UFC 91: Couture vs. Lesnar Staff Predictions

BloodyElbow.com Staff Predictions for UFC 91: Couture vs Lesnar

MAIN CARD:

Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar



Luke Thomas: This fight has caused me much consternation. I've never been impressed with Couture's ability to withstand ground and pound as he attempts a submission or escape. Lesnar, if he's going to win, is likely to be on top in Couture's guard unleashing a barrage of heavy strikes. That worries me. What also worries me is not that Lesnar has combinations, but he does have quick snap on hard punches. That's enough to hurt Randy and put him away early. But I'm going to gamble here and say that isn't going to happen. Couture is something of a fight scientist. He proposes a hypothesis (in this case, that he can defeat Brock Lesnar), sets up the experiment by bringing in test partners and finding the right way to prepapre and then tests his theory in the Octagon. Whether or not its correct, well, we'll find out tomorrow. But I believe that Couture's cardio, inside clinch work (which means constant pummeling and constant attack to keep Lesnar guessing and on the defensive), superior boxing and experience carry the day here. Can Lesnar win? Absolutely, so my pick is one of probability. But I trust in Couture's ability to defeat an opponent who has only defeated Heath Herring, Min Soo Kim and lost to Frank Mir. Couture, by TKO, round 5.

Kid Nate: I've been picking against Randy for years and I'm not about to stop now. Sure I'll be rooting for him, but I just don't see how he beats Lesnar. At 45 the years begin to weigh very heavy on the human body and athletic performance is prone to suddenly falling off a cliff. Maybe the long layoff won't affect Randy, maybe age hasn't caught up with him. Great, he's still giving up and enormous amount of strength, speed and wrestling skill. Couture should have the far better boxing game, but Lesnar's speed and power will likely neutralize it. Brock will have a hard time finishing Couture but shouldn't have a hard time riding top control to get the decision. Lesnar by decision.

Brent Brookhouse
: I understand the line of thinking that Couture is the crafty vet who always has a great gameplan and his experience should be able to overtake the young bull in Lesnar.  I just don't buy it.  Randy has a history of trouble with large heavyweights who want to take him down and keep the fight there.  Brock is no mere "large" heavyweight.  He is a beast with amazing speed and strength.  Randy is going to have his moments in this fight, and those will happen when he is able to put Brock's back against the cage.  Randy's small size though will not allow him to keep Brock against the cage for the entire fight.  Lesnar will do some serious damage on the ground in this fight and will finish Couture.  Brock Lesnar by TKO round 3.

Mike Rome
: Everybody has such a strong opinion about this fight, but I think it's going to be very close.  If Randy is able to put Brock on his back and start landing from his guard, this fight is over, and that is what this all really comes down to for me.  The fight really has to go one certain way for Brock to win, Randy has so many avenues that will put Brock in deep water.  If it becomes a wrestling match, you have to give it to Lesnar, but otherwise Randy wins everywhere else.  I think he will be able to keep a distance for the most part before exploding in for quick combinations, body locks, and potentially a lot of leg kicks.  Everybody talks about age, and while it's a factor, Randy looked better at 44 than he did in any of the 10 years prior.  The people in his camp remain wowed by what he does, and I don't think age will catch up to him this Saturday.  Randy Couture via TKO, round 1.

Nick Thomas
: This is a very tough test for Randy, never mind coming in with a year of ring rust. I picked Lesnar over Herring at UFC 87 and my thought process isn't going to change much. Unless Randy can get an early submission/TKO. I'm going with Lesnar by decision. 

 

Michael Fagan: I picked against Randy in the Gonzaga fight, and I was thrilled to see him pull it out.  The same thing applies here.  I would love to see Randy come in and do his thing, it's incredibly inspiring.  I just have a hard time imagining a 45 year old fighter with a year layoff giving up 50 pounds pulling out a victory here.  Yes, in general skill beats size, but there are limits to that theory.  Lesnar by TKO, round 2.

Chris Nelson:There are too many variables in this fight and not enough raw data on either competitor, given Brock's had three fights and we don't know what we're going to see from a Randy who's been on the shelf for a year. I counted Captain America out long before his last two bouts, and while the freakishly strong Brock Lesnar is certainly not Tim Sylvia nor Gabriel Gonzaga, he's also no Randy Couture. Lesnar has been a high-level performer for years, but he's still a pup in this MMA game and I fully expect Randy to gameplan his way to a decision win. Couture via decision.

Cannon Jacques:  There are a lot of questions regarding both fighters going in to this match.  Will Couture's experience and unparalleled game planning be enough to overcome an enormous, athletic wrestler in Lesnar?  While it's difficult to pick against Couture given that he's proven his detractors wrong time and time again, I'm inclined to do so.  I believe an ever improving Lesnar will be too much, and I'm uncomfortable with the fact that Couture has been away from active competition for so long.  Lesnar via fourth round TKO.
 

Kenny Florian vs. Joe Stevenson



Luke Thomas: Everyone makes much ado about Florian's striking, cardio and BJJ, but the truth is his wrestling is incredibly underrated. I don't view his wrestling as something he can necessary lord over opposition, but its more than enough to fend off takedown attempt from both the outside and in the clinch. I do see a danger in Stevenson's thorough but unorthodox foot locks, but it's not enough to stop Florian. Moreover, Stevenson is susceptible underneath as he generally fails to control posture or hits/attempt sweeps. Stevenson's chin is also suspect. Florian is too much for him. Florian by TKO, round 3.

Kid Nate: Both of these guys have been growing by leaps and bounds but the fundamental calculus hasn't changed: with his height and reach, Florian has a big edge standing over Stevenson and a strong enough jiu jitsu game that he should be able to defend himself should Stevenson get a takedown. I could see this fight going much like Stevenson's fight against Josh Neer, he'll get some early takedowns and maybe even threaten to finish Florian a couple of times, but he'll fade as the fight goes on and get picked apart on the feet. Florian by decision.

Brent Brookhouse
: This is a very difficult fight to pick.  Florian's game has gotten better and better especially since the Sherk fight so the "Kenny vs. Wrestlers" template is no longer the same.  Stevenson hasn't exactly been standing still in his own game either.  I don't think Florian catches Stevenson with a sub on the ground here and I don't think Joe can win the fight standing.  So it all comes down to if the fight goes to the floor or not.  I think Stevenson can get a few takedowns and take a narrow decision win here but this is a Florian fight, so he is going to bleed in doing so.  Joe Stevenson by decision.

Mike Rome
: Very odd fight, but it should be a good one.  I don't really see anywhere Joe has an advantage except for a slight one in wrestling, but even there it's closer than most think.  I have my doubts that Kenny will be able to finish, but I think he's a little better everywhere, and he doesn't make dumb mistakes.  Florian via decision.

Nick Thomas
: Both gifted fighters. Weird to see Stevenson as an underdog. I see this fight as a back and forth stand up brawl. Florian is bigger and has the edge on the feet. Florian by decision.

Michael Fagan
: Joe Stevenson is a rich man's version of Roger Huerta.  Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to help too much.  Joe winds up on his back too much in fights, and I don't think Kenny's prone to the guillotine.  Florian by decision.

Chris Nelson: A really interesting match, and one that's been unfairly swept aside with the myopic promotion of UFC 91. Florian's got a decided edge on the feet, so Stevenson will look to take this to the floor, but I'm not sure that'll go much better for him: Kenny's not prone to guillotines, and he'll kill you with those elbows from the bottom. I see the Boston boy opening Joe Daddy and securing the late stoppage en route to a title shot which he'll almost definitely lose. Florian via TKO, Round 3

Cannon Jacques:  Both guys have a decent chance in this one.  I don't see either catching their opponent in a submission, and I think Florian will be more than happy to keep it standing.  Can he accomplish this?  I believe so.  Florian will use his reach to outpoint Stevenson on the feet.  Florian by decision.


Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Josh Hendricks



Luke Thomas: The buzz on Hendricks is that he hits extremely hard and has vicious ground and pound. Gonzaga came into the weigh-ins looking a little heavy, so I'm a little concerned Gonzaga took this fight lightly. But even a lax Gonzaga should have more than enough to stop Hendricks. Gonzaga, by submission, round 1.

Kid Nate: Hendricks is being fed to Gonzaga here, but just might have the wrestling skills to put Napao on his back. And we all know how Gonzaga hates getting punched. Nevertheless, Gonzaga should have a big enough edge standing and with submissions to get the finish here. Gonzaga by TKO in 2.

Brent Brookhouse
: Hendricks hasn't lost in 12 fights (one being a no contest) but he hasn't been fighting anyone of Gonzaga's caliber.  His wrestling background is solid and he has the whole "training with a guy who already beat Gabriel" thing going for him.  The real question here is if Gonzaga is planning to fight at distance or if he wants to get in close.  If the distance closes to where Hendricks can take him down than the fight changes.  I'm not 100% on Hendricks' cardio but I do question Gonzaga's in pretty much every fight now.  If Hendricks' cardio is solid enough (he has only been out of the first round 2 times in 19 fights) then he can work a takedown and force pace to wear Gozaga out.  As much of a chance as I think Hendricks has here there are just too many unknowns for me to go ahead and make the call.  Gonzaga by TKO round 2.

Mike Rome
: This is an interesting fight.  It looks like a gimme for Gonzaga on paper, but Hendricks has an impressive wrestling background, and since coming to Xtreme Couture has reportedly improved leaps and bounds.  He was one of Randy's main wrestling training partners for this fight with Brock too, so he spent a lot of time with a guy that knows a lot about Gabriel Gonzaga.  I am picking Gonzaga for obvious reasons, but if the line hits + 300 for Hendricks he might be worth putting a unit on.  Either way, for predictions all lines are even, so I'm going with Gonzaga via TKO.  

Nick Thomas: Gonzaga by whatever he wants.

Chris Nelson: This ought to be a much closer fight than some expect. Hendricks' wrestling and g'n'p could give Gonzaga fits, but getting Napão to the ground isn't an easy proposition when he doesn't want to go. Despite past cardio nightmares (or possibly even because of them), Gonzaga should be able to pull out a submission late submission on the floor. Gonzaga via submission, Round 3

Cannon Jacques:  Gonzaga's trying to get back into contention in a thin heavyweight division.  Hendricks is taking a step up in competition here, and I don't believe he'll have enough keep Gonzaga from finishing him.  Gonzaga via submission, round 3.
 

Nate Quarry vs. Demian Maia



Luke Thomas: I'd pick Quarry if I believed Maia had a soft chin. Wanderlei Silva has gone on the record as saying Maia is actually incredibly tough. Quarry hits hard and I think he'll give Maia his lumps here both standing and following up on knock downs. But ultimately I see Maia pulling guard and finding a way to finish off Quarry. It won't be pretty, but it will be sufficient. Quarry's never been submitted, but he's never face anyone quite like Maia either. Let's see if this turns into a guard flop battle or clinch war. I think the former. Maia by submission, round 3.

Kid Nate: This fight seems very old school -- striker vs grappler. Even worse for Maia, his wrestling isn't all that and it could be very hard to get Quarry to the ground. Nonetheless, Maia's grappling is absolutely amazing. I'm going to go with my gut here and overrule my brain. Maia by submission in 1.

Brent Brookhouse
: I don't trust the "Maia's game has improved" crowd.  Yes, his grappling is NUTS and if Nate spends more than 15 seconds on the ground with him at any one time I don't like his chances.  But I think Nate's takedown defense trumps Maia's questionable wrestling here and as long as it is on the feet Nate is going to be winning.  I think Nate wins here but it isn't particularly impressive.  Think Bisping/Leben in being a disciplined, distanced striking game where Quarry just outpoints him for three rounds.  Quarry by decision.

Mike Rome
:  I think this is a very interesting fight.  Quarry has been training takedown defense and jumping guard defense like a madman, he wants to keep this standing at all costs.  People training with Maia say his standup has come a long way though, and Quarry might not have as much of an advantage as he thinks.  I think Maia will surprise Quarry standing, get it to the ground, and submit him.  Maia via submission, round 3.

Nick Thomas
: Sprawl after sprawl for Quarry here. Quarry might even be able to KO Maia. But at some point Maia is going to get the takedown and end it there. Maia by submission.

Michael Fagan
: I have a feeling if Maia can't take Quarry down, he'll just pull guard and work from there.  Quarry hits hard as hell, but he's slow and prodding, without even mentioning his injury history.  Maia by submission, round 2.

Chris Nelson: What's the over/under on how many times Goldie and Rogan call this a "classic striker vs. grappler match-up" during the broadcast? Quarry's got nasty power and great takedown defense, and Maia's striking is nothing to fear... but in a fight where going to the mat all but guarantees victory, I have to believe Maia will find a way to grapple this one down. Maia via submission, Round 1

Cannon Jacques:  Quarry is a tough guy who could get the win if he can keep the fight standing.  I don't believe he can do it, however.  Maia is an absolute wizard on the mat.  Maia by submission, round 2.
 

Dustin Hazelett vs. Tamdam McCrory



Luke Thomas: McCrory comes straight forward on the feet, fights in explosive bursts and is generally well-rounded. Hazelett, on the other hand, isn't exactly a counterfighter but is willing to allow others to push the action...except on the ground. If this fight goes to the floor, McCrory is through. McCrory works off the bum rush to surprise with strikes to finish with aggression equation. Hazelett is likely willing to allow McCrory to steam forward only to either secure the takedown or to counter strike off angle changes (and Hazelett does have underrated striking). Ultimately, I just don't see any way for McCrory to dominate the action or dictate the location of the fight in order for him to win. Hazelett by submission, round 3.

Kid Nate: This is being pitched as a fairly evenly matched fight between two evenly matched young up and comers but I don't expect it to be close. Hazelett is someone I'm watching as a blue-chip prospect in this division with excellent jiu jitsu and rapidly improving stand-up. McCrory is more of a wild brawler who has made the most of his height and reach advantage. Hazelett is big enough to nullify that edge and should beat up the Barn Cat standing before taking him down and tapping him out. Hazelett by submission in 2.

Brent Brookhouse
: Very nice fight here.  Hazelett is solid and McCroroy can be a lot to handle in the early part of the fight.  Hazelett is a calm guy though and he'll survive a first round that he loses fairly handilly and get a submission in the second.  Hazelett by submission round 2.

Mike Rome
: Boy am I happy this is on the main card.  Hazelett has some serious potential, the guy seems better every time we see him fight.  McCrory is a very energetic fighter that always comes out really strong, but if Hazelett weathers the storm he can take this later on.  Hazelett via submission, round 3.

Nick Thomas
: My pick for fight of the night. Both coming off a win and hungry. Hazelett's armbar on Burkman was a thing of beauty. I have to give the slight edge to Hazelett on the ground. Hazelett by submission.

Michael Fagan
: Hazelett and McCrory are almost mirror images of each other, except Hazelett's a little better and a little more put together.  I expect him to bully McCrory in this one.  Hazelett by TKO, round 2.

Chris Nelson: I've been high on this fight since day one and even figured it for Fight of the Night at one point, but the more I think about it, the more lop-sided I see it being. Hazelett's jiu jitsu is too good and McCrory's style too raw for me to not see this going McLovin's way after an early onslaught from the Barn Cat. Hazelett via submission, Round 2

Cannon Jacques:  I may regret picking against the "Barn Cat," but I believe Hazelett is a little better at this juncture.  Hazelett by decision.

UNDERCARD:

Jorge Gurgel vs. Aaron Riley



Luke Thomas: Riley is the more conservative fighter of the two and that will work to his advantage here. Gurgel will try to test an all-out war, which is something the titanium jawed Riley is more than happy to oblige. Riley by decision.

Kid Nate: Theoretically Gurgel has the jiu jitsu skills to take down and submit the journeyman Riley, but until I see Gurgel actually fight a smart fight...well let's just say I'm picking Aaron Riley by TKO in 3.

Brent Brookhouse
: Riley is a guy that I'd be more than happy to see get a successful run in the UFC at this point, but I have to believe that somehow Gurgel has learned his lesson.  Gurgel by submission, round 1.

Mike Rome
: This is a very interesting fight.  It's yet another Jorge would probably win if he fought smart...but I fully expect him to stand and trade with Riley.  Seeing as I expect that, I also expect Riley to flatten him.  Riley via KO, round 2.

Nick Thomas
: This is going to be a messy fight. Neither fighter is going to look pretty after this is over. Gurgel by decision.

Michael Fagan
: Why does Gurgel still have a job?  Riley by decision.

Chris Nelson: Gotta believe third time will be the charm for the journeyman Riley in the UFC, especially against a guy in Gurgel who can't get any kind of momentum these days. Looking at Gurgel's record, I'm surprised he's still at .500 (3-3) in the octagon. It just seems like he's always losing, and losing ugly. Riley via decision

Cannon Jacques:  Gurgel is well known for abandoning his ground skills in pursuit of an exciting standup battle.  That's generally his downfall.  For some reason, I think he's going to do the prudent thing and take this fight to the mat.  Gurgel by submission, round 1.


 

Jeremy Stephens vs. Rafael dos Anjos



Luke Thomas: Dos Anjos has submitted black belts in MMA on the way to the UFC, but I think he's reckless and unaware of the challenge required to win at the UFC level. He leads with his chin, throws extremely wide punches and stands flat in the pocket. Stephens punches extremely hard and will make dos Anjos pay so long as the fight is standing. While dos Anjos has the ability to submit Stephens (if Din Thomas does), he does not have the ability to get the fight there. Stephens by TKO, round 1.

Kid Nate: Stephens could be vulnerable to dos Anjos on the ground and unfortunately for Stephens, he needs to ground and pound his way to the win. If dos Anjos screws around and missed his early chances though, he's in for a sustained beating. Dos Anjos via submission in 1.

Brent Brookhouse
: As I'm going through this card I'm really coming to terms with what a solid show of "action fights" it really should be.  This is another one that could be a lot of fun.  I think Stephens can pressure his way to a win as long as he doesn't get sloppy.  Jeremy Stephens by decision.

Mike Rome
: I think this is going to be a great fight.  Stephens always just goes 100% as soon as the fight starts, and he has an incredible heart.  He routinely escapes submissions that should be the end.  Then you have Dos Anjos, who is a tremendous jiu-jitsu guy, and you have the recipe for a great fight.  Prediction?  Stephens' over-exuberance costs him and he ends up getting submitted, but this one could go either way.  Dos Anjos via submission, round 3.

Nick Thomas
: Dos Anjos's debut and probably another victim of the first time UFC jitters. So I'm picking Stephens by decision.

Michael Fagan
: Dos Anjos by submission, round 3.

Chris Nelson: Dos Anjos via submission, Round 1

Cannon Jacques:  Dos Anjos should be able to use his jiu-jitsu to beat Stephens.  It may prove to be a close fight, but I think dos Anjos will be able to overcome a game Stephens in the end.  Dos Anjos by submission, round 3.


Alvin Robinson vs. Mark Bocek



Luke Thomas
: Robinson is the better pure wrestler, although I'd say Bocek has underrated wrestling. What I think will decide this fight is pressure. Bocek hasn't exactly responded well to pressure from Edgar or Danzig, but he gutted through as far as the refs would let him. I don't see Robinson having that ability. Once the fight hits the floor Bocek is by far the superior grappler and will easily pass Robinson's guard. From there, Bocek should be able to finish Robinson. Bocek by submission, round 2.

Kid Nate: People are harshing on this fight, but I'm a fan of both guys. I think this should be Bocek's night though. He's got the wrestling to control Robinson from the ground and his jiu jitsu is better. Neither fighter is Muhammed Ali on the feet so I'm going to pick Bocek by decision in 3.

Brent Brookhouse
:  This "should" be Bocek's fight to lose and his ground game is tight enough that I don't see any way he gives it away.  Bocek by decision.

Mike Rome
:  I really have a hard time caring about either dude, though it could be a good fight.  I think Bocek will use his wrestling to get a decision.  Bocek via decision.

Nick Thomas
: Robinson is bigger and stronger, but I just can't pick against my fellow canuck. Bocek by decision.

Michael Fagan
: Robinson's size will be the difference. Robinson by TKO, round 2.

Chris Nelson: Boceck via decision

Cannon Jacques:  Bocek impressed me in his fight with a much more experienced Mac Danzig.  Bocek by decision.


Matt Brown vs. Ryan Thomas



Luke Thomas
: Thomas is durable but Brown wins this with a newfound well-roundedness that finds an opening late in the second of third round. Brown by TKO.

Kid Nate: I can't bring myself to care about his fight. Brown by TKO.

Brent Brookhouse
:  I really like Matt Brown.  I mean, he's not a future world champion or anything.  He reminds me of a guy at the end of the bar who you just try to stay away from because you know the guy can scrap.  He looked much improved in his last fight and I'd like to see him stick around for a while.  Matt Brown by TKO, round 2.

Mike Rome
: I was very impressed by Matt Brown's last performance.  He seems very improved, and Ryan Thomas has never impressed me.  Matt Brown via TKO.

Nick Thomas: Total toss up. Going with Thomas by his pre-fight interview. He sounded game. Thomas by decision.  

Michael Fagan: Brown impressed me in the Kim fight.  I don't think he has much of a future outside of being mid-level, but I'll take him here.  Brown by decision.

Chris Nelson: I won't pick against Brown again after putting in such a game effort against Kim (even though "Stun Gun" gassed midway through the first round). In a battle of atrocious nicknames, "The Immortal" dispatches of the "Tank Engine" handily. Brown via TKO, Round 1

Cannon Jacques:  Brown has been pretty solid in the UFC.  He lost to "Stun Gun," but was never out of that match.  Brown via TKO, round 1. 

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