Brock Lesnar (3-1) became the new UFC heavyweight champion in the UFC 91 main event on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, knocking out heavyweight title-holder and UFC hall of famer Randy Couture (16-9) with strikes midway through the second round of their championship bout.
Couture, who had a noticeable smile on his face prior to the beginning of the bout, looked good in the opening round, wearing Lesnar down in the clinch, but Lesnar was able to get Couture to the ground twice in the round and, though he landed little offense on the ground, took the round on the MMAFrenzy.com scorecard based on the takedowns.
Lesnar hurt Couture early in the second with an elbow but Couture survived and connected with some strikes of his own, opening up a cut above Lesnar’s eye. But Lesnar caught Couture with an overhand right behind the ear that sent the 45-year-old to the canvas and, despite Couture’s best efforts, finished him off with punches on the ground.
Referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in to save Couture at the 3:07 mark of the second round, declaring Lesnar the victor via TKO and the new UFC heavyweight champion. He’ll next meet the winner of December’s interim title matchup between current champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir in 2009.
“(Heavyweight champion) sounds really good. I cant believe it. I want to thank Dana, the UFC, and I want to thank this guy. He’s got a lot of balls to come back and fight a young buck like me.” said Lesnar after the victory. “I just believe in hard work. I may come off as a cocky SOB, but I’m just confident.”
“Those are some bigass hamhocks coming at ya. It’s hard to get out of the way. That’s just a big son of a bitch, that’s all there is to it,” said Randy Couture, who also addressed his fighting future and whether he’d drop back down to the 205-pound light heavyweight division. “We’ll let things settle out and figure out what we want to do. I still feel like I’m getting better. He’s a big guy and he just caught me with a big shot.”
Kenny Florian (11-3) earned a lightweight title shot in the UFC 91 co-main event with an impressive first-round submission of Joe Stevenson (29-9). After using precise striking and superior footwork early in the first round, Florian took Stevenson to the canvas and quickly finished from there, reigning down punches from mount before taking his opponent’s back and securing the rear naked choke submission. “I wanted to go out here and make a statement,” said Florian. “I want BJ’s belt. I think you’re a great fighter. I think you’re a master, but it’s time to kill the master.”
With yet another submission victory in the UFC, this time over Tamdan McCrory, Dustin Hazelett is on his way to accomplishing his goal of earning the most “Submission of the Night” bonuses. McCrory appeared to be getting the better of the early standup exchanges, but once Hazelett went to the ground McCrory was outmatched, eventually submitting to a painful armbar. “I want to be the best Jiu Jitsu guy in MMA,” said Hazelett. “There’s guys like Demian Maia and I don’t have the grappling credentials like that but I want to be the best in MMA.”
Gabriel Gonzaga cemented his status as a top contender for a heavyweight title shot as he dispatched newcomer Josh Hendricks with strikes in just 61-seconds. “Yeah, I hope so,” said Gonzaga of a potential title shot. “I worked hard for this (win). I want a title shot again. Next time I’m gonna get the belt.”
“I’m hungry. I’m hungry to make people happy and put on a good show,” said middleweight contender Demian Maia after picking up his fourth-straight UFC victory over Nate Quarry. He dominated from the opening bell, immediately shooting and taking Quarry to the canvas before mythodically locking up a rear naked choke that forced the knockout-artis Quarry to submit. When asked about a potential title shot, Maia said that choice is the UFC’s but that he feels Michael Bisping would be a good fight for him.
In the only decision on the card, Aaron Riley picked up a victory in his UFC return over veteran Jorge Gurgel in a “Fight of the Night” candidate. Despite being a Jiu Jitsu black belt, Gurgel was again baited into engaging in a standup war and again came out on the losing side following three-straight rounds of striking that the judges unanimously scored for Riley 29-28. “Gurgel loves to stand and bang, (but) I’ve been working on my boxing,” said Riley. “I guess it helped me out in this fight.”
Jeremy Stephens earned “Knockout of the Night” honors for his preliminary card victory, sending newcomer Rafael dos Anjos to the canvas with a vicious uppercut in the opening seconds of the final round. Dos Anjos looked impressive in his debut, dominating Stephens on the ground, but one of the best uppercuts in recent-history spoiled his debut as Stephens emerged victorious with the third-round stoppage. The winner, though, barely made it out of the opening frame: “(The omoplata) was tight. I thought my shoulder was going to pop,” said Stephens. “He’s an incredible opponent. He had me in some tough stuff. I have heart, baby.”
In other preliminary action Mark Bocek wore Alvin Robinson down on the ground before securing a fight-ending rear naked choke midway through the third round and Matt Brown overcame newcomer Ryan Thomas’ numerous takedowns before submitting him with an armbar early in the second round.
OFFICIAL UFC 91 RESULTS
- Brock Lesnar def. Randy Couture (c) via TKO (strikes) — Round 2, 3:07
UFC heavyweight championship
- Kenny Florian def. Joe Stevenson via submission (rear naked choke) — Round 1, 4:03
- Dustin Hazelett def. Tamdan McCrory via submission (armbar) — Round 1, 3:12
- Gabriel Gonzaga def. Josh Hendricks via TKO (strikes) — Round 1, 1:01
- Demian Maia def. Nate Quarry via submission (rear naked choke) — Round 1, 2:13
- Aaron Riley def. Jorge Gurgel via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Jeremy Stephens def. Rafael dos Anjos via TKO (strikes) — Round 3, 0:39
- Mark Bocek def. Alvin Robinson via submission (rear naked choke) — Round 3, 3:16
- Matt Brown def. Ryan Thomas via submission (armbar) — Round 2, 0:57