By Thomas Gerbasi
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND, November 14 – It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win for the seemingly ageless Randy Couture at the MEN Arena Saturday night as he took a close three round unanimous decision over Brandon Vera in the somewhat anti-climactic main event of UFC 105.
Scores were 29-28 across the board for ‘The Natural’, who was making his first start at 205 pounds since a loss to Chuck Liddell in 2006. It was his first win at light heavyweight since he defeated Mike Van Arsdale in August of 2005.
“I controlled the tempo of the fight,” said the 46-year old Couture. “It wasn’t the most exciting thing to watch, but Brandon’s dangerous.”
“I thought I won,” said Vera, who seemed on the verge of a stoppage win in the second round. “I left it all out there.”
“They said ‘unanimous decision’ and I remember thinking in my head, ‘yeah, I did it,’” elaborated Vera at the post-fight press conference. “And then they said it was for Randy Couture and it was like a building toppling over. It was heavy on the heart. I walked out of the Octagon and just sat down, bewildered. There were a lot of mixed emotions, but this is why I do what I do.”
Vera tried to blitz Couture as soon as the bell rang, landing with a kick and moving in for more before Couture tied Vera up and pushed him into the fence. While there, Couture looked for a takedown, but Vera wasn’t going to give him one without a struggle. And as the action stalled referee Marc Goddard re-started the action with three minutes left. Again Vera got locked up, but this time Couture got him to the mat briefly. Vera, back on his feet, was still unable to break Couture’s hold on him, but Couture wasn’t able to advance his position either, leading to another stalemate that Goddard broke with 20 seconds left. It didn’t matter though, as Couture again bulled Vera into the fence before the bell sounded.
The second round got off to a rough start for Couture as he took an inadvertent poke in the eye, but after the brief halt to the bout, the UFC Hall of Famer got back to business, mauling Vera along the fence in search of a takedown. To his credit, Vera was showing strong wrestling defense in keeping the bout upright, that didn’t help the action level of the fight, which was beginning to draw boos from the crowd. After another re-start by Goddard at the midway point of the round, Vera landed with two kicks and followed up with a close range knee to the body that dropped Couture. Vera pounced on his foe, but Couture cleared his head quickly and looked to stall the action enough for a standup. He got his wish, and closed the distance on Vera again, but this time he threw in some of his trademark dirty boxing techniques, scoring some much needed second round points before the bell.
Couture marched forward to begin the final round, and he landed with some solid close range punches, drawing a smile from Vera, who nonetheless found himself with his back up against the fence yet again. With 2:16 left, Goddard intervened and re-started the fighters, and Vera started to get his range with his kicks, but only briefly as Couture was able to get inside again. Vera turned the tables this time, as he pushed Couture into the fence, and with 45 seconds left, he got the takedown and moved into a dominant top position. Couture broke free before any damage could be done, and as the seconds ticked away, the two exchanged blows until the fight ended.
“It was a tough-ass fight, obviously,” said Couture after the bout. “Brandon definitely did his homework. He did a great job against the fence, making it real difficult to get hold of his hips and take him down. He countered the high single which I take a lot of guys down with, and I had to kinda shift gears. He definitely got my attention in the second round. I was protecting my head and he kicked me square in the ribs and got my attention. My corner guys said ‘hey, it’s real stale in the clinch. You gotta open up and start fighting inside there.’ I think that made a big difference at the end of the second round and in the third round. But it was a close fight. I agree that it could have gone either way. I wouldn’t have been terribly disappointed had the decision gone the other way. I think Brandon did a good job in the second round – he backed me up and knocked me down with the kick to the body. I had the takedown in the first round. Brandon did have the takedown in the third round, but we didn’t stay there for very long, and I had three good flurries with my hands in the third round that probably won me that round. So it was a very, very close fight.”
“In the sport of MMA, if you let it go to the judges, you let it out of your hands,” added Vera. “So I’m gonna take the blame for this loss, I’m gonna man up – it’s my fault, I should have finished the fight. I’m super happy that I got to fight Randy Couture, my hero, my legend, and I’m gonna let the rest of the 205 division know that I’m gonna whup your ass if you get in the Octagon with me.”
With the win, Couture improves to 17-10 and breaks a two fight losing streak; Vera falls to 11-4 and saw his two fight winning streak snapped. Watch Replay