The belief of many MMA experts leading up to Randy Couture's comeback fight against Tim Sylvia in March of 2007 was that "The Natural," gifted as he was, just couldn't overcome Sylvia's massive size advantage.
Couture was giving up six inches in height and some 40 pounds in weight, along with 13 years in age, in fighting for the first time in more than a year. At the time, the analysis made sense. After all, Couture's difficulty in sizing up against super-sized heavyweights in losses to Ricco Rodriguez and Josh Barnett helped convince Couture to move to light heavyweight to extend his career.
However, Couture used the time away from mixed martial arts to reinvent himself and retool his game -- an over-40 renaissance that landed him on top 10 pound-for-pound lists after scintillating victories over Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga.
Some 18 months later, after dispatching Sylvia in one of the most dominant performances of his career, Couture is hearing the same song, only a different verse.
When Couture faces Brock Lesnar in the main event of UFC 91 on Nov. 15 in Las Vegas, the 45-year-old Couture will once again be the smaller man in the octagon. While he'll be able to look the former WWE star in the eye, Couture will likely give away more than 45 pounds.
It's a scenario that Couture has attempted to simulate in his preparation for the fight.
"I brought Josh Hendricks in. He's actually fighting on the same card against Gabe Gonzaga," Couture told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
). "He's a 245-pound guy with a wrestling background -- a collegiate wrestler at Oklahoma State, my alma mater. I've got guys like Mike Whitehead and a bunch other guys that walk around 240, 250 with good, solid wrestling backgrounds. ... We've got a good crew. They're pushing me and ganging up on me. It's hard to find guys like Brock that are that size and move the way he moves."
Lesnar represents an entirely different challenge for Couture than the one posed by Sylvia. Lesnar is quick and athletic. He also has wrestling skills on par with Couture's. Sylvia had none of those attributes, and Couture took full advantage by initiating the striking with Sylvia, getting him to the ground in the first round and completely baffling and frustrating the champion. Couture expects to draw up a similar plan for Lesnar.
"The more I can make a big guy like that move and make him work, and threaten to take him down ... just because he's 270 pounds doesn't mean I can't take him down. I've taken down bigger guys," Couture said. "So, I can create that threat and that fear in his mind that he's going to end up on the bottom, which is someplace he's not used to being. Those are things that I can focus on, and use speed and mobility and those things as advantages for me."
While the match-up with Lesnar isn't the one Couture -- or many fans -- coveted during his rift with the UFC, Couture's desire to get back in the cage outweighed his craving to tangle with Fedor Emelianenko.
"You have to keep things in perspective," Couture said. "At 45 years old, the window is closing all the time, and that's a realistic view. I'm the best fighter I've been right now, and I need to use these tools while they're still here."
Another interesting tidbit coming out of Brock Lesnar's preperation for his upcoming fight with Randy is that Brett Rogers reportedly knocked Brock out twice during intense sparring sessions. Brett ended up leaving and not returning to Minnesota Martial Arts Academy because Brocks coaches were angry at him. Brett said Brock couldn't hold back on his strikes so he didn't either.