UFC 74 Heavyweight Championship – Randy Couture vs Gabriel Gonzaga

Two bulls are sitting on a hill overlooking a large lush meadow filled with cows. The younger seemingly more energetic bull leans over to the older wiser bull and says, “Hey Pop, let’s run down this hill and each of us can have sex with one of those cows.” To which the older bull looks over at the younger bull and replies, “Tell you what Junior, why don’t we walk down this hill and have sex with all of them.”

Now I cleaned up the previous paragraph a bit from the original version that I heard, but you get the just of it.

As I watched the Randy Couture vs. Gabriel Gonzaga UFC Heavyweight title fight at UFC #74, I was reminded of this old saying and the relevance that it has to this fight. Every time, and I do mean every time, Randy Couture has a fight the first thing that comes up in the pre-fight analysis of the competitors is Couture’s age as if it was the most significant factor in the fight. Now admittedly I get a bit bent out of shape when they do this as the focus always seems to be on age as a detractor rather than a benefit. Over the years I have witnessed a lot more questionable performances by the younger group of fighters than I have the older ones. Okay, now that I have climbed off my soapbox, here is my view of this exciting title fight and my predictions for Couture’s next title defense.

THE COMPETITORS:

Randy Couture:

As we all know, Couture who happens to be 44 years old, is an outstanding Greco-Roman wrestler and is constantly proving to the fans and skeptical fight announcers alike that age is not, and should never be, considered a liability in any activity including competitive activities such as mixed martial arts competition. For varying perspectives on the age factor just ask former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia or World Boxing Champion George Foreman and see what they have to say on the subject.

Gabriel Gonzaga:

Gonzaga, who is a highly trained black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu, was mainly known for his grappling abilities until he shocked MMA fans everywhere in his last fight with his devastating knockout of Mirko Cro Cop. To put it simply, Gonzaga can and does fight.

What will follow is a detailed professional analysis of the fight from start to finish, concluding with some final thoughts concerning both fighters. Please keep in mind that these are my views from my own perspective of the events that transpired. They are by no means intended to shed any kind of negative or disparaging thoughts, words, etc. on either one of the fighters involved. I have a great deal of respect for anyone, and I do mean anyone, who steps onto the mat. So, with further ado let’s get started.

THE FIGHT:

Round One:

Gonzaga opened up the fight with a left jab-right cross combination that was for the most part ineffective. Moments later Gonzaga threw another left jab that misses while Couture steps forward with his own left hand that lands and visibly rocks Gonzaga. Gonzaga is momentarily staggered but comes back immediately as he and Couture throw a brief flurry of punches at each other. None of which that land with any effect.

Couture then attempts a takedown of Gonzaga but is unable to although he does momentarily go down to the canvas on his knees. However, as both men regain their upright positions, Couture lands a beautifully thrown left hook to the side of Gonzaga’s head. Couture follows this up by wrapping both of his arms around Gonzaga’s midsection from behind and forces him down onto the canvas for a brief moment before both men once again regain their standing positions.

Once they regained their feet, Couture forced Gonzaga up against the cage where Couture took advantage of his position to land a couple of well placed knee strikes to Gonzaga’s thigh. Gonzaga not to be outdone counters this with his own well placed knee strike to Couture’s midsection. Neither man seemed to show any ill effects from these blows.

Couture continued to use his Greco-Roman background to keep Gonzaga pinned against the cage where he began to utilize his “dirty boxing” skills to his advantage. Couture landed another knee strike to the thigh but failed in his attempt to knee Gonzaga in the head. Gonzaga forced his way off the cage which caused both men to loose their footing resulting in both men stumbling onto the canvas. Neither man was on the canvas for more than a brief moment before once again regaining their standing position. Couture attempted to land a knee strike as he was standing up but failed to connect with it. Gonzaga started throwing a flurry of punches which Couture countered and ended up landing a solid right hand to the head of Gonzaga.

Gonzaga came back from the right hand with a left leg roundhouse kick to the side of Couture’s head followed by several straight punch attempts to the head which had no noticeable effect on Couture. Couture countered Gonzaga’s attack by bending down and grabbing Gonzaga around the back of his upper thighs with both arms and forcing him back against the cage. Both men remained in this position for a few moments before Couture maneuvered into position where he was able to pick Gonzaga up and slam him down onto the canvas. However, he was not able to keep him on the ground and both men returned to their feet within a matter of a few seconds.

This slam to the canvas would prove to be the single most important moment in the fight as there had been an unintentional clash of heads when both men went down to the canvas. As we would later discover, Couture’s head had slammed into the nose of Gonzaga resulting in a severely broken nose. This took place at approximately the half way mark of the very first round.

After the two men had regained their feet, Gonzaga landed a knee strike to Couture’s midsection and followed that up with a couple of punches to the head. None of which landed. Couture returned the favor and landed a knee strike of his own to Gonzaga’s midsection and added an uppercut to the chin for good measure.

Gonzaga responded with a right elbow to the head and a couple of punches, although neither the elbow strike nor the punches seemed to have any effect on Couture. Couture countered this by once again forcing Gonzaga back against the cage where Gonzaga once again landed another knee strike to the midsection of Couture. By this time Gonzaga was really beginning to show the ill effects of the unintentional collisions of heads as he had his mouth wide open trying to breathe and was spitting up blood that was running down the back of his throat from the broken nose. Couture in the meantime landed a couple of well placed right elbow strikes to the side of Gonzaga’s head and another knee strike to the thigh.

Couture also landed several “shoulder strikes” into the face of Gonzaga which I couldn’t help but think were made even more effective due to the ill effects of the already broken nose. Couture followed up his “shoulder strike” attack with another knee strike to the thigh, a left hook to the head, and a nicely thrown left elbow to the head. And just for good measure Couture landed another left hook to the head.

Gonzaga fired back with a couple of ineffective punches that momentarily backed Couture up. This didn’t last long as Couture forced Gonzaga back against the cage where Gonzaga attempted a guillotine choke just second before the buzzer sounded ending round one.

Round Two:

Gonzaga started off the round with a two punch combination followed by a left leg roundhouse kick to the head that Couture easily ducked. After avoiding the head kick, Couture wrapped his arms around Gonzaga’s waist and forced him back against the cage. This only lasted a moment as Gonzaga forced himself out of Couture’s grip and pushed the fight out into the center of the octagon where they exchanged punches with Couture landing a couple of uppercuts before wrapping Gonzaga up and forcing him back against the cage.

At approximately one minute and eight seconds into the second round, Gonzaga complained to referee Herb Dean that he was unable to see because of the blood in his eyes. Dean asked Gonzaga if he was able to fight and Gonzaga replied, “Yes.” Dean then asked Gonzaga if he wanted to continue and again Gonzaga replied, “Yes.” At this point, Dean told Gonzaga that he couldn’t stop the fight unless he (Gonzaga) didn’t want to fight anymore. Gonzaga then reiterated that he did want to continue and Dean resumed the fight after placing both fighters in their original position.

Shortly after the fight resumed, Dean took a point away from Gonzaga for grabbing onto the cage. Although taking a point away is appropriate, I felt that a warning should have been give first. Now I will admit that if one was given, I didn’t see it. Couture continued to keep Gonzaga backed up against the cage and even landed another knee strike to the thigh and several punches to the head including a couple of elbow strikes for good measure.

Couture then stepped back away from Gonzaga and threw several punches including a couple of uppercuts that landed before resuming his clinching tactic of holding onto Gonzaga and forcing him against the cage. This entire sequence of moves was repeated again just moments later by Couture who was solidly in control of Gonzaga. From the moment Gonzaga’s nose was shattered in the first round, the blood was freely flowing down his face and also down the back of his throat where it was obvious that it was adversely affecting his breathing as his mouth was wide open and he was continually spitting up blood.

Couture continued his strategy of keeping Gonzaga pinned against the cage and managed to land another elbow strike and a couple of uppercuts to the head. For a brief moment Gonzaga was able to switch positions with Couture and actually had Couture up against the cage for a few seconds before Couture was able to reverse positions and put Gonzaga back against the cage.

Just seconds before the end of the second round Gonzaga attempted a takedown of Couture but was unsuccessful and the buzzer sounded signifying the end of the round.

Round Three:

Gonzaga once again opened the round with a weak left jab and then a right leg roundhouse kick to the head of Couture, which didn’t land on target as Couture was able to get his left arm up to protect his head. Gonzaga continued to press his attack with a right left combination to the head which Couture easily avoided with his much improved “bobbing and weaving” in order to avoid the punches. Couture countered Gonzaga’s attack with several punches of his own none of which that landed to any real effect.

After a few moments of strategic maneuvering, Gonzaga launched a very hard right leg roundhouse kick to the head that rocked Couture even though he took the brunt of the kick on his left forearm. Which I would later learn ended up breaking Couture’s left forearm. Couture immediately countered Gonzaga’s kick by once again forcing Gonzaga up against the cage where he landed a couple of knee strikes to Gonzaga’s thighs before taking him down to the ground and finishing the fight with a very enthusiastic “ground and pound” which forced referee Herb Dean to stop the fight with just short of three minutes and thirty seconds left in the third round.

THE STOPPAGE:

Now there were several contributing factors that were directly responsible for the stoppage of this fight. The primary one being the unintentional collision of heads when Couture slammed Gonzaga to the canvas. Some were provided by Couture, while others were provided by Gonzaga himself. I have broken those factors down by fighter and they are as follows:

Gonzaga:

1. Your inability to breathe due to the shattered nose was by far the most influencing factor in the stoppage of this fight. Had this unfortunate clash of heads not occurred, we may have had a totally different outcome to the fight.

2. You allowed Couture to dictate the pace of the fight and in addition to that, you tried to fight his fight.

3. You underestimated your opponent, for whatever reason, and that is never a good thing.

Couture:

1. To steal one of your own lines, “Not to bad for an old guy.”

2. The constant pressure that you applied throughout the entire fight was really advantageous for you as it had an adverse effect on the conditioning of Gonzaga not only physically, but more importantly mentally.

3. Your physical conditioning and indomitable spirit are the stuff of legends.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS:

Here are my thoughts on how each fighter could improve upon their respective abilities concerning this particular fight.

Gonzaga:

1. Work a lot more on your cardio. Now I know that the shattered nose had a severely adverse effect on you ability to breathe, but you need to be able to overcome that setback in order to perform at your best even under the worst conditions. One training technique that I used to do is to take some nose plugs that they use for swimming and clamp them over my nose as I worked out. This coupled with a mouthpiece makes it very difficult to breathe and makes you focus on breathing through your mouth. However, do not get in the bad habit of opening your mouth to breathe, keep it closed as much as possible.

2. Your kicks are unquestionably powerful, yet they could be even more so if you went back to the basics and really worked on fine tuning your kicks in order to make the more efficient and therefore more effective.

3. Don’t just kick at the head! There are a lot of viable targets on the body to kick beside the head. For example; the inside and outside of the thighs. If you are going to kick, be sure and set them up with some punches first in order to open up your opponent’s defenses for the kick. You came really close to ending this fight with your head kicks. Work on setting them up and maximizing their efficiency and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

4. Don’t ever underestimate your opponent! This is pretty much self-explanatory.

5. Fight your fight, not your opponent’s fight.

Couture:

His strategy for this particular fight was almost flawless. However, here are a couple of things that I noticed.

1. Utilize your “bobbing and weaving” a lot more than what you did in the final round. Remember that it can’t hurt you if it doesn’t hit you.

2. Work on avoiding a kick rather than blocking it with your arms. Having said that, it is better to take a kick on the arm than it is on the head. You ducked a high kick to the head earlier in the fight and it would behoove you to practice this move more and combine it with a tackle takedown to get your opponent on the ground.

3. Remember that the body is also a target and is often more accessible to strikes than the head.

FINALTHOUGHTS:

Had the unfortunate clash of heads not happened, I feel that the fight would have gone much the same way as it did. However, I think the fight would have gone the distance with Couture winning a unanimous decision. Now having said that, it is also very plausible that Couture could have let his guard down a bit and allowed Gonzaga to land a fight ending blow with either his foot or fist. Who knows maybe there is a rematch destined to take place in the future. Only time and the next couple of fights will tell.

MY PREDICTIONS:

Mirko Cro Cop vs. Cheick Congo:

Both fighters are very well versed kickboxers and both have the power in their hands and feet to land a knockout blow. However, I feel that Cro Cop is going to have the advantage in this fight as he is a genuine tough opponent and has a lot to make up for after his stunning defeat at the hands or should I say foot of Gonzaga. I predict that Cro Cop is going to win this fight handily with a vicious kick knockout to the head of Congo in the first round.

Randy Couture vs. Mirko Cro Cop:

I think that Couture is going to fight Cro Cop a lot like he did Gonzaga and this may prove to be advantageous for awhile, but eventually I see Cro Cop landing several vicious leg kicks that will hurt Couture and set him up for either a kick to the head or a combination of punches that will end up knocking him out. I predict Cro Cop by knockout in the third round.



Source by Shawn Kovacich

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