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Postcard from the Couch: “UFC 91 – Couture vs. Lesnar”

As I have stated in my first two editions of P.C.F.T.C., I am not a mixed martial arts expert. Having become a serious fan in only the past two years, I still have a lot to learn. I also do not practice MMA, which would surely help educate me on the sport. There are writers on this very website – and fans reading this article right now – who practice MMA and are, quite frankly, more knowledgeable of the sport than I will ever be.

Having said that, I believe that UFC 91 has the potential to be one of those events where we look back at it one day and say, “That’s when the UFC changed forever.”

UFC 91 has the potential to suck in a slew of fans that are somewhat similar to myself. While I certainly believe that I have graduated from “basic casual fan status” to “getting better, but still working on it” status, there is no doubt that tonight will be the first time a lot of folks have tuned in for a UFC pay per view, mainly because of the Lesnar curiosity factor.

If Brock Lesnar becomes UFC heavyweight champion tonight, those first-timers could potentially get sucked in for good. And like it or not, THAT is the reason why this main event was made. The potential to bring in a new generation of fans was simply too much for White and Zuffa to resist.

It’s 10 p.m. in wonderful NYC, so let’s begin our in-depth look into UFC 91…

10:00 – 10:14: THE SET UP – Coming right out of the open, our announcers Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan immediately set up the main event, with Goldberg calling Lesnar “superhuman.” Since Couture played the villainous Sargon in “The Scorpion King 2,” handling Lesnar should not be a problem. My pick: Couture by Scorpion Curse in round one.

After the set up of the texting poll, we see a quick Joe Stevenson/Kenny Florian preview, followed by Goldberg saying, “It is indeed a magical night…Randy Couture-Brock Lesnar…and a couple of other good heavyweights on the card as well.” We go to a Gabriel Gonzaga-Josh Hendricks preview, followed by the Rules of the Octagon, leading me to believe that this will be the first fight of the evening. Instead, we see a Nate Quarry-Demian Maia preview package. I’m wondering why they didn’t just go to Gonzaga-Hendricks fight off the smooth segue, but I need to get over it, as Maia and Quarry make their entrances to the octagon and are introduced by Bruce Buffer.

10:14 – 10:17: NATE QUARRY vs. DEMIAN MAIA - Rogan immediately notices Quarry is in trouble by stating, “This is terrible for Nate Quarry.” Rogan is spot on as Maia dominates Quarry, submitting him via rear-naked choke in just 2:13. Great execution by Maia, great explanation of it by Rogan.

10:17 – 10:31: POST FIGHT & GONZAGA vs. HENDRICKS SET UP - After Maia’s post-fight interview and some advertising spots, we get some more main event hype. Couture is shown arriving at the MGM Grand Arena – with his gorgeous wife Kim – at 5:21 local time, while Lesnar arrives almost an hour and a half later. Couture is greeted warmly upon his entrance, while Lesnar’s arrival sends grown men jumping into each other’s arms in fear.

A UFC 92 promo follows – what a card, by the way – and now we see Couture in his locker room grappling with his wife, and Lesnar in his bashing his head through the locker room wall. Ok, not really.

A Gonzaga-Hendricks preview package rolls, followed by their walks to the Octagon and introductions. It must be noted that at 10:29 Buffer did his “Introducing first”/Michael Jackson Thriller move. I don’t care how new school I am or how old school you are….it’s absurd.

10:31 – 10:32: GABRIEL GONZAGA vs. JOSH HENDRICKS - Gonzaga immediately becomes a P.C.F.T.C. favorite due to this Condom Depot sponsorship. A Gonzaga right hand in just 1:01 ruins Hendricks’ UFC debut and Gonzaga is one step closer to becoming the first fighter to have a condom named after him.

Not a lot of fighting so far, but what we have seen has been explosive.

BROADCAST TIME SO FAR: 32 minutes. ACTUAL FIGHT TIME: 3 minutes, 14 seconds.

10:32 – 10:39: POST-FIGHT & BROWN vs. THOMAS SET UP - Rogan presses Gonzaga for a prediction on the main event, to which Gonzaga replies, “I choose the Randy.” Who doesn’t?

BROADCAST TIME SO FAR: 39 minutes. ACTUAL FIGHT TIME: 3 minutes, 14 seconds.

10:39 – 10:46: MATT BROWN vs. RYAN THOMAS - Approximately 93% of the pay per view you have paid to see has been anything but fighting so far. Not entirely the UFC/Zuffa’s fault, but facts are facts. A wise decision is made to go right to tape of this preliminary fight, sans the walks to the Octagon and pre-fight intros. Our first fight of the broadcast that goes beyond round one results in Matt Brown winning via arm bar submission in round two.

BROADCAST TIME SO FAR: 46 minutes. ACTUAL FIGHT TIME: 9 minutes, 17 seconds.

10:46 – 10:57: POST-FIGHT & HAZELETT vs. MCCRORY SET UP - After hearing from Brown, we see two of the Tapout freaks and a promo for The Ultimate Fighter before getting to the Dustin Hazelett-Tamdan McCrory fight preview. For pacing purposes, is there any reason why the fighters couldn’t be in the octagon already coming out of the package? Once McCrory began his walk, we had to wait an additional five minutes before the action began. On a side note, McCrory is probably that guy you DON’T want to scream “Nerd!” at.

10:57 – 11:01: DUSTIN HAZELETT vs. TAMDAN MCCRORY - With 2:23 left in round one, Goldberg says three of four wins for Hazelett have come by submission. About 1:39 later, Hazelett wins via arm bar. Good stuff.

BROADCAST TIME SO FAR: 1 hour, 1 minute. ACTUAL FIGHT TIME: (4 fights, 5 rounds) 13 minutes, 16 seconds.

11:01 – 11:05: POST-FIGHT & SET UP STEPHENS vs. DOS ANJOS - We’ve seen GSP and B.J. Penn in the house so far tonight. Now, we’re greeted by Anderson Silva, possibly the only mixed martial artist in history who can pull off wearing a bright pink sweater. Afterwards, another UFC 92 plug follows before we go right to the action of our second prelim fight of the night. They can’t control the results inside of the octagon, but they do control how to fill time in situations like this. Another good call by the UFC/Zuffa.

11:05 – 11:18: JEREMY STEPHENS vs. RAFAEL DOS ANJOS - After two solid rounds, we’re treated to the “Holy Sh*T Moment of the Night,” sponsored by Depends. Jeremy Stephens just wound up and threw an uppercut that came from the 40th level of hell. Stephens by third round K.T.F.O. Wow.

BROADCAST TIME SO FAR: 1 hour, 18 minutes. ACTUAL FIGHT TIME: (5 fights, 8 rounds) 23 minutes, 55 seconds. So far, I am really enjoying this card. And we still have two great fights ahead of us.

11:18 – 11:33: POST-FIGHT & SET UP FLORIAN vs. STEVENSON - The sound in real time…followed by the replays…hearing the crowd react to the replays…unbelievable. Hey now, Wanderlei Silva in the house. I’m scared. We check in with Couture in his locker room. Then we check in with Lesnar. I’m scared. Then we check in with Joe Rogan and 50 Cent. What? Fitty’s promoting his latest album. I’m still scared. So take Joe Rogan’s advice: “Buy it, don’t download it, bitches!”

It’s now time for the preview package and octagon walks for the co-main event of the evening. The newest member of G-Unit, Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, comes out to Fitty’s classic joint, “Wanksta.”

11:33 – 11:37: KENNY FLORIAN vs. JOE STEVENSON – A nice pace to begin the fight, but more important is the fact that in the middle of the round, we get a TEXT MESSAGING POLL ALERT (#3 of the night)! Couture’s lead is down by 1%, 55-45. About a minute later, Florian submits Daddy via RNC.

11:37 – 11:42: KENNY FLORIAN vs. JOE STEVENSON POST-FIGHT - Seeing Florian’s reaction to the win, which nets him a lightweight title shot against B.J. Penn, was awesome, but not as awesome as him calling Penn out and giving Metallica a title for their next album, “Kill The Master.”

Look who’s also in the house: there’s only one Ricky Hatton! Hatton has a set of twins sitting behind him too. Unfortunately, they’re only 15… and boys. After a brief tease for the main event, we get an extended look at the movie, Punisher: War Zone, which warrants not one comment, before getting to the evening’s main event.

BROADCAST TIME SO FAR: 1 hour, 42 minutes. ACTUAL FIGHT TIME: (6 fights, 9 rounds) 27 minutes, 58 seconds.

11:42 – 11:57: THE MAIN EVENT SET UP - Since this is being billed as the biggest fight in the history of the UFC, I am extremely interested to see what the UFC/Zuffa does right now. For those readers who’ve read the first two editions of P.C.F.T.C., you know I’m big on selling storylines. Like I stated above, there are newbies watching this PPV because of Lesnar. Yes, they’re already watching, which is goal #1, but sustaining their interest in the UFC should be goal #2. Great stories followed by a potentially great, history-making fight can only help matters.

Rather than give us the typical “Why I’m going to win this fight” preview package, give us a package that includes that, but also tells us about the road traveled by Couture and Lesnar in getting to this point. Like Couture, Lesnar is getting a title shot in just his fourth professional fight. Not to mention, we have the old school/new school and potential changing of the guard themes present as well. HBO does a wonderful job with pre-fight packages before their boxing main events. It would be nice to see the UFC/Zuffa go that route.

Goldberg and Rogan begin their pre-fight set up, and we learn via-full page graphic that Couture’s opponents have a combined record of 181-36 and that 14 of his 18 UFC fights have been for a title. If you’re watching and knew little about Couture before tonight, now you know that he’s been in plenty of big fights before…unlike his opponent.

Goldberg finally tosses to the pre-fight package. We hear the fighters explain what they need to do to beat one another. Couture talks about seeing Lesnar now and how it reminds him of himself 10 years ago. Couture says Lesnar is one-dimensional and all straight-ahead. Interesting. Lesnar counters with the predictable “he’s too damn old to be here” comment before the package ends with more “how I will win” comments from each fighter. Did I expect anything different? No. Personally, I had heard all of these sound bites already before tonight. I really don’t think it’s too much to ask for a pre-main event package that is exclusive to those who are paying up to $50 to watch this on PPV.

It’s now 11:47, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” is playing, and here comes the challenger, Brock Lesnar. Goldberg gives a great fact: Lesnar is the 19th fighter in UFC history to fight for a title with less than 10 fights. I’ve made this point before: if you’re watching this in a loud environment – like a party or a sports bar, you won’t hear it. Putting up a “Brock Lesnar: 19th UFC fighter to get title shot with less than 10 fights” lower-third graphic would visually enhance this great fact. FYI – Goldberg also adds that only three of those other 18 men have been victorious: Mark Coleman, Frank Mir and yes, Randy Couture. Great facts here. Three minutes later, Couture walks to the octagon and Buffer introduces both fighters as if he’s about to break out into “Give My Regards To Broadway.”

11:57 – 12:06: THE MAIN EVENT: RANDY COUTURE vs. BROCK LESNAR - The crowd is clearly for Couture, as the audio picks up, “Randy! Randy! Randy!” chants. As Brock goes in for a takedown in round one, Goldberg smoothly informs us that he’s 7 for 8 on takedown attempts in his career. With 2:10 left in the round, the use of the overhead camera really shows the viewer just how huge Lesnar is when smothering Couture in half-guard. Brock’s back should have a tattoo of its own zip code. Round one concludes at 12:02 a.m.

Round two begins, but not before 50 Cent wags his finger in disapproval. I’m scared. With 3:40 left in the round, Lesnar is cut under his right eye. With just over two minutes left in the round, Lesnar rocks Couture! Couture down, pounded and stopped by Lesnar! We have a new heavyweight champion. Wow.

BROADCAST TIME SO FAR: 2 hours, 6 minutes. ACTUAL FIGHT TIME: (7 fights, 11 rounds) 36 minutes, 5 seconds.

POST-FIGHT NOTE: I watched this fight again this morning, and found it curious that at about 11:50 p.m., after Lesnar had entered the octagon, he pointed to his right eye and asked for more (I’m assuming) Vaseline to be placed underneath it. This is the same eye that was later cut in round two by Couture. It could be just a coincidence, but I am curious if Lesnar had injured that eye in training and had concerns about it entering the fight?

12:06 – 12:13: RANDY COUTURE vs. BROCK LESNAR POST-FIGHT - This is not a religious statement. I want to make that 150% clear. But in one of the greatest post-interview lines I have personally ever heard, Lesnar, in his post-fight interview with Rogan, looked up to the sky above as if he was speaking to God and said, “God Bless You.”

Brock Lesnar, the new UFC heavyweight champion, is indeed superhuman. The man just blessed God. Wow!

FAST-FORWARD: Due to the number of fights shown, we’re going to hop ahead a bit. The broadcast could have ended after the main event and I know I would have felt as if I got my money’s worth. However, the UFC/Zuffa gave us two more preliminary fights on tape: Jorge Gurgel – Aaron Riley and Mark Bocek – Alvin Robinson. That’s every fight on the card, folks.

I could try to research whether this has happened before with a UFC PPV – and if it has, write as if I knew that already. But as of this very moment, I don’t want to know. All that matters is that I saw a lot of good fights, making it hard to complain about not getting your money’s worth tonight.

THE WRAP: Nine fights and two hours and 56 minutes later, UFC 91 is a wrap. Overall, I believe that the broadcast was a solid A effort. Goldberg and Rogan were excellent. We saw slickly executed submissions, an uppercut for the ages and history made. Will we look back at this event as the one that changed the UFC forever as far as mainstream media coverage is concerned?

I think so. As I write this, I am watching live, post-fight coverage (at 2:00 a.m. EST) of UFC 91 on ESPN’s internet-only MMA Live show. According to the webcast, it’s the first time ESPN has actually built a set on-site to cover an MMA event. Sure, it’s not the same as getting coverage on SportsCenter, but it’s a significant achievement that was once reserved for just major boxing matches. It’s only a matter of time before this coverage is integrated onto SportsCenter.

Which brings us back to Lesnar and the future of the UFC. If CBS backed an over-hyped, Kimbo Slice-led promotion on its network, how soon will we see a network jump into bed with the UFC now that Lesnar is the champion? Lesnar was a major draw during his WWE days. Can you imagine a network promoting Brock Lesnar, especially as heavyweight champion? I sure as hell can. Yes, I understand he’s got a huge task ahead of him regardless of who he fights next, but that’s a ways down the road, giving the UFC ample time to get a deal done.

In my first two editions of this column, I was very vocal about wanting more graphics incorporated into UFC/Zuffa’s telecasts. Most MMA purists who read my ideas hated them because they deemed them as unnecessary. I’m a realist. I realize that ideas like those would almost never be incorporated into a UFC telecast. But my point was and continues to be this: the sport is changing as we know it; so those who’ve followed it since it’s glory days need to embrace change along with it. You may not like my specific ideas, but trust me, change is a happenin’.

I’ll leave you with an alternate idea then. ESPN offers their amazing Gamecast for almost all major sports. As many of us fantasy geeks know, it’s an amazing way to follow a sports event online, but in pure graphic form. It includes up to the second stats, charts, play-by-play action and literally makes you feel as if you’re watching the game. I think it’s time for the UFC and its website – or even through a partnership with ESPN – to begin doing this. A UFC Gamecast could offer a blow-by-blow description that is supported by statistics, charts, polls and everything else you find with the other sports. Imagine following it on your laptop while watching a card. The play by play describes the move as you’re watching it on your TV. It’s another way to educate the newbies too.

Thanks for reading – and I look forward to your feedback.

FINAL UFC 91 PPV STATS: BROADCAST TIME: 2 hours, 56 minutes. ACTUAL FIGHT TIME: (9 fights, 17 rounds) 64 minutes, 21 seconds.

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