octagon, Couture said he fought opponents that big when he was an amateur wrestler. Couture reviewed video of Lesnar’s brief MMA career in preparation for the fight. “I have a pretty good idea of where he’s coming from because we share that similar wrestling background,” Couture said. Likewise Lesnar studied tapes of Couture’s previous bouts during his nine-week training camp in northern Minnesota. “For me, (the goal) is to dominate and control this fight,” Lesnar said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”
4. Lightweight duel
The featured undercard bout pairs Kenny Florian and Joe Stevenson, with the winner expected to have an inside track on a lightweight title shot against B.J. Penn. For Stevenson, that potential fight would be a rematch of a January bout Penn won by submission. Florian is coming off an impressive unanimous-decision victory against Roger Huerta in August. Also on the undercard, in an intriguing middleweight fight, Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Demian Maia takes on Nate Quarry, who was knocked out by Rich Franklin in his lone title fight, in 2005.
5. Betting lines
Couture, though he holds the title, enters the fight as underdog of plus 125 (risk $1 to net $1.25) with Lesnar a minus 150 favorite (risk $1.50 to win $1). Florian has been installed as a minus 190 favorite against Stevenson, a plus 160 underdog. Maia, on the strength of his submission skills, is listed as a minus 240 favorite, with Quarry at plus 200. Gonzaga is a big favorite of minus 400 against Hendricks (plus 350), and Dustin Hazelett is favored at minus 200 against Tamdan McCrory (plus 175). As always, odds are subject to change.