Sunday, August 26, 2007

UFC legend amazes yet again

By Rick Morris

As the UFC continues its move into the American sports mainstream, one of the key factors has been the fact that the marquee fighters have been able to establish a long body of work, comparable to the top athletes in other sports. Certainly, even before last night, three-time UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture had earned a place in the sports pantheon comparable to Peyton Manning or Floyd Mayweather, Jr. based on his accomplishments. But his stunning defeat of young gun Gabriel Gonzaga last night at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas may be the crowning achievement in one of the greatest ultimate fighting careers ever.

Both fighters came into the match with incredible momentum from the first half of 2007. Couture emerged from a year's retirement to upset Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight crown in March, while Gonzaga seized his place at the head of the line in the division with a shocking win over the feared Mirko Cro Cop in April. Fighting a man infinitely younger and more athletic at this stage of the game, Couture's odds were long, but his performance was strong from the outset as he reestablished himself with a flourish as the man to beat in the heavyweight division. As UFC continues to expand into the Big Time of professional sports after the acquisition of its main rival, Pride, it's only fitting that Couture lead the way for the heavyweights.

In other UFC news from Vegas, former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre shook off the effects of his title loss to Matt Serra in April by upending Josh Koscheck. St-Pierre must now be considered a strong challenger to the winner of the Serra-Matt Hughes championship fight to be held before the end of the year.

On the undercard, there was one figurative black eye delivered to the sport when light heavyweight Renaldo Sobral refused to immediately break a chokehold after defeating David Heath, citing Heath's alleged disrespect before the fight. UFC has come too far in terms of cleaning up the sport and delivering solid regulations for it and has too much potential in the future to tolerate this kind of pathetic conduct from Sobral. He'd be wise to be expect quick sanctions from UFC.

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