UFC 91, presented by Gears of War 2, took place at the sold out MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main event was for the Heavyweight title between UFC newcomer, Brock Lesnar, and defending champion, "Captain America" Randy Couture. The co main event was in the Lightweight division between heavy favorite Kenny Florian and submission-expert Joe Stevenson. Overall, this was one of the better UFC events I have seen, and there were really no disappointing fights. Not to say fights that go to judge's decision are not entertaining, but it was great seeing every fight end in either a submission or TKO. Some fights ended quickly, but were still enjoyable to watch nonetheless. I will be going over 7 of the fights that I saw, and you can click on the link below if you want to jump to a particular fight.
Quarry will want to keep the fight standing up so that he can use his heavy hands. He has pretty solid submission defense, but he has had back problems in the past which could effect his grappling. Maia is a 2 time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion, so he will definitely want to stick to the ground, even though he alleges that he likes to stay on his feet.
As was expected, Maia takes the fight to the ground early, and got on Quarry's back with ease. Once Maia put Quarry in a body triangle, it was pretty much over. Maia had complete control of Quarry and this fight. To free up an opportunity for a rear-naked choke, Maia unleashes a fury of punches to Quarry's face, which left Quarry wide open.
Quarry taps out at 2:13 into the 1st round, and Maia wins by way of rear-naked choke submission. Quarry barely put up a struggle - it was over when it started; once Maia took Quarry's back, it was done. Maia fought with perfect technique. This is what Maia had to say at the end of the fight:
I like to make the people happy and put on a good show for the audience.
Not that it matters, but I could barely understand Maia.
Gonzaga is approaching his prime, and looking for his next title shot, to get the Heavyweight belt back. He is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion, with amazing leg kicks. You may recall Gonzaga knocking Mirko Crocop (the huge Croatian kick boxer) the fuck out. Hendricks is fighting in his UFC debut, but he is no stranger to mixed martial arts (MMA), or competition in general. He has not lost an MMA fight in over three years, with a majority of his wins by submission, and he was a 2 time All American wrestler in college.
There was a lot of stand up fighting early, with some ridiculously hard hitting from Gonzaga - even watching it on TV, you could vividly hear the impact of his striking. Gonzaga kept the pressure on from the first second of the fight, and Hendricks really did not know what hit him. Gonzaga plants a knee to Hendricks' chest, which freed him up for a HUGE right hand straight to Hendricks' face. That punch took Hendricks down fucking instantly, and even though Gonzaga still gave him another hit on the ground, the fight was over after the initial punch.
This TKO took all of 1 minute and 1 second of the first round. Gonzaga had little trouble with this fight, and had this to say afterward:
I want a title shot again; I want the belt back.
Brown had to take this fight on very short notice, for only his third fight in the UFC. Not to say Brown was the UFC newbie between them, as it was only Thomas' second fight in the UFC. Thomas was in excellent shape for this fight, and none of his prior MMA fights have gone to a decision.
Both fighters were very scrappy early on. Thomas got the better position early in the round, standing on top of Brown, and was able to land lots of head shots. Brown's only answer at this point was to use the cage to pick himself up after each take down. Thomas would then push Brown against the cage, and really control him making Brown look like a rag-doll. Brown was able to get in some nice knees to the body. The fight then went back to the ground, where Brown was looking for the body triangle. Brown was able to transition to a partial arm bar, but Thomas was able to squeeze out of it by landing blow-after-blow to Brown's face.
Both fighters were going at it at a really fast pace. It was a very exciting, energized first round from both fighters. The round started heavily in Thomas' favor, but Brown took over with superior technique, and as the round was ending he attempted a guillotine.
The second round starts with the fighters standing up and exchanging blows. It looked like they were both pretty fatigued after that fast-paced first round. The key part in this round was when Brown was on his back, with Thomas standing up and having his upper body pulled down by Brown. Brown was able to start locking in an arm bar, and Thomas slamming him to the ground actually made the arm bar easier on Brown to secure. As Thomas was slamming him on the ground, Brown was able to get in closer, and really secure the move.
At 57 seconds into the second round, Thomas taps out due to submission by arm bar. Brown even mentions the mistake Thomas made with his slams after the fight:
It's better for me than him for him slamming me like that.
Both of these fighters do not look like UFC fighters. Hazelett looks like he should be repairing cars wearing overalls, and McCrory looks like he should be a computer hacker. They are both young fighters at age 22, yet seem pretty mature for their age from the pre-fight interview videos. Hazelett came out sporting a big beard, with Bad Moon Rising playing by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Hazelett recently received his black belt in Jujutsu. He is a very technical fighter, so even though he has a good stand up, he will want to take the fight to the ground. McCrory is a Greco-Roman wrestler, who is very good at submissions, with good Jujutsu and a really long reach.
The fight opens with a big combination of punches from McCrory, and a lot of action right out of the gate. McCrory starts getting in some nice leg kicks, and focuses on the outer knee on the left leg of Hazelett. Hazelett lays in some big right hands, but he only started picking things up when the fight went to the ground. It looked like several times that Hazelett had the upper hand, and was going to submit McCrory, but somehow he kept rolling out of Hazelett's control. From the rubber guard, Hazelett gets McCrory in an omoplata shoulder lock, and he slowly worked down to McCrory's elbow.
This was easily the nastiest looking submission I have seen, with both fights I saw and watching clips on YouTube. Hazelett was probably a few seconds away from snapping McCrory's arm at the elbow. It was so bad I could not keep watching the replays.
In the first round, 3 minutes 39 seconds in, McCrory taps out with Hazelett gets the win with submission by arm arm.
While I did not hear about either fighter before, I wanted Hazelett to win because of how cocky McCrory came across in his pre-fight video.
Stephens is really heavy-handed, so he loves to stand up and exchange strikes. He has explosive power, and is most dangerous on his feet. Anjos relies on arm locks and low kicks, coming from his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background.
Lots of punches exchanged early, and both fighters look very comfortable on their feet. Anjos keeps trying to take it to the ground, but Stephens take down defense is good to start, but gives up his back after a big take down by Anjos. On the ground, Stephens tries for the guillotine, but Anjos passes the Stephens' half guard. Anjos controls the first round very well, and Stephens could only try to answer by rolling Anjos over. This actually back fires on Stephens, as he opens himself up for a really brutal omoplata at the end of the first round. His fucking shoulder was being pulled back so badly, that it looked like his veins were going to pop out of his arm. It looked extremely painful, and I was very impressed that Stephens did not tap out.
Stephens starts this round with a big knee to the head, followed by a big right hand and another knee. Anjos places a lot of low inside kicks, and keeps trying to take the fight back to the ground, but Stephens battles to keep it standing up. Strange that Stephens then takes Anjos down after trying to stay up for so long, which leads Anjos into getting the advantage with an anaconda body lock. Stephens starts taking the round over near the end, as he gets on top of Anjos and start making it rain elbows, and a couple big punches. Anjos must have been hating life because he had his head up against the cage while taking all this punishment from the ground and pound of Stephens. Tough to say who took this round, because Anjos started off better when it was on the ground, but then it definitely went in Stephens' favor at the end of the round.
Not much going on at the very beginning of the round, until the best uppercut I have ever seen. Stephens looked like he was cocking a gun before he unleashed this massive uppercut. It looked like a punch straight out of street fighter by Ryu; it absolutely cleaned Anjos' clock. That uppercut was fucking unreal, and I know Anjos will be feeling that for days to come. On the instant replay, you see Anjos' head snap back, eyes roll back, and spit falling uncontrollably out of his mouth.
Anjos gets knocked the fuck out with 39 seconds into the third round. The fight definitely felt like it would have gone to Anjos' favor if it went to the judges. It was a really awesome punch - I cannot stress that enough. It didn't seem like Stephens thought he was going to land it, because immediately after the fight was called, he ran full speed into the other end of the cage.
Florian is a very popular fighter in the UFC. He started his career in the UFC as a very good grappler, but since has improved his striking ability, which makes his opponents forget how well he is on the ground. He has a black belt in Jujutsu, has very powerful elbows, and has been working on his Muay Thai. He found out that Stevenson was pissed off about being the underdog in this match, to which Florian said in the pre-fight interview:
I'm gonna go out there to destroy Joe Stevenson. I'm gonna show him why I'm the favorite. I'm gonna try to break his heart; break his will.
Stevenson is a great wrestler, and has a very dangerous guillotine. Many of his wins were by submission, taking him to a MMA career record of 34-8. Stevenson wants to show that he was not supposed to be the underdog, which seems to fire him up for the fight.
Florian looks very light on his feet, bouncing around like he is floating. Florian lands a big left kick early on, and Stevenson gets off a big right hand. Stevenson keeps trying to take it to the ground early, but Florian fights him off very well. Stevenson is pushing the action, with a constant stalk. When Stevenson gave an opening, Florian took him to the ground and started bombing him with punches. This was pretty much the beginning of the end. Even though Stevenson rolls out of Florian's control, Florian gets his back and leads to a mount. Florian sinks in for the rear-naked choke. Very impressive submission by Florian on a powerful fighter like Stevenson.
Florian wins at 4 minutes and 3 seconds into the 1st round by way of a rear-naked choke submission.
This fight is for the Heavyweight Division title. Randy Couture is already in the UFC Hall of Fame for numerous accomplishments including being the first fighter in UFC history for being the champion in two weight classes - Light Heavyweight & Heavyweight. (B.J. Penn became only the second fighter able to claim the same designation earlier this year). Including this fight, Couture has fought for a title in 15 of his 19 UFC fights. Obviously he has the experience advantage over Lesnar, but Couture is 45 (14 years older than the 31 year old Lesnar), and has not fought since the end of August in 2007 during UFC 74. Couture's fighting base is Greco-Roman wrestling, and his strategy is to wear out his opponent. On fighting the gigantic Lesnar, this is what Couture had to say in his pre-fight interview video:
He's a big huge guy. He presents a lot of problems.
Lesnar is an absolute beast of a man. His super-human physique reminds me of Dolph Lundgren in Universal Soldier. At weigh in, he was only 265 pounds, but by the time of the fight, he was easily up to 270 or 280. In his short UFC past, Lesnar has out-struck his opponents 62-12, with an 88% take-down success. Prior to coming into the UFC, Lesnar gained some fame through World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), but was also an accomplished wrestler back in his college days. In 1999, he lost in the finals of the NCAA wrestling championship to now New England Patriots Stephen Neal, but went on to take the title in the following year. Not only is Lesnar an amazing athlete, an absolute freak of a human, could probably move your car with his dick, but he also actually ran the mile in less than 5 minutes in college. This man was meant to destroy people - just look at his name "Brock Lesnar" - you hear that and you think "gladiator". In Lesnar's pre-fight interview, he shows the respect he has for Couture, and says:
I'm gonna seize the moment; I'm gonna seize the opportunity.
During the first round, the crowd is cheering "Randy...Randy...Randy". Lesnar gets some knees in early, but has his early take-down attempts defended well by the veteran Couture. Lesnar does get a big take down by slamming Couture to the ground, and then nails Couture with big left punches while he has position control. While on the ground, Lesnar worked a whole lot with little success, and eventually Couture brings it back to a stand up. This was a very relaxed and cautious first round; neither fighter really made any big strides, but Lesnar spent up a lot of energy, working right into Couture's strategy.
Big elbow from Lesnar early into the round really rocked Couture, but Lesnar did not push the action, so Couture was able to recover in time. While Couture had Lesnar pressed against the cage, Couture landed a big knee; during the ensuing exchange, Lesnar is cut above his right eye. Couture continues to control this round by holding Lesnar against the cage, and landing several knees.
What appeared like a harmless punch from Lesnar knocks Couture down; after the replay, we see that it caught Couture right in his left temple. After Couture went down, it was game over. Lesnar pounced on him and lands about ten thousand hammerfists before the fight is called. Lesnar also sprinkled in some elbows, if the hammerfists were not enough. After the fight was called, Couture was not getting up too fast - he looked absolutely stunned and discombobulated on the ground.
Lesnar wins the fight and takes the Heavyweight title by TKO at 3:07 in the second round. Sad to see Couture go down, but it was inevitable. Just looking at the two fighters standing side-by-side before the fight, we see Lesnar's bicep is about as big as Couture's head. It almost looked like they were not in the same weight class.
At the end of the fight, Couture had this to say about the fight:
That's just a big sonofabitch...that's all there is to it.
And when Lesnar was asked about how he felt about his win, he said:
I just believe in hard work, and it pays off.
For more information about the UFC, or to find out more about the really stacked fight card for UFC 92, check out UFC.com. If you are not a fan yet, you should definitely check out UFC 92 on December 27th at 7 p.m. The notable fights are Forrest Griffin versus Rashad Evans, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira versus Frank Mir, and Wanderlei Silva versus Quinton Jackson.